HOME > Chowhound > General Topics >


The real way to make a lobster roll

Today, I received my Chow recipe of the day, and it was for New England Lobster Rolls. The three necessary ingredients were: Maine lobster, mayonnaise, celery. Hmmmm. I beg to differ. I supposed I used to agree with that list, but not since my husband and I happened upon Red's Eats in Wiscasset, Maine. These are, hands down, the best lobster rolls we've ever had. No mayonnaise here! Red's takes a New England hot dog roll, and grills it on both sides. Then they add the meat from more than one whole Maine lobster. The crowning glory is melted butter, poured all over it, and in abundance. If you're going to Maine this summer, do yourself, and the local fishermen, a favor. Pick up some shedders (these are lobsters that have just shed their too-tight shells in exchange for new, comfy, but soft ones) at around $3.00 a pound, cook them, and prepare them this way. Nirvana.

  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
  1. I think most people think a NE lobster roll is made with mayo. In CT, it is usually made with butter instead. In MA and ME, you can get both types, though the mayo version is more common. I like both types!!

    5 Replies
    1. re: macca

      I am a CT Native and prefer the butter version. In fact I despise mayo in anything.
      That said, what has not been mentioned is that the CT butter version is a HOT sandwich. The mayo version is a COLD sandwich

        1. re: bagelman01

          Ditto....about the butter version. I'm another CT native who agrees about the 'better' butter version. The only time I can see using mayo is if one is making a lobster, crab or tuna salad.

          1. re: mucho gordo

            served over a bed of lettuce, not in a toasted roll........................................

      1. I agree with Macca about the NE lobster roll. Except I only like the lobster with mayo because in my little peabrain I think butter has more calories than mayo although in actuality they're almost equal with butter just ahead by a smidgeon.

        1. As much as I love eating Lobster with drawn butter and lemon, a lobster roll needs mayo for me! Just enough to bind all the lobster pieces together, but not too much to hide the taste of lobster!

          1. Sorry, but there's no "real" way to make a Lobster Roll. There are several supposedly "authentic" methods depending on what part of the country you're from. In fact, I just finished a lovely little book called "Lobster Shacks"; all about the best places to enjoy lobster in all its guises up & down the New England coastline. They broach this very subject in minute detail.

            In addition, there's that old bugaboo - PERSONAL PREFERENCE. Whichever type of Lobster Roll you enjoy the best, is certainly "real" enough.

            6 Replies
            1. re: Bacardi1

              Actually, there is one required ingredient - a lightly toasted, buttered NE hot dog bun. Cold with mayo (even a touch of celery is fine) or warm with butter are both fine for me. Just don't ruin either by serving in something other than a NE style HD bun / roll.

              1. re: Clams047

                While I normally serve our Lobster Rolls on the closest thing I can get to a NE-style HD bun (which means Pepperidge Farm top-split HD rolls), when I have a bonanza of lobster to use, I'll commit blasphemy & buy something they call "hoagie sandwich rolls" here. It's not top-split, but is just slightly larger & holds together better than a HD roll. Perfect for "monster" lobster rolls. And toasted, of course. :)

                1. re: Clams047

                  Those rolls are just not sold in San Diego, but lobster is. So we make do with the rolls we have available, always served toasted.

                  Each style of sandwich described in the OP is fine, but usually we eat fresh cooked lobsters with drawn butter and put the leftover meat in the refrigerator and use it to make lobster salad the next day.

                  1. re: Clams047

                    While I prefer the top sliced roll grilled at most places, if you are on Cape Cod and can get one in a freshly baked Portuguese roll, it is a wonderful alternative. If I'm there, that's what i will opt for...but noplace else

                  2. re: Bacardi1

                    Bacardi1- That book Lobster Shacks is pretty good, as is the lobster roll info. I read my way through the CT and RI chapters yesterday. I got it on kindle, but then went and ordered the book, and the authors earlier book on Clam Shacks. I sooo plan on going to the two places mentioned in Lobster Shacks in Guilford, CT some time this fall.

