Cast Iron

Jasper White’s World-Famous Lobster Rolls

October  4, 2022
6 Ratings
Photo by James Ransom
  • Prep time 1 hour
  • Cook time 15 minutes
  • Serves 6
Author Notes

“If you close your eyes and you’ve never had it and you take a bite," White says. "You’d think it’s the greatest thing you’ve ever tasted.” Steaming means that the lobster cooks in its own salty-sweet juices, rather than letting boiling water in to dilute them. Steaming is also a slightly slower, gentler, and more forgiving method—if you leave the lobsters in the steamer an extra minute, they won’t overcook. Anything you add from there shouldn't overpower the lobster, just act as a subtle complement. If you make the tarragon mayonnaise, it shouldn’t taste like tarragon, White says. “It should just be a whisper.” Adapted slightly from Lobster at Home (Scribner, 1998). —Genius Recipes

What You'll Need
Watch This Recipe
Jasper White’s World-Famous Lobster Rolls
  • Lobster Rolls
  • 1 pound fully cooked lobster meat, or 5 pounds live lobsters
  • 1 medium cucumber (5 to 6 ounces), peeled, seeded, and finely diced
  • 1/2 cup Special Tarragon Mayonnaise (recipe follows); or bottled mayonnaise; or bottled mayonnaise mixed with the seasonings in the Special Tarragon Mayonnaise recipe below, to taste
  • 3 small scallions (white and most of the green parts), thinly sliced
  • kosher or sea salt
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • 6 New England-style top-split hot dog buns (or regular hot dog buns, with about 1/4-inch of the sides shaved off to make a flat surface for griddling)
  • 6 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
  • pickles and potato chips, for serving
  • Special Tarragon Mayonnaise
  • 1 large egg yolk
  • 1 tablespoons Dijon mustard
  • 2 teaspoons chopped fresh tarragon leaves
  • 1 cup salad oil, such as safflower, sunflower, or refined peanut (avoid full-flavored oil)
  • juice of 1/2 large lemon
  • 1 tablespoon ice water
  • kosher or sea salt
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • cayenne pepper or Tabasco sauce
  1. Lobster Rolls
  2. If using live lobsters, prepare to steam them. Note: There are lots of opinions on the most humane way to cook a lobster—choose the method you're most comfortable with. If you'd like to quickly kill the lobsters before cooking, Fine Cooking has a a very clear video. Alternatively, you can numb them in the freezer for 20 to 30 minutes (though you may need to add an extra minute of cook time) or stand the lobsters on their heads to calm them, like this.
  3. To steam the lobsters, fill a large, tall, lidded pot with 1 inch of salt water. If the lobsters do not fit comfortably in the pot and you cannot see the bottom of the pot, it’s overcrowded and you should use more than one pot. Set up a steaming rack inside the pot (or improvise one with an upside-down colander)—there should be enough room that the lobsters will be suspended far enough above the water that when they release liquid during steaming, they do not end up sitting in it. Turn the heat to high and cover the pot. The water will boil quickly and fill the pot with steam. When it does, place the lobsters in the pot and cover tightly. 1-pound lobsters should take 10 minutes to cook; add 2 minutes for every additional 1/4 pound. Halfway through steaming, using long tongs, carefully rearrange the lobsters. Work quickly and cover the pot again as soon as possible. When the lobsters have cooked for the recommended time, remove one and break it open where the carapace meets the tail. The tail meat should be creamy white with no translucency. If not, allow the lobsters to steam for a few minutes more.
  4. Let the lobsters cool at room temperature. Use a cleaver to crack and remove the meat from the claws, knuckles, and tails. Remove the cartilage from the claws and the intestine from the tails of the cooked meat and discard. Cut the meat into 1/2-inch dice. You may pick all the meat from the carcass or freeze the carcass for soup or broth.
  5. Place the cucumber in a colander for at least 5 minutes to drain any excess liquid.
  6. Combine the lobster, cucumber, and mayonnaise. If the salad is to be served within the hour, add the scallions. If not, add them 30 minutes before serving. Season with salt if needed and pepper. Cover with plastic wrap and chill for at least 30 minutes before serving.
  7. When ready to serve, preheat a large heavy skillet (12 or 14 inches) over medium low heat. (A black cast-iron pan is perfect.)
  8. Lightly butter both sides of each bun. Place in the pan and cook for about 2 minutes or until golden brown. Turn the buns over and toast the other side. Or toast them under the broiler instead.
  9. When the buns are ready, stuff them with the chilled lobster salad. Place each roll on a small paper or china plate; garnish with pickles and potato chips. Serve at once, while the bun is still warm and salad cold.
  1. Special Tarragon Mayonnaise
  2. To make the mayonnaise by hand (alternatively, these steps can be done in a food processor): Place a stainless-steel mixing bowl on a damp cloth to keep the bowl from sliding around. Add the egg yolk, mustard, and tarragon to the bowl and whisk until blended.
  3. Drizzle the oil into the bowl while whisking constantly. Be sure that the mixture is smooth and well blended at all times. Stop adding the oil periodically to allow yourself time to catch up; when there is no oil visible, continue adding and whisking. When half the oil is added, add 1 teaspoon of lemon juice. Alternate between the remaining oil and lemon juice, whisking all the while, until both are incorporated.
  4. Whisk in the ice water. (The water stabilizes the mayonnaise, which prevents separating, a common flaw of homemade mayonnaise.) Season to taste with salt pepper and cayenne. Whisk. Store in a small container, covered and refrigerated, for up to 3 days. Makes 1 cup.

