Maine Lobster How-To: Your Primer to This Succulent Treat
Lobster is something you should eat – and experience – on your travels through Maine. Here’s how.
With an industry that dates to the 1600s – and that continues to provide most of the lobster you’ll enjoy in the U.S. today – lobstering in Maine is a way of life for multi-generation fishing families, and a dear heritage for all who call the state home.
What Is Maine Lobster?
In sum, it’s sweet, flavorful and tender. For more detail, consider this: The Maine lobster has five sets of legs and two large claws. It thrives in the cold water along the Atlantic Ocean coast. Half the catch originates in Maine each year: Brinier Hard Shell lobsters are harvested year round, while supremely tender New Shell lobsters are a seasonal delicacy, unique to Maine, usually available June through November.
“Lobster” and “Maine” are almost synonymous. Growing, harvesting, cooking and enjoying the sweet and delicious cold-water crustacean runs deep in the heritage of the state.
Lobster Fishing & Tours
Maine lobsters are 100% hand-harvested from small day boats to protect quality and the local marine habitat. This model of sustainability is one you can experience firsthand on a working lobster boat tour. Captains invite guests to haul traps from the chilly depths; measure lobster for legal size limits, determine gender and breeding capabilities; and differentiate between Hard Shell and New Shell varieties. (Bonus: possible seal and whale sightings, and stories from your captain.) Want to keep your hands dry? Book a schooner cruise to enjoy the water, plus seafood meals prepared by your crew.
Generations of Maine residents have gone to sea in search of lobster pots crowded with crustaceans. Working lobster boat tours allow visitors to help haul traps and grade the catch.
Whether you’re driving Maine’s 5600-kilometer coastline in search of the perfect lobster roll, chasing a food truck, or dining at an upscale chef-owned restaurant, you’ll find Maine lobster on the menu. Iconic presentations include whole lobster served with melted butter and the lobster roll. Ask any local and they’ll recommend their personal favorite roll for you to try, but the basic recipe features a fresh-baked split-top bun buttered, grilled and topped with cold chunks of lobster, sometimes dressed lightly in mayonnaise or drawn butter. Be open to inventive uses of lobster meat, too – from eggs Benedict layered with the tender bits, to vanilla ice cream studded with buttery lobster chunks!
The famous Maine lobster roll: Warm, split-top bread is buttered and grilled, then wrapped around fresh, cold chunks of lobster or lobster salad.
How to Eat Lobster
Should you opt for the classic experience of savoring a whole Maine lobster, start with a bib. (Lobster can be messy, especially when dipped in butter.) If you're enjoying New Shell lobster, start right in, using your hands to crack open the lobster shell and extract the meat. You’ll need a few tools for Hard Shell lobster, which restaurants provide, typically a claw cracker to split the shell open and a lobster fork to extract the meat.
Prepare lobster to your own taste – some like it simple (steamed in-shell with lemony drawn-butter); others prefer it grilled, or chunked and used in other dishes (lobster bisque).
Getting to Maine has never been easier. The Portland International Jetport (PWM) is serviced by American, Delta, JetBlue, Southwest and United, and is also one stop away from thousands of global destinations via international gateway airports including Atlanta, Charlotte, Chicago O'Hare, Detroit, New York (Newark and JFK), Philadelphia and Washington Dulles. You can also fly in via Bangor International Airport (BGR), a full-service regional airport offering non-stop, affordable flights to Detroit, New York’s LaGuardia, Orlando/Sanford, Philadelphia, Tampa/St. Petersburg, Washington DC and seasonally Chicago. BGR is one stop from most major US cities and many European cities.