Get out your big stockpot, fill it with water and have your lobster-claw crackers ready.
It’s lobster time.
Lobster rolls — the popular summer shack food along the north Atlantic coast — are a delicious way to put all that lobster to use.
But before you get started on making a great-tasting lobster roll, you need to know a few things.
First, you need to get the right roll, a New England-style hot dog bun. It’s essentially a hot dog bun with the sides cut off. Many grocery stores carry them. The sides of the bun are brushed with butter and grilled, making them lightly toasted.
Next, you need know how to cook the lobster (see our guides). Once cooked, the lobster must be broken down. You need to take apart the claws, knuckles and tail from the body to get every morsel of meat. Use a nutcracker to crack the claws and knuckles. For the tail, bend it to break it away from the body. To prepare the lobster meat, cut it into decent size chunks, not itty-bitty pieces.
There are two types of lobster rolls: cold ones and warm ones. Cold lobster rolls contain a mayo-based lobster salad. The meat is mixed with freshly made mayonnaise and some seasonings such as celery salt or a sprinkling of celery seed on top. For crunch, add in some finely-diced inner celery ribs along with their leaves.
For a warm lobster roll, hold the mayo and toss cooked lobster pieces in melted butter and heap it into the roll. That’s it. You can drizzle it with more butter if you like.
Tips for buying lobsters
Look for lobsters that are active in the tank. If you see their tails curled up, it’s a good sign that they are fresh.
Plan to cook them the day you buy them. Keep them in the refrigerator and do not remove them until you are ready to cook them. They will keep a day or so in the refrigerator with a damp paper towel or damp newspaper on them.
Keep in mind one lobster will yield about 25 percent meat. For lobster rolls, figure cooking at least a 1-pound lobster for each roll.
How to boil lobster
Boiling is an ideal cooking method if you want to serve the whole lobster. The meat releases from the shell more easily than when steamed. But, it can yield less tender meat.
Here’s what to do:
Fill a large deep stockpot with water, allowing about 3 quarts of water per 1 1/2 to 2 pounds of lobster. Add a generous amount of sea or kosher salt to the water (at least 2 tablespoons per 3 quarts) and bring the water to a rolling boil.
Add the live lobsters, head first, one at a time, and start timing immediately. Do not cover. Stir the lobsters halfway through cooking.
Boiling times for lobster:
1 pound, 8 minutes
1 1/4 pounds, 9-10 minutes
1 1/2 pounds, 11-12 minutes
1 3/4 pounds, 12-13 minutes
2 pounds, 15 minutes
How to steam lobster
In a large pot, add a couple of inches of salted water.
Fit the pot with a steamer basket if you have one. Or use a collapsible vegetable steamer insert. If you have a small metal colander you can place it upside down in the pot so the lobster can rest on it.
Bring the water to a boil. Add the live lobsters and cover the pot. If your pot is big enough to cook several lobsters, halfway through steaming, remove the lid, being mindful of the hot steam, shift the lobsters around so they cook evenly. Return to a boil and start timing.
Steaming times for lobster:
1 pound, 10 minutes
1 1/4 pounds, 12 minutes
1 1/2 pounds, 14 minutes
1 3/4 pounds, 16 minutes
2 pounds, 18 minutes
Source: “The Summer Shack Cookbook: The Complete Guide to Shore Food” by Jasper White (W.W. Norton &Company, $35)
How to grill lobster tails
We prefer buying and grilling only the tails because it’s easier. To grill them, stick a skewer under the shell and through the meat on the top side. This prevents the tail from curling during grilling. Brush the flesh side with oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Place the tails, flesh side down, on a grilled preheated to medium for about 3 minutes. Turn them over and brush again with oil. Continue grilling another 5 to 6 minutes or until the meat is opaque.
If you’d like to grill a whole lobster (or if you plan to store a whole lobster for more than 2 days) it’s best to parboil it first.
Here’s how to parboil, and then grill lobster:
Plunge it, head first, into boiling water and boil for at least 5 minutes. Remove the lobster and place it in cold water to stop the cooking.
Cut the parboiled lobster in half down the middle. Remove the dark vein from the tail, the tomalley (the soft green stuff) and the sand sac near the head and discard.
Brush the lobster with melted butter and place it, flesh side down, on a grill preheated to medium heat. Grill about 5 minutes, turn over and baste again; cook for 5 minutes longer or until cooked through.
Sources: lobsterfrommaine.com and Super Fish Co., Royal Oak.
Classic New England lobster rolls
Preparation time: 50 minutes
Total time: 1 hour
3 to 4 (1 1/4- to 1 1/2-pound) live lobsters
2 ribs celery, diced small
1/2 cup celery leaves from the inner ribs, chopped (reserve some whole leaves for garnish if you like)
1/2 cup mayonnaise or more if you like (homemade preferred, see recipe)
Sea salt to taste
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted, plus more for drizzling
4 split-top hot dog rolls
Bibb lettuce leaves
3/4 teaspoon celery seed
Pickles for serving, optional
Potato chips for serving, optional
Put lobsters in freezer while you bring the salted water to a boil. Prepare a pot of water with a steamer basket and add a couple of inches of salted water or bring a large, deep stockpot of water to a boil and add a heaping 1/4 cup of kosher salt. Working in batches if need be, steam the lobsters 12 to 14 minutes or boil them 10 to 12 minutes or until bright red. Use tongs to remove from the pot and let cool completely. You can cook and refrigerate lobsters 1 day in advance.
Shell and roughly chop lobster meat.
In a large bowl, combine the lobster meat, celery, celery leaves, mayonnaise and season with salt to taste.
Melt butter in a skillet on medium-high heat. Place the rolls, cut side down in the skillet to toast. Turn over and toast the other side. Remove the rolls and line with Bibb lettuce. Fill with the lobster salad, drizzle with more melted butter if desired and sprinkle with celery seed. Serve with pickles and chips.
Adapted from several recipes and tested by Susan Selasky for the Free Press Test Kitchen. Nutrition information not available.
Make your own mayo
Here’s how to make your own mayonnaise. If you’re squeamish about using raw egg yolk, be sure to use pasteurized eggs.
First, make sure all the mayonnaise ingredients are at room temperature so the mixture can emulsify.
In a small bowl, whisk together 1 egg yolk, 2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice, 1 teaspoon Dijon and 1/4 teaspoon sea salt. While whisking constantly, slowly drizzle in 1/2 to 3/4 cup canola oil until completely incorporated. Whisk in the lemon zest. Taste and adjust, adding more lemon juice and salt if needed. It should have at least a hint of lemon. Set aside.