See what other Food52ers are saying.

  • Kristen Miglore
    Kristen Miglore
  • Michele
  • kenyabates
  • Sonja
Genius Recipes

Recipe by: Genius Recipes

16 Reviews

Michele July 17, 2022
So if I want to use a jarred mayo and just add tarragon, etc, how much store bought mayo do I start with to get the proportions right? Recipe calls for 1/2 C of the mayo to be used in the rolls, but as 1 C of oil is used to make the mayo, it obviously yields more.
kenyabates August 4, 2020
I have used this recipe a few time but not with lobster yet. I’ve made it with crab and using tuna steak. Each time it was delicious. It’s my go to for any kind of seafood salad.
Sonja August 11, 2019
If Jasper is such a phenom he would know enough to take the rubber bands off the lobster before cooking them. This is the classic fools error in cooking lobster.
TimOnTwoWheels August 11, 2019
Um, totally not true.
Sonja August 11, 2019
Totally true. I’m from Maine, grew up on an island off the cost of Maine, and am all too familiar with lobster, how to and how not to cook it. Unless you enjoy they rubbery taste in your claw meat when steamed or throughout the lobster when boiled, take them off.
TimOnTwoWheels August 11, 2019
I'm grew up in Massachusetts, but it does not make me an expert on baked beans. I've also been eating lobster all my life and have cooked them with and without the bands. There is no difference. Perhaps you are eating the rubber bands themselves? How can you dispute a source that has actually tested this specifically?
Sonja August 11, 2019
I suggest you try it yourself
TimOnTwoWheels August 12, 2019
Just did last night. No detectable flavor from the rubber bands.
eagle45t19 March 31, 2023
As long as they are organic rubber bands ;-)
Ronald A. November 25, 2018
I love lobster. My brother &sister-in-law shipped me 2 live lobsters from Maine, 1 1/2 lbs each, for my birthday. My method: I put them both directly in my 6 qt. Instant Pot 7in1, and without any further ado steamed them for 3 minutes above 1 cup of water with a half lemon squeezed in it including the lemon.
At the end of the quick cook I turned it to off, let the temp drop about 2-3 minutes and released pressure, Done! Perfect! Thoroughly enjoyed them both with lemon butter very lightly seasoned with Old Bay. Wonderful!
McKenna P. July 18, 2018
Crisp, creamy and flavorful. Will never use celery in my lobster rolls again. I also steamed the lobsters which was so easy and kept the flavors in the lobster. Will be making many times more!
pat June 20, 2018
I do not live in an area where I can get live lobster. Will frozen lobster tails work in a pinch?
Kristen M. June 21, 2018
Sure thing—or you could go for a shrimp or crab roll instead, if you have better access to those.
Michael June 20, 2018
Any thoughts on dealing with the live lobster? I've done live lobster in boiling water, but I'm not really sure about steaming them to death. Can you comment on a quick way to put them down before steaming?
Kristen M. June 20, 2018
Hi Michael, if you'd like to quickly dispatch them before cooking, Fine Cooking has a very clear video: Other middle-road options are to numb them in the freezer for 20-30 minutes or stand them on their heads like this:
Kristen M. June 20, 2018
Michael, I've added a note to the recipe since I'm sure others will be wondering the same thing—thank you for asking.