How To Boil Crawfish
What better Louisiana tradition is there than a crawfish boil? (We know, we know, but you can leave the term "crayfish" at the border.) Want to learn how to boil this delicacy for the first time? Want to compare notes? Eager, perhaps, to watch our own Grill Master Randy stir a massive pot in a sweaty bayou? We've got you covered. Though there may be more opinions on boiling crawfish then there are stars in the sky, we wanted to take a whack at showing you how we do it down here. Grab a few sacks, grab some friends, grab a free afternoon — and get to peelin' those juicy, spicy tails and claws.
SERVES 8-12 people PREP 30 min COOK 1 ½-2 hr READY IN 2-2 ½ hr
- 36 lbs crawfish, live
- For the Seasoning:
- ¼ cup sea salt
- 16 oz liquid crab boil
- 4 ½ lbs dry crab boil
- ½ cup cayenne pepper
- For the Sides:
- 2 packs mushrooms
- 1 sack red potatoes
- 1 pack garlic sausage
- 8 heads sweet corn on the cob
- For the Soak:
- 90 qts water
- 8 lemons, large
- 1 bag ice (5 lbs)
- Items You’ll Need:
- Outdoor Gas Burner
- Stock Pot and Strainer Basket
- Ice Chest
- Outdoor Dining Table
- Before your boil, you’ll want to rinse your crawfish of any remaining mud and debris from their outer shells and gills. Deposit them into an ice chest and cover with water — but not fill it, drowning them early is bad — then place them in a shaded area to rest. As your crawling critters rub against one another, they’ll naturally clean themselves. (Note: contrary to popular belief, salt water washes are a waste of salt at best. If anything, academic testing reveals the process just kills a few more crawfish early.)
- Game plan time. Who’s prepping the table? You’ll want a large table outside that’s clean and covered with fresh newspaper to soak up the worst of the spicy, delicious mess you’re about to inflict upon it. (Note: this can be done at any time between “now” and “What do you mean ‘it’s not ready’, do you expect me to dump this across your tailgate? Fix the table or pull the truck around!”)
- After a few minutes of triumphantly swimming their final laps, drain the water from the ice chest, add a little ice on top of the crawfish, and set the ice chest in the shade to keep them alive until ready to boil. Resist the urge to give them tiny towels — they won’t need them. If your family has passed down an ancient, ritualistic crawfish dance, here’s a great time to employ it. Or crack an early beer. We won’t tell you how to live your life.
- Fill a 120-quart pot with water to roughly the ¾ mark. (You’ll want enough to cover your crustaceans — but remember your ‘water displacement’ physics.) Turn on your burner. Mix in salt, dry crab boil, and liquid crab boil. Cover, then bring your mixture to a rolling boil. In the meantime, prepare your straining basket on the side by adding corn, potatoes, garlic, and sliced garlic sausage.
- Once your water’s bubbling hot, add the sides. Boil them for about 20 minutes or until tender. (Feel free to test their stiffness with a butter knife during the boil.) Once those rock-hard potatoes are nice and soft, remove the strainer basket from pot and set it aside.
- Time to boil your bounty! Dump your pinchy little buggers into the mixture, then return it to a rolling boil. Simmer until the crawfish shells turn bright red and the tails pull out easily, or about 5–6 minutes. Be careful to not overcook them; you want them tender, not tough.
- Turn off your burner. Keep crawfish in the pot for the soaking process, and add your sides back in. Afterward, add insult (and injury) to injury by slicing lemons in half, squeezing the juice directly into the pot over the crawfish, then throwing in the rinds after them. Maybe they should have considered their life choices. Stir a bag of ice into the pot for good measure. That’ll show ‘em.
- Add in your mushrooms, then steep the crawfish like this for 20 minutes to soak up all those spices and flavors. At about the 5-minute mark afterward, sneak a few to test for flavor and tenderness while no one’s looking. (We won’t tell. Our little secret.) It’ll probably be around 35–45 minutes before it hits the mark. Rubbery tail meat? Undercooked. Mushy and falling apart? Overcooked. Spoiler alert