If you haven’t had a crawfish boil at least once this year it’s time to read this guide and catch up. Serve as an appetizer, but even better – as a main course that will make your friends faint with happiness.
Crawfish. I’m thankful for whoever decided that it was a good idea to pull a creature from the mud, wash it off and eat it. Though called a crawfish or seafood “boil”, it is really more of a simmer and poach process. This allows the tails to soak up all the spicy seasonings, and the flavors of the other ingredients to marry. Everyone has their go-to recipe for a crawfish boil. It’s like gumbo, there are so many options.
This time of year reminds me of being at college in Baton Rouge, at LSU. I had eaten more than my fair share of crawfish at many a New Orleans boil prior, but in Baton Rouge my crawfish consumption became more prevalent. I remember studying in the sorority house and when someone would just utter the word crawfish, the girls and I would be out of the door to the nearest market, picking up a bag, at yes, .99 cents per pound…boiled.
Crawfish season begins late January and runs through May. In June they are a bit harder to peel, and in January they are smaller, but anytime is a good time for a crawfish boil in my opinion.
The BASICS needed for a Louisiana style crawfish boil:
1) a very large pot with wire basket insert
2) a propane tank
3) a burner
4) a wooden paddle
5) fresh water
6) seasonings, like bay leaves, head garlic, lemon slices and kosher salt.
7) veggies, like corn, onions, mushrooms and small red potatoes
8) a small bag of fresh lemons (about 5-7)
9) fresh Louisiana crayfish
10) 2 pounds of andouille sausage or smoked sausage cut into 3-inch links
11) several rolls of paper towels plus a hefty bag lined trash can
12) newspapers to dump the crawfish on, and an underlining of plastic for easy clean up
13) Box of Saltines
14) 2 sticks salted butter room temperature (optional)
15) large cooler of ice-cold beer
16) serve with salads
You can find most equipment needed for a boil at any local hardware store. Get a high BTU propane burner like 50K and a regulator (a safety device).
The height of the burner is important, so get a lower, shorter one for boiling crawfish. You can use it at Thanksgiving to for frying up your next bird.
A 60 quart pot is the best option as you can base the sack’s of crawfish needed on your attendees. Plan on crashers too. This size pot will handle most any size sack, along with other ingredients. The paddle is also important, as you will need it to stir the crawfish. A wooden 36 inch paddle will do. Remember, you’ll need gallons and gallons of water.
For 6-8 normal crawfish eating people you will need at least 30 pounds of crawfish.
4 to 5 pounds per person is typical, though I can easily put away more and so can my family. Those not so familiar or passionate about the mud bug, may only eat 2 pounds. You can always use them in dishes the following days ahead, so don’t fret about leftovers.
Buy from a seafood dealer you know and respect, that has a reputable business. The dealer can also order them for you if not on hand.
If they are filthy, and full of gunk, then the dealer has taken advantage of you and your money. Also, make sure your sack of crawfish are all about the same in size so that they will cook evenly.
Another option is to buy farmed crawfish online, which I have done in the past with cajuncrawfish.com. They arrive fresh, clean, with seasoning and instructions, right to your front door.
To purge or not to purge. I do, just without the salt. Old school New Orleanian’s, and Cajun’s might disagree.
I rinse the crawfish well in the sack, and then open it, submerging the crawfish in fresh water using the basket in the pot, multiple times over an 8-12-hour period until the used water is clear, removing any dead ones that float to the top.
Time For Spice:
If not making your own spice mix, use Zatarain’s, or the 4 pound bag of Slap Ya Mama as it does not contain MSG. Both are available at most local supermarkets. Follow the directions on the labels. Both already contain salt, the latter brand less. I prefer to let the flavors of crawfish shine, you can add more salt (like Morton’s) to taste, for preference.Print
How to peel a crawfish:
Grab the head firmly with one hand and grab the tail with the other hand.
Break the crawfish in the middle, then put your lips on the opening of the head to suck out the juices.
Peel off the first segment of the shell around the tail, and then pinches the end so the tail meat pops out.
Use a disposable plastic table cloth, or shower curtain liner on the table. Lay the newspapers over the top. Pour the basket of crawfish in the middle. Place rolls of paper towels on the table as well as sleeves of Saltines, and a couple of sticks of unsalted butter at room temperature in dishes with a butter knife. Salt, and additional Cajun seasoning are also great condiments for a crawfish boil.
Note: I happen to be addicted to smashing the boiled garlic with the butter, slathering it on a Saltine, and topping it with the peeled crawfish. My thing.
Make sure cold beer is nearby in a cooler with ice, along with a lined trash can for crawfish remains and trash.
Peel the leftover crawfish if there are any. Use them in etouffee, pies, salad with remoulade dressing, on french bread with melted cheese, and more. See crawfish recipes on 30A Eats Pinterest.
Use the potatoes for a fantastic potato salad or to make spicy mashed potatoes.
Smash the garlic pods and add to room temperature unsalted butter, chill, and use in a variety of dishes or to top grilled steak
So… What did I leave out? What do you like to add to your boil? Hot dogs, sweet potatoes, cauliflower, artichokes? Leave suggestions in the comments below, I’d love to hear.
Susan Benton is the go to resource for foodies visiting Pensacola to Panama City Beach. She is a food and travel journalist with published articles and photography in many local, regional and national publications. Her website is 30AEATS.com where she writes about the secrets of Gulf Coast food.