What’s better than the anticipation of biting into a fresh lobster roll? Knowing for certain just how delicious that first bite will be. As demand grows for great fast-casual food options, a love for genuinely crafted lobster rolls also continues to grow. In state after state, small, quality-focused chains are popping up to meet this need, and what was once a New England specialty is now available in locations thousands of miles away from the Atlantic coast.
It’s great to know that you can now get a bite of that delicious lobster in a fresh bun all across the country. But, as with any food that’s becoming more popular, consistent quality can be difficult to find. There’s nothing better than a fresh, well-prepared lobster roll, but there’s nothing worse than anticipating exactly that, only to get rubbery, overcooked lobster in a stale bun.
We’re here to make sure that doesn’t happen to you. Once you know the eight secrets to finding the best lobster rolls, you can rest easy knowing that your first bite will be just as good–and maybe even better– than you hoped.
SECRET #1: MAINE LOBSTER AS THE SPOTLIGHT INGREDIENT
Not every lobster is created equal. In fact, several varieties of lobsters live all over the world, each with its own individual flavor. There are cold water lobsters like Canadian lobsters and South African lobsters and warm water lobsters like Australian lobsters and Caribbean lobsters. They are all part of the same family, but their taste is dramatically different from one another.
Take the difference between a Maine and Canadian lobster as an example. Both are cold-water lobsters, but the latter has relatively dense meat. On the other hand, Maine lobsters have some of the sweetest, richest, and most tender meat of all the varieties. Why? Because most cold-water lobsters travel to Maine in the summer to shed their hard shells, which is when their meat is the sweetest. By the time they return to other coastlines, their meat becomes dense and has a saltier flavor.
So, you probably already guessed it. The best quality lobster rolls use only meat from the renowned Maine lobster. They take care to source their meat properly, putting quality over price. The meat is harvested right when the hard shell molting occurs to maximize both flavor and texture, creating an authentic roll that tastes just as it would on those New England boardwalks by the shore.
SECRET #2: THE FRESHNESS OF THE LOBSTER
Even the best Maine lobster matters little if it’s old. Every food loses its flavor and texture after some time and providing fresh quality lobster can be challenging. As you move further away from New England, you’ll often run into restaurants that use intermediaries to source their lobster meat. By the time the lobster gets into your bun, you’ll be able to taste the difference.
Look for restaurants that serve their lobster straight from lobstermen in Maine. The fewer intermediaries, the better. The best-case scenario is a restaurant that’s happy to share how quickly their lobsters go from the seas of Maine to preparation and, ultimately, into the bun. The more they are willing to share about their process, the more likely you can trust them to have truly fresh lobster meat.
SECRET #3: THE FRESHNESS AND SIMPLICITY OF THE BUN
Of course, lobster meat isn’t the only important element in this equation. What makes the best possible roll—the vehicle that carries that lobster delicacy? Some imitators use fancy bread such as focaccia or brioche rolls to add a different flavor or texture to the dish. But here’s something the restaurants that offer those bun styles don’t seem to realize: anything other than a classic split-top bun actually takes away from the lobster roll.
While the creative effort is admirable, authenticity matters, and the best rolls are created with a simple-yet-delicious split-top New England bun. When the buns are fresh and toasted with a glistening layer of smooth, silky butter, you have exactly the right vehicle to make that Maine lobster meat taste delicious in every bite—just like they would at those little lobster shacks on the New England shore.
SECRET #4: THE RIGHT BALANCE BETWEEN LOBSTER AND BUN
Everyone knows the saying that the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. But you might not realize just how much that saying applies to lobster rolls. With all lobster and no bun, you’d have succulent meat but no vehicle to get it into your mouth and no simple palate cleanser. Instead, the right balance makes the flavors truly hum, creating that authentic lobster roll that makes the New England coast famous.
Generally speaking, that balance should always tilt towards the lobster meat. It makes perfect sense—it’s the star of the show. The best lobster rolls have generous portions of juicy, tender meat that almost overflows from the bun, offering you the most possible lobster while maintaining the ideal balance.
SECRET #5: GENUINE AND FRESH INGREDIENTS
Starting with the obvious, you probably wouldn’t want a lobster roll made with imitation lobster. But even beyond that, knowing which ingredients go into the bun can make all the difference in finding one that’s absolutely delicious.
We’ve already covered the importance of Maine lobster for the roll’s flavor. Keep in mind, though, that the same is true for the condiments used in each roll. Quality, fresh ingredients are key when preparing a lobster roll.
The right ingredients can elevate a lobster roll to greater heights, and a restaurant that takes pride in its ingredients is more likely to create a genuine, high-quality product the business is proud to stand behind. Of course, it’s also a good feeling knowing that everything you eat is well-sourced and fresh, especially when consuming fast casual food.
With this in mind, look for signs that the lobster roll you’re eating is created with fresh, simple, genuine ingredients. If the restaurant doesn’t highlight its commitment to this kind of food sourcing, you may be disappointed in your meal.
SECRET #6: EXTRA INGREDIENTS AS AN ADDITION, NOT A DISTRACTION
Speaking of those extra ingredients beyond the lobster: never go with a roll that packs so much into the bun the lobster is hardly visible anymore. Adding just the right amount of lemon, butter, and mayo can take a roll from good to great, but too much can take it right back down a notch. You don’t need bells and whistles that ultimately become a distraction on the roll you’re eating. Instead, you need just the right amount of fresh ingredients to seduce you.
Take mayo as an example. Its main purpose is to bring out the taste of the lobster in a beautiful and simple way. But once you add too much, your lobster meat starts swimming in it and your roll gets watery. A beautifully garnished lobster roll can quickly go from exciting to pretentious. Look for rolls in which these extra ingredients add to the main experience, not take away from it.
SECRET #7: THE PASSION BEHIND THE PREPARATION
Yes, it’s intangible. No, you won’t be able to measure this secret. But there’s something to be said for lobster rolls prepared by chefs who are truly passionate not just about cooking great food but recreating the original experience that made this food such a phenomenon to begin with. In other words, use information you have to gauge the passion of the people selling you the lobster roll.
Chefs who understand New England and a little Maine culture—and are passionate about recreating it through authentic recipes—can have an effect on a lobster roll. When you find a restaurant that shares this passion, you’ll find a lobster roll that makes you close your eyes and envision sitting seaside at the docks, enjoying the culture and salty air of Maine.
SECRET #8: VARIETY TO SPICE THINGS UP
If you ask us, the perfect lobster roll is probably a classic Maine lobster roll, served chilled with a creamy layer of mayo and a perfect smattering of lemon butter served on a toasted split-top bun. But that doesn’t mean you can’t change it up now and then.
Maybe you’re in the mood for a Connecticut-style roll instead, prepared warm, tossed in butter, and served on a split-top bun. At other times, you might prefer creative varieties like a lobster salad roll or even a lobster BLT roll. Beauty, in other words, is in the eye of the beholder. The best fast casual restaurant will offer some creative yet still simple varieties for the times you feel like branching out. And of course, even as you branch out, all of the above criteria still apply for finding that perfect lobster roll.
ENJOY THE SIMPLICITY OF AUTHENTIC MAINE LOBSTER ROLLS
Founded in 2014, Mason’s Famous Lobster Rolls offers its authentic Maine lobster rolls at 26 locations across the United States. We take pride in lobster meat sourced directly from Maine, along with just the right ingredients to give you that carefree seaside experience. Visit us online to view our full menu, find a location nearest you, or have our famous lobster rolls shipped fresh to your door.