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We Love a Lobster (and roll) as well as the next person, but are they overrated?

Greetings all - Flack jacket is strapped on.....

We've posted here before regarding New England bugs.
Like them, both soft and hard shelled. But....

Having just had a couple of (soft shell) bugs for dinner, still a bit confused as to what all the fuss is about.

Are lobsters, both hard and soft shelled overrated?

Ready for incoming.

Maybe it's the uniqueness of said arthropods to New England, especially those from Maine?

Perhaps it's the method we've used over the years to prepare said crustaceans.

How can we make them better?

Cutting to the chase, wondering how to enjoy these cuties more than we have in the past?

Hiding in our bunker....

DW & Co.

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  1. I do think we get spoiled up here by the ease if obtaining and relative cheapness of lobsters.

    Have you tried the Chinatown preparations or have you just stuck with the steamed/boiled? Have you tried grilling?

    But given a choice I'd take blue crabs from the Eastern Shore over lobsters every time.

    1. From the title, I thought you were asking if lobster rolls were overrated and to that I'd say yes. Most of the time they are on a bland white hot dog roll which adds nothing to the flavor, and can mean a mess when the roll disintegrates. For the same price, I can get lobster newburg, lobster pie, or lobster mac&cheese, all of which are tastier.

      But as for lobster in and of itself, no, not overrated. Even simply steamed or boiled, it's scrumptious. In a fancier preparation, like Jasper White's pan-roasted lobster, it's one of the best entrees I've ever had.

      1. I like lobster, can't say I get all agog over it, tend to think our local crabs have better flavor. I'll have a lobster roll or two every year, but prefer preparations like the Chinatown or JoJo Taipei stir-fry with ginger and scallion, or something a bit less traditional, like Jasper White's pan-roasted version: http://www.nytimes.com/recipes/11611/...

        I do think the Homerus americanus is rather tastier than its cousins with smaller claws, like the fairly common spiny lobster from South Africa and other places, which I've found to be less tender and definitely less sweet. The bugs sometimes deceptively sold by chains as lobster, like the evil-looking squat lobster, are decidedly inferior.

        I still think a seafood shack steamed Maine lobster, and a lobster roll from the places that Hounds tend to recommend here, remain worthy experiences that tourists are justified in seeking out.

        As an aside, I worry that global warming is doing scary things to our lobster fisheries, as well as the prospects for other local seafood species: http://qz.com/112273/maines-lobster-b... I'm afraid we'll see a lot of the great seafood we take for granted, both here and elsewhere, getting much more expensive or overfished into extinction in our lifetimes. Might want to enjoy them while you can, and before bee population collapses bring about the end of civilization.


        1. Lots of lobster rolls are made with claws and knuckles - not the best part of the lobster. Lobsters as an ingredient is not overrated in my book. I love a perfectly grilled lobster or lobster stir fry with scallions and ginger. There are many ways I love lobster, but not the claws.

          11 Replies
          1. re: Worldwide Diner

            To each their own, i find the knuckles to be the best tasting/best textured part of the entire lobster. Not the most qty for the amount of work though..

            Also one of the reasons people love the Atlantic lobsters and why Maine lobsters are so popular, are their claws which the pacific lobsters dont have....

            1. re: hargau

              I'm with you, knuckle meat every day. Just buy BIG bugs with big knuckles, very easy to shuck.

              1. re: StriperGuy

                Yup. Cut or break off the two knuckle joints and pop the meat chunk out of the thick one with your pinkie and use the handle of a fork to push out the meat in the other knuckle piece that has the flat end. Sweetest parts of the critter.

                1. re: Veggo

                  I love the knuckles as well, really my favorite part. If you have kitchen shears, you can cut the shell very easily (it's more flexible at the knuckle, having an almost plastic like texture) to extract the meat. When I worked at my last real cooking job (the pub I worked at while retraining for a new career does not really count) we used the knuckles solely for the lobster rolls, as the knuckles were sort of a by-product of our banquet lobster preperation), and I must say it's the sweetest part. But to each there own of course!

                2. re: StriperGuy

                  I love lobster and also think the knuckles are the best part!

                  1. re: C. Hamster

                    Imagine a warm buttery all knuckle meat lobster roll. I'm going to have to change my underwear.

                      1. re: Veggo

                        The original "knuckle sandwich", eh? Just last night as I was making some Alive and Kicking bugs into homemade rolls, I was imagining an all-knuckle lobster roll too...

                3. re: Worldwide Diner

                  Knuckle fan here too. Then claws, then tail.

                  1. re: trufflehound

                    Here's a bad idea: a lobster roll entirely made of the slender bottom pincer meat of the non-dominant claw. Only on Portlandia, perhaps.

                    1. re: trufflehound

                      Knuckle, claws, tail for me, too.

                      I eat them in that order.

                      Plus I suck out the goodness in the legs.

                  2. I would take Dungenesse crab over lobster every single day.

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: jpc8015

                      Because I have access to D. crab, I'd take the lobster. Anyway it's served.