                    1. re: JMF

                      Isn't that a neat little book? I had a blast reading it, because even though I'm not from New England, growing up we spent every summer either up in Maine, or Cape Cod, etc., etc. Always somewhere on the coast. I'll have to look for "Clam Shacks" as well.

                  3. The only thing I would add is a dash of celery seed. Classic MA,ME,NH,RI New England. There are variations, but classic this is it!

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: breakfastfan

                      I can't say that I've ever had a lobster roll with celery seed...

                    2. At Red's you can have it with butter OR mayo. Living in Maine, I can assure you that the most traditional MAINE lobster roll is made with mayo. That doesn't necessarily make the mayo roll the best. I'd rather have butter myself with warm lobster. If we're making them at home it's with leftover lobster from a lobster bake (sorry non-Mainers but we've been known to have 8-10 left over after having gorged ourselves). We'll pick the meat and usually mix it with mayo and keep it in the fridge eating rolls until we run out. I think that's the basis for the Maine roll. Oh yeah, hot dog rolls - no fancy bread.
                      Some people will add diced celery. Some add lettuce. I had a great roll the other day with curry and mayo. Actually had 3 rolls that day from different places in the Portland area. All were made with mayo.

                      3 Replies
                      1. re: bobbert

                        Also tried Curry Mayo Lobster Roll the other day, absolutely delicious! Again, not too much mayo is the key, gotta taste the lobster!

                        1. re: bobbert

                          The curried roll sounds outrageous. I'm going to make one of those. Ahh, Portland. . . .wish we lived closer to that great city. Three in one day; now you're making me jealous!

                          1. re: Jessiet

                            It was actually from a food truck by the famous Portland Head light house. Just enough for a nice curry taste without going overboard and overwhelming the lobster. They also have a wasabi roll that I will try next time.

                        2. Meh. there's mayo rolls and there's butter rolls. There's room for both in the world.

                          The real argument is about the celery in the mayo roll. Personally, I like a little celery, as long as it's chopped extremely fine and there's only enough to provide some crunch and aroma. I find an all-lobster roll, of either the mayo or butter variety, kind of bland and boring. I don't care enough about lobster -- a foodstuff I can mostly take or leave -- to want to eat nothing else for several mouthfuls.

                          1. One thing no one has touched on is the kind of hot dog roll. The NE hot dog roll is a different animal than those in the rest of the country. This roll, which I've grown to love, can be toasted on the outsides. It really kicks whatever you're putting inside up a notch, in my humble opinion.

                            1 Reply
                            1. re: Jessiet

                              I think you are talking about ye old Frankfort bun found at Howard Johnson's and other NE establishments. It may have many names but I knew it as Frankfort bun or Frankfort roll. You will see an image here. They were harder than conventional hot dog buns. HoJo's would toast them brown and butter them. Top split is a good description


                            2. I can't get excited about the cold mayo style, but that's all down to personal preference. I think the mayo rolls I've had have just had too much mayo, and I find it detracts from the lobster meat. I absolutely love the warm butter style roll, particularly at Abbott's in Noank, or at Neptune Oyster in Boston.

                              1. Fundamentally, I submit that each has its own delicious merits, provided its served on a properly grilled, top-split roll. That being said, to really judge one has to make both styles in one sitting.

                                After boiling and cleaning a few bugs, use half the meat to make your "lobster salad" mix - mayo (it should be made a short while the lobsters cook), celery (finely chopped), celery leaves (also finely chopped), and one or none of the following - tarragon, black pepper. ground chile, a squeeze of lemon (there are others but those are my favorite additions). Chill the "salad" and wait.

                                After a few hours, grill the buns while you gently warm the other half of the meat in a substantial amount of melted butter. Now, serve each person a plate with one hot and one cold lobster roll. Polling afterwards is optional.

                                3 Replies
                                1. re: MGZ

                                  Please, please invite me for dinner! I too could never choose between butter and mayo - I love both!

                                  1. re: biondanonima

                                    With local lobsters at three bucks a pound, it's a shame not to try out variations on a theme . . . .

                                  2. re: MGZ

                                    I think you have it down pat and are ready to open your own clam shack.

