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Jun 6, 2013 02:35 PM

Maine lobster-- what's a good price, and where to find it?

I never buy live seafood, but a recent $13 lobster roll experience made me realize that I need more lobster in my life, and I need to do it in the most budget conscious way possible.

This month's Cooks Illustrated has a recipe for New England style lobster rolls (served cold with mayo and bibb lettuce, as opposed to the Connecticut warm/drawn butter variety).

Since those buns are impossible to find in LA, I went ahead and purchased their recommended New England style hot dog bun pan. The "USA Pan’s New England Hot Dog Bun Pan" that comes "highly recommended". (That's right, I'm making my own!) A great extra perk is that CI's review of the pan says the included recipe made better tasting buns than is what available commercially.

The recipe itself is essentially a cold lobster salad, made with mayo, minced celery, lemon juice, chives, cayenne, salt. I love that the recipe included very detailed instructions on how to extract every last bit of meat from the shell, including the legs. (Use a rolling pin or dowel to squeeze out the meat from the top of the leg). It's copyrighted paywall content that Chow won't allow me to reprint here, but it's really informative read if you feel like splurging (or getting a free 2 week trial membership).

So, this leaves me wondering-- since I never buy live seafood, what is the absolute best price you've ever seen for Maine lobster, and what is the best price you've seen recently (and where?) I'm guessing the live tanks at 99 Ranch would be a good first choice, or maybe Assi in Koreatown. The recipe calls for 1 lb of lobster meat to make 6 lobster rolls. How big would my lobster have to be to get 1 lb of meat from it?

Mr Taster

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  1. I think it is 5 lbs of lobsters to 1 lb of meat. Lt me know ow your buns turn out. Sounds delicious and challenging.

    1. We just had several live large lobsters seasoned and cooked at a grocery store in Little Saigon for $6.50 per pound plus a dollar each for cooking it. If I were you, I would do the same thing but skip the seasoning. You will pay the nearly the same as if you did it yourself and skip the kitchen mess.

      ABC Supermarket
      8970 Bolsa Ave
      Westminster, CA 92683

      2 Replies
      1. re: GoodEatz

        The cooking technique recommended by CI is to put the live lobster in the freezer for 30 minutes, which places the crustacean into a coma-like state. Once in the pot, it wakes up for just a few seconds before giving up the ghost. This technique, they say, minimizes thrashing and, theoretically, whatever pain the creature might experience.

        The other techniques they tried were to kill the lobster just before boiling with a knife through the head, but this didn't work because the buggers are tough and didn't die. They also soaked in a cold saltwater and clove oil brine, and hypnotized the thing by massaging the shell and standing it on its head (which rendered the thing motionless for an hour, but it woke up and started thrashing in the boiling water).

        In the end, the freezer technique was the simplest and most effective technique.

        Mr Taster

      2. I would say to go for the bigger lobsters, at least 3-4 pounds since the small ones do not have much meat. Look for ones with giant claws because IMO it is the tastiest part of the Maine Lobster.

        Also, do you want true Maine Lobster or the Nova Scotia variety which is the same breed but found outside of Maine?

        1 Reply
        1. re: A5 KOBE

          If they are 3 or 4 lb lobsters they are probably not from Maine, lobsters over a certain size are not legal to sell.

        2. "Since those buns are impossible to find in LA, I went ahead and purchased their recommended New England style hot dog bun pan."

          I know you've already bought it, but for the rest of us you can buy kings hawaiian hot dog buns and accomplish the same goal

          5 Replies
          1. re: ns1

            The New England rolls are not sweet, though. But the King's buns are right shape.

            Mr Taster

            1. re: Mr Taster

              Sometimes, you gotta live with what you can get.

              1. re: Mr Taster

                Whenever you are in e mood for a lobster roll on a NE bun, but not in the mood to bake, you can order a dozen here and just freeze what you don't use immediately.


                1. re: Dirtywextraolives

                  Ah, but this is Chowhound... fresh baked buns vs. shipped and frozen processed buns? It's no contest :)

                  One hurdle is that the recipe that comes with the pan is one of those typically badly written recipes that leaves too much up to the imagination. The experienced baker might not have a problem with it, but the amateur to intermediate baker might be left asking questions.

                  My first attempt at baking the buns yielded results that were too squat and dense (but were delicious nonetheless, a world apart from processed buns). I was able to use my limited knowledge of baking to self-correct somewhat, but it was still a challenge.

                  I noticed after baking my first batch that the good folks at King Arthur Flour have retooled the USA Pans recipe with far more detail (and weight conversions in grams, too!! Hallelujah!)


                  They've included those important details, like estimated rising and kneading times. Little things, you know.

                  Badly written recipes should be punishable by force-feeding badly prepared food that was made with said recipes down the throats of the people who wrote them :


                  Mr Taster

                  1. re: Mr Taster

                    I understand, and good for you for making your own. I'm not a good baker, and currently don't have the time or fortitude to try my hand at it so commercial products suit me just fine. Just thought I'd let you know they were available and fit the bill for this application, as I don't know of any lobster or clam shacks that don't use this product & instead make their own.

            2. The CI methods, from how you've described it (I didn't look; don't have an account), including the chilling before cooking and the rolling out the leg meat, sounds just like the methods Alton Brown showed on Good Eats.

              For those without the CI subs, here's freely available info from the Good Eats ep...

              Full ep. on YouTube:

              Transcript on Good Eats Fan Page:

              Food Network's official page for the ep for the stuffed lobster recipe:

              1 Reply
              1. re: PeterCC

                You bring up an interesting observation, PeterCC

                I just watched the episode you're referring to. Having just made lobster rolls last night using the CI techniques, it's all fresh in my mind.

                I highly suspect there's some cross-contamination here between Alton & CI. Why? Well, in addition to the technique of freezing the lobsters for 30 minutes to keep them from writhing (a technique which worked beautifully), I noticed that Alton uses CI recommended cooking gadgets-- most notably the Rubbermaid 13.5" scraper (which, incidentally, is a phenomenal spatula, with a broad, flat scraper and a long, sturdy, rigid handle for easy leverage). Additionally, the electronic timer on his oven is a CI recommended gadget as well, and the steaming technique (from an article published in CI in 1997) with an associated timetable based on weight, is featured in the episode as well.

                I was unable to find the technique of rolling out the leg meat in early CI articles (but it does appear in a 2013 article), so perhaps this is a case where modern CI test kitchen chefs "borrowed" an Alton Brown technique.

                Mr Taster