                    2. i have never looked into original source material on this, so it could be old wives' tale, but i remember reading that the original Plymouth settlers got so sick of lobster that the bugs just started 'getting piled up on the beach'/uneaten. even if it weren't true, it's certainly safe to say that one could easily tire of eating anything if it were the only thing you ate in abundance.

                      3 Replies
                      1. re: opinionatedchef

                        yes lobster was once a dish only eaten by the very poor and it was an embarrassment to admit eating them. People would take great care to hide the shells from their trash,etc, so others wouldnt see them...

                          1. re: opinionatedchef

                            Here's a good answer to the Pilgrim/lobster question, created by the folks at Plimoth Plantation: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RCTcH0...

                          2. No, its just in New England, you see the touristy element, and lobsters are available so readily. Eating a good roll sitting on a dock in Maine during summer is a special experience.

                            Is lobster overrated compared to other shellfish - perhaps...I had a rock shrimp po'boy in northern Florida that I'd take over a lobster roll easily.

                            I will say the yearly Lobster Fest in Rockland, ME is overrated..

                            1. I suppose you could say almost anything is overrated to some extent. For example, look at the number of threads regarding burgers vs. lobster on this board alone! ;)

                              I adore the flavor of lobster and tend to think of it as a special occasion food, given its usual pricey nature (this summer an exception, of course). So I would be more inclined to get all excited about an occasion where lobster was involved!

                              1. To make lobster better I prefer dipping in it garlicky aioli rather than in purified butter. Adds contrast.

                                1. If you make them at home you can do some fun things with lobster rolls that most places shy away from for fear of tradition.

                                  The first is use decent bread (what a concept!), but also we enjoy occasional mixins of bacon, avocado, tarragon (which I think goes beautifully with lobster), and aioli.

                                  I tend to prefer claw/knuckle meat myself. Tail meat is very very easy to overcook and when we get lobster rolls out, it very often is tough which can really detract from the experience. At home you can steam the meat perfectly, grill it (my favorite), or even sous vide it to make sure it's perfect.

                                  14 Replies
                                  1. re: Klunco

                                    What's "decent" bread? I'm figuring its not a hot dog bun?

                                    1. re: Chinon00

                                      Decent is anything above bottom of the barrel, wonder bread tasting, split top hot dog buns.

                                      Sadly a lot of places aren't even buttering and grilling the buns these days so it's even worse when I get an spongy, tasteless, crappy bun. Okay rant over, but this is one area where I do agree with the OP. Most supermarket, split top buns may fit the tradition of the lobster roll, but they certainly aren't helping the flavor.

                                      At home, I really like challah, brioche, or a good baguette. A potato hot dog bun can make a great lobster roll as can any homemade hot dog bun that is made with a dairy enriched dough. But that is just personal preference.

                                      1. re: Klunco

                                        Yeah the bun can't be too dense and crusted because then the force required to penetrate the bun will end up pushing the lobster salad out of it.
                                        The textural contrast created by a grilled hot dog bun (or any lightweight bun) I think is essential.

                                          1. re: Chinon00

                                            I like baguette, but can see why others wouldn't. I would definitely recommend challah or brioche though. Buttery lobster with melted butter (or mayo) and buttery bread? It's like a triple play of richness without being over the top.

                                        1. re: Chinon00

                                          I'm a purist, and to me at least, nothing beats that perfectly grilled warm and buttery New England split top hot dog roll cradling my lobster salad made with predominantly knuckle and claw meat. I love the hot and cold contrast, and really dislike the few times where I do order one out, it's served on a brioche bun, or some such. And to the knuckle fans, my favorite bug suppliers sells lots of cooked meat but they don't pick the knuckles. they sell these huge bags of knuckles only in the shell for usually under $7-$8 per pound, so an all knuckle roll for me is a reality, and not just fantasy!

                                          Nothing over rated at all about a well cooked Maine lobster, but that's not to say I don't LOVE Alaskan King or Dungeoness crab a whole lot, too!

                                          1. re: CapeCodGuy

                                            I'm a purist, too: I don't consider it a *real* lobster roll unless I've dragged the bug from my own lobster pot, boiled it in Atlantic seawater (preferably from the Gulf of Maine), cracked it with my 19th-century vintage nutcracker, dressed it lightly with homemade mayo made from EVOO pressed between the thighs of Sicilian virgins, and ensconced in a split-top bun baked by Fannie Farmer's great-grandaughter, toasted over Aroostook County oak charcoal and brushed with Vermont Creamery sea-salt-flecked cultured butter. Oh, and it has to be served on a silver salver I stole from Locke-Ober in the pre-Lydia Shire era. But that's just me. A purist.


                                            1. re: MC Slim JB

                                              If the seawater doesn't come from at least 2+ miles offshore, it ruins the entire roll, right?

                                                1. re: MC Slim JB

                                                  You forgot to describe the cooking pot itself-- don't you have your great-great uncle Josiah's pewter kettle that he brought from the Scottish highlands in 1894?