                                  3. Speaking of celery... recently I made lobster rolls with chopped fennel and just enough mayo to bind. It was a subtle flavor addition that seemed to enhance the entire mixture. Unexpectedly delicious...

                                    4 Replies
                                    1. re: Gio

                                      That's why tarragon works too.

                                      1. re: MGZ

                                        love tarragon with shrimp, too. When I am cooking shrimp for shrimp cocktail, I add garlic, lemon and tarragon to the water I use to steam the shrimp. So tasty.

                                        1. re: MGZ

                                          Freshly-chopped Tarragon is frankly a given in my lobster rolls. I LOVE it with lobster (as well as other seafood).

                                          1. re: Bacardi1

                                            I've never had tarragon in my lobster roll, but it is a necessary ingredient in my lobster scrambled eggs and in the hollandaise for my lobster benedict. Hmmm.... methinks I'm missing out!

                                      2. Here's my Houston take on the roll. Lobster placed in a warm, fresh flour tortilla, drizzled in butter, rolled and dipped in butter. Works well with boiled crawfish too, only I add a bit of crawfish juice and head fat before dipping in butter.

                                        1. I'd never make a definitive statement about which way is correct, but personally I prefer it with butter. I think it accentuates, rather than masks, the delicate flavor of the lobster. I believe both ways can be considered "authentic," however. I cooked in a restaurant that served a lobster roll and a lobster club, and the Executive chef's feeling about the lobbie was "flavor; not filler." That lobster "salad" was nothing but a tad of finely minced celery, salt and pepper, and best-quality melted butter. You could get it with mayo, but by special request only, and you should have seen the faces he made when those orders came in.

                                          1. After seeing a multitude of responses, I realize I erred by not titling my piece "The "real" way to make lobster rolls". Obviously, I was not trying to imply that the way I prefer is more correct than anyone else's version; it was intended as a tongue-in-cheek comment. Being a part-time resident of Maine, I do realize the the mayonnaise version is more often seen. I still think the butter version is better, but, isn't differing opinions what makes the world go 'round?

                                            1. The warm, buttered version is traditional in eastern Connecticut coast and vicinity; the cold mayo version more traditional elsewhere in New England, though the warm buttered version has gotten notice in many places because so many people find it such a refreshing alternative.

                                              And, as noted, there is one requirement (other than lobster meat) regardless of the style: the toasted/griddled New England-cut roll.

                                              6 Replies
                                              1. re: Karl S

                                                Sorry, Karl
                                                This Connecticut native Disagrees with you. The hot buttered lobster Roll has been a staple in Savin Rock (West Haven) certainly not Eastern CT for more than 60 years.
                                                While the roll is certainly toasted opn the griddle, Jimmie's and others do NOT use the top split New England style roll, they use the same side split hot dog bun as for their franks.

                                                Of course when I was growing up that Lobster Roll at Jimmie's was 65 cents.

                                                1. re: bagelman01

                                                  I'm surprised. I was under the impression that the split top bun was standard. I certainly prefer it because it holds the precious innards better.

                                                  1. re: bagelman01

                                                    Jimmies!...is that still around? I remember heaping plates of Fried Clams back in the 70's. Life was never better than that location and that food!....excpet maybe my dining companion.

                                                    1. re: FriedClamFanatic

                                                      Jimmie's is still around, third generation of the family running the show.

                                                      Jimmie's brown platters.................
                                                      Toasted white bread on the plate heaped with golden brown fried seafood and french fried potatoes served after a starter of Natural Clam chowder. Being halfway between NY and Boston, no tomato or cream. 70+ years of being politically correct.

                                                    2. re: bagelman01

                                                      Correction duly accepted. (My parents come from Bridgeport, but with family eastward to Groton and northward to Hartford.)

                                                    3. re: Karl S

                                                      The toasted/griddled New England-cut roll is not necessarily a requirement. Certainly a standard, but there's plenty of room for variation. Like I had on one of my CT lobster roll expeditions.

                                                    4. The Keag Store in South Thomaston, Maine makes them on ... duh duh duh ... a hamburger bun. They toast and butter the sesame seed bun then add mayo'ed lobster. They've been voted Best Lobster Roll in the Rockland newspaper many times.

                                                      I prefer my lobster hot out of the steamer with nothing on it.

                                                      1. For those of you seeking top sliced rolls, I have found the Pepperidge Farm brand in many parts of the country. Perhaps your local supermarket could be persuaded to get some since they also make for great hot dogs and sausage sandwiches.

                                                        9 Replies
                                                        1. re: FriedClamFanatic

                                                          I recently bought the Pepperidge Farm HD rolls at a local chain supermarket (Market Basket, for NEers) and was surprised to see they're practically half the length of those I remember buying in the past. And, yes they were used for lobster rolls. But really small ones...

                                                          From The Globe's test kitchen:
                                                          "Globe staffers blind-tasted five different brands of hot dog buns to see which we’d invite to our next cookout. The winner, by a narrow margin, was Pepperidge Farm: These buns met with approval for their real-bread taste and almost chewy texture. Sunbeam was a close runner-up. But any of these babies grilled or toasted and buttered would do in a pinch. As one taster said, “A bun is a bun is a bun.” — DEVRA FIRST

                                                          1. re: Gio

                                                            The rolls are certainlky smaller than those you remember in the past. But, they are sized for the typical packaged supermarket sodl hot dog brands. With each dog about 1.75 ounces you don't need a big roll.

                                                            I have recounted in a different thread that back when I was in the commercial baking business (1978) a local deli owner would call and complain if the bread was too big (circumference), as it would rise a great deal on humid days. If the bread was big, he would have to put more meat in to make the sandwich look complete. Small bread, less meat, more profit.

                                                            1. re: bagelman01

                                                              Yes, it all depends on net worth doesn't it. I don't eat hot dogs so I hadn't noticed the size discrepancy,.. And it seems that the lobster rolls I buy on The Cape and north of Boston are quite large...

                                                              1. re: Gio

                                                                That's because commercial bakeries in New England that serve restaurants and institutions bake longer rolls, such as for 'foot long' or 'jumbo' dogs. Supermarkets wouldn't devote shelf space to this size as they don't stock many of the longer hot dogs.

                                                                1. re: bagelman01

                                                                  Most likely it's commercial bakeries everywhere. Isn't that irritating? Whether one is making a Lobster Roll, Crab or Shrimp Roll, or even just a hot dog, you can forget about everything fitting/holding together on the miniscule flabby hot-dog rolls (top or side split) available these days. If I'm making something like Chili Dogs, forget about it - I have to buy what around here are called "Sub Sandwich Rolls", which are about 7" long or so, with a firmer texture. Otherwise Chili Dogs have to be fork-&-knife food. I also buy these rolls if I'm going to be making large Lobster or other seafood rolls &/or going to be lining them with lettuce, etc.

                                                                  1. re: Bacardi1

                                                                    If you have any 'old fashioned' independent bakeries in your area, chances are they will make you 'foot long' hot dog rolls that will stand up to your needs.
                                                                    I often ask my local abkery to make these. They are baking hot dog rolls anyway, and instead of slicing three per row on the sheet pan, they slice the row in half. They ususally charge me about the 1.5 times the price per dozen, as the ingredient cost is more. Well worth it. I use the Hebrew National Dinner Franks and they require the long roll. I also use kraut whoch soaks thru supermarket hot dog buns.

                                                                    1. re: bagelman01


                                                                      Very good I am just acknowledging so you know people like your material :)

                                                                      1. re: zzDan

                                                                        Thanks, The Settlement Cookbook is a staple reference in our home, I have a copy printed in the early 30s.
                                                                        BTW, oldest daughter is working a small cruise ship on the Great Lakes this month. she spent yesterday afternoon at Wisconsin Pier.

                                                            2. re: Gio

                                                              Well if one shorty Lobster roll is good, 1.5-2 must be great! Heck, you could even do a taste comparison...butter or mayo! ( Hint.....if for two ppl, make only one with the mayo)

                                                          2. Shedders = soft shell crab??

                                                            I'm going to try hot lobster roll this time!