5 Rules for Mastering the Art of the Lobster Roll

Vacation may be weeks away and the shore nowhere in sight—but follow these tips and you can bring the tastes of a New England lobster shack right to your plate.


Fresh is best.

Photo by Sarah Karnasiewicz

Sure, you could make lobster rolls with frozen knuckles or claws. But with fresh lobsters so widely availableand so much more deliciouswhy would you? A lobster roll is a simple dish and lobster is its star. So use the best-tasting meat you can find. If it's the thought of wrestling frisky lobsters into a stock pot that gives you the willies, try one of these techniques for lulling them into calm before cooking. Or, even better, make nice with your fishmonger and ask him to do the dirty work for you.


Buns matter.

Though these days lobster rolls are beloved by foodies from coast to coast, the rocky shores of New England are their ancestral homeand a split-top New England-style hotdog bun is still the only proper bun in which to serve them. This is about practicality as much as it is stylistic authenticity: the top-loaded buns hold their shape well and sit up sturdily, even on paper plates.


Butter makes it better.

Within the boundaries of New England rages a sort of lobster roll-related civil war, with the citizens of Maine and the northern reaches preferring their sandwiches packed with chilled lobster meat swaddled in a light dressing of mayo, while down in Connecticut and the southern shores, piles of meat tossed in a warm bath of butter are prized. We happen to think both versions are delicious and won't even attempt to settle that score. But no matter your regional loyalties, there is one way in which butter on a lobster roll is compulsory: as the dressing for a lightly toasted bun. Pale golden and crisp around the edges, white and soft and yielding within, a griddled roll is truly a thing of beauty.


Let the lobster shine.

When assembling the filling for your roll, tread lightly. The beauty of this thing is its balancethe harmony of sweet lobster meat, soft, buttery bun, and just-rich-enough sauce.  So don't overdo it. Your goal should be to have just enough dressing to lightly cling to the meat. In general, a spoonful of plain old Hellman's mayo is all it takes to make something mighty fine.


Garnish gently.

Again, less is more. A lobster roll is no place for bacon bits or microgreens. A finishing squirt of lemon, a sprinkle of paprika, or a green flurry of chopped chives: these simple flourishes can add a pleasant little kick to a rollthough they remain strictly optional. A great one needs no adornment.