                                                  1. re: newhound

                                                    Sorry, an oversight. It's a Granite Ware lobster pot from 1895 that used to belong to the last keeper of the Boon Island Light off Cape Neddick. Got it at his estate auction. Had to outbid Sumner Redstone for it. The man has lost a step.


                                                2. re: CapeCodGuy

                                                  Any chance that you would divulge your source for knuckles in the Boston area?

                                                  1. re: lc02139

                                                    To McSlim....seems like you cut too many corners to call yourself a true purist. No wonder you prefer a DAngelos seafood salad sub made with that yummy ''sea legs'' stuff.

                                                    To lc2139...sorry but my source is not local to Boston, but local to me on the Cape. Joe's Fish and Lobster on the canal in Sandwich.

                                            2. I just had a really great roll from James Hook, toasted roll, light on the mayo... Good size and price $14. BTW they had a "larger" roll for $17, but it looked to me to just be a bigger roll with the same amount of lobster.

                                              2 Replies
                                              1. re: phatchris

                                                They toast the rolls at James Hook? Is this a new thing?

                                                1. re: joth68

                                                  Started doing it 1 or 2 years ago..great improvement!

                                              2. I grew up in a "clean your plate" family. Lobster was one of the very few things that we were never required to even try, thus rendering it the absolute height of desirableness. Perhaps this childhood fascination with the great big steamed lobster that only Dad got to eat on Father's Day figures into the equation, but I really do feel a perfectly steamed lobster is one of the great delicacies on earth.

                                                Now, as to lobster rolls, I long imagined them to be something like an eggroll- wrapped up and fried, maybe a dipping sauce. The truth is always a bit of a disappointment.

                                                3 Replies
                                                1. re: Parsnipity

                                                  Try the lobster on a fresh made butter croissant. No need to grill it but, you can if you want. Fresh baked Scale bread with the crust cut off is one of my favorites. Also, the bread from the Ch√Ęteau makes a wonderful platform for the lobster meat.

                                                  1. re: josephlapusata

                                                    The buttery croissant sounds good if it is a large one. I think I would grill it if only to give it some structural integrity and texture contrast with the lobster.

                                                    1. re: josephlapusata

                                                      Sounds like a nice lobster croissant or lobster sandwich, but neither constitutes a lobster roll. I like it on lightly dressed romaine, too, but a roll it is not.

                                                  2. Short answer is yes, overrated.

                                                    1 Reply
                                                    1. There is absolutely nothing over rated about lobster. It's very versatile. Of course the lobster roll is the first thing that always comes to mind. I enjoy the fact that there are many versions, and there are several restaurants that make ones I really enjoy. My very favorite recipe is the all too scarce "Lobster Fra Diavolo" (the baked, stuffed version my family always made). The first course was always spagetti with the lobster infused marinara sauce (no cheese please!).Why am I doing this to myself!

                                                      In my book, anyone who thinks lobster is over rated is no "Chowhound". I know, I know, to each his own.

                                                      1 Reply
                                                      1. >How can we make them better?

                                                        Eat less of them and they become more special. I try to stick to about 3 times a year - valentines day, july 4th weekend (when you can still get hardshells packed full of meat), and on my birthday - which I like to have someone else prepare baked stuffed style - just had a pretty good 2lb hardshell yesterday on the deck at Michael's in Newburyport :-) I've had my fill now now until next winter - moving onto steamers.

                                                        Not a fan of the watery, salty and otherwise bland soft shells.

                                                        1. How can lobster (or any general foodstuff) be overrated? Overpriced, yes, at many restaurants IMO, but that doesn't make it overrated.

                                                          I like, don't love lobster, and generally only eat it once or twice a year. To me it's something special, and definitely brings out some good memories of family meals.

                                                          Some people like it more than others, isn't that true of any food? And if you like lobster as much as the next person, and lobster is highly rated by the average person, doesn't that mean that you like lobster a lot?

                                                          Is steak overrated? Is chicken overrated?

                                                          1 Reply
                                                          1. re: nickls

                                                            These were my points, exactly, above. Given the vast number of enthusiastic posts regarding a variety of relatively pedestrian foods (ie burgers), one could easily argue that those are overrated too!

                                                          2. I have to admit I get a little squicked out by the whole arthropod eating idea, but I love a well-made lobster roll (lots of mayo for me, please) on a well-toasted and buttered bun. I guess I prefer my lobster deconstructed.

                                                            Are they overrated? Only to people who don't like them. Ditto for truffles and caviar.

                                                            1 Reply
                                                            1. re: Isolda

                                                              The exoskeleton is just all natural organic packaging. ;-)

                                                            2. Of course it's a matter of opinion, but as someone who grew up Maine, I have to say I've never understood the appeal of lobster. I call them 'sea roaches.' Lobster chunks stuffed in a flabby hotdog roll with mayo or butter doesn't seem to make the eating experience any better.