Does lobster season exist? Technically, no, but ask any Mainer and they'll tell you about new shell lobsters. They have the sweetest, most tender lobster meat, and they're only available from mid-July through October.

By Emily Tylman
Updated June 23, 2017
New Shell Lobster Rolls
Credit: © Emily Tylman

New shell lobsters (also called soft shell lobsters or shedders) are lobsters that have just shed their old shells. Their new, larger shells don't quite fit the lobster yet, so the excess space is filled with salt water that infuses the meat with the flavor of the sea. The result? Salty, sweet and succulent meat in a shell so soft, you can break it apart with your hands.

How can you get your hands on some new shell lobsters? You can order them online from one of the purveyors in this directory (though you might have to specifically ask for new shells). After that, make lobster rolls, of course. Try the recipe below and check out this video for some lobster inspiration.

The Ultimate New Shell Lobster Rolls

Serves 4

Active 30 min; Total 2 hr

Four 1¼ to 1½-pound lobsters, preferably new shells

3 Tbsp. mayonnaise

1 Tbsp. Dijon mustard

2 ½ Tbsp. fresh lemon juice

1/4 cup diced celery, plus leaves for garnish

1 Tbsp. snipped chives, plus more for garnish

Salt and freshly ground pepper

4 top-split hot dog buns

2 Tbsp. unsalted butter, melted

8 Ritz crackers, coarsely crushed, for garnish

  1. Prepare a large ice-water bath. In a very large pot of boiling salted water, cook the lobsters until they turn bright red, about 10 minutes. Using tongs, plunge the lobsters into the ice-water bath for 2 minutes, then drain.
  2. Twist off the lobster tails and claws and remove the meat. Remove and discard the intestinal vein that runs the length of each lobster tail. Cut the lobster meat into 1/2-inch pieces and pat dry, then transfer to a strainer set over a bowl and refrigerate until very cold, at least 1 hour.
  3. In a large bowl, mix the lobster meat with the mayonnaise and Dijon. Fold in the lemon juice, diced celery and chives. Season with salt and pepper and mix gently until combined.
  4. Heat a large skillet. Brush the sides of the closed hot dog buns with the melted butter and toast over moderate heat, turning frequently, until golden brown, about 3 minutes. Transfer the buns to plates and fill with the lobster salad. Garnish with the crackers, celery leaves and chives and serve immediately.