On my last trip home to Kennebunkport, I learned how to cook a traditional Maine lobster bake in a pot. If you are by the ocean, you need to try this method of preparing a lobster.
A Maine Lobsterbake (it can also be called a clambake) involves building a fire beside the sea and then steaming lobster, clams, corn, onions, and potatoes in fresh seaweed. The seaweed straight from the ocean steams the lobster while infusing it with natural salt.
Once Charles tasted lobster this way, he needed to try it again, but it isn’t the easiest or most practical way to cook lobster. At first we wanted to go back to Cabbage Island Clambakes which is one of the few places in New England that prepare lobster bakes that are open to the public; usually, it is something that happens at private events. Unfortunately, the timing didn’t work out for us to go back to Cabbage Island, so we improvised.
I researched how to create our own lobster bake. I came across an article in Down East Magazine that outlined the many steps involved in building a fire, collecting seaweed, and steaming lobsters. It was pretty complicated, and basically required finding an area where you could build a fire on the beach, something that generally isn’t allowed on public beaches in Maine. I quickly realized that making a lobster bake in a pot would be much easier. Lucklily this experiment was a success!
First, we went down to the beach and pulled fresh seaweed out of the ocean and collected saltwater in bottles. Next, we went to the local lobster pound to buy fresh lobsters and clams.
My parents provided us with a lobsterpot and we got to work. We poured two liters of ocean water into the pot. My mother didn’t want us dirtying her kitchen so she sent us outside to use the burner on the grill for this project. If possible, it does make sense to do this outside so that your entire home doesn’t smell like seafood. I recommend serving this messy meal outside too.
The total cooktime for the lobster does depend on the size of the lobsters. We bought 1 1/2 pound lobsters and they took 27 minutes to cook. You will need to slightly adjust the cooktime if you buy larger or smaller lobsters.
Cooking the lobster bake in a pot worked, and it was a fun activity! We loved going to the beach to collect the water and the seaweed. We hand selected our lobsters, and then cooked together. Of course, you need to live on the coast to have access to the fresh lobsters, ocean water, and seaweed, but if you are, give this recipe a try.
In addition to sea water and seaweed, you will also need a large lobster pot. The size of the pot will be what limits how many lobsters you can cook. You will want to cook one lobster, about 1 pound of clams, one potato, and one ear of corn per person. About 5 one and a half pound lobsters will fit in one large lobster pot.
How to Make a Traditional Maine Lobster Bake:
- 2 gallons of Ocean Water
- Fresh Rockweed Seaweed, about a 2 gallon bucket's worth
- 1 Fresh Lobster per person (about 1 1/2 pounds)
- about 1 pound of Fresh Clams (Steamers) per person
- 1 New Potato per person (fist sized)
- 1 large Yellow Onion
- 1 ear of Corn per person
As I mentioned above, in order to make this meal, you need to be on the coast. Your first mission is to collect salt water and seaweed. You want fresh wet seaweed, not seaweed that has washed up on the shore and dried out.
Next, go to a lobster pound to buy fresh clams and lobster.
Inspect the clams to make sure that none of them have cracked or damaged shells. If they have open shells, tap them to see if the shell closes. If the shell doesn't close, the clam is likely dead. Discard any dead clams and any clams with cracked or damaged shells.
Place the clams in a pot and cover them with half of the sea water. Let them sit for one hour. This process will help to remove sand and grit from the clams. You must use sea water or heavy salted tap water, otherwise the clams will die. After an hour drain and quickly rinse the clams.
Pour one gallon of sea water into a large lobster pot. Place half of the seaweed over the water and add the potatoes, they take the longest to cook so give them a head start. Put the lid on the pot and heat over high heat bringing the water to a boil. Reduce to a steady simmer, set a timer and let the potatoes cook for 5 minutes.
Once the potatoes have cooked for 5 minutes, it is time to add the onion, lobsters, and corn. Remove the lid from the pot and add the onion and lobster. Place the corn - still in the husk - on top of the lobsters. Top with the remaining seaweed. Return the lid to the pot, and keep it hot enough so that the water is simmering and filling the pot with steam.
Let the lobsters cook for 15 minutes before you add the steamers. Use this time to melt butter and slice lemons for seasoning the lobsters. You also want to prepare some hot water to rinse the clams in prior to eating.
Once the lobsters have cooked for 15 minutes, add the steamers to the pot. The steamers are going to need 5-10 minutes to cook. Once fully cooked the shells will be open (but it isn't unusual for a couple of clams to remain closed, throw those away).
After 5 minutes check on the steamers, you don't want to overcook them. Remove them from the pot if the shells are open. Otherwise, let them cook longer.
Once the lobsters have cooked for 27 minutes, they should be ready and everything else in the pot should be ready too! Use thongs to remove the steamed clams, corn, lobsters, onion, and potatoes from the pot.
Serve the meal with melted butter, lemon, salt, and hot fresh water. You will want to dunk the lobster meat in butter and to season it will some lemon. Butter and salt will go on the corn and potatoes. Lastly, before eating the each individual clam, rinse it in fresh hot water and then dip it in melted butter.
You will need access to fresh sea water and seaweed, and a large lobster pot to prepare this meal.
The onion is added to the pot as a seasoning. You can eat it if you like. We added just one onion since we didn't intend to eat it, but you can add more onions if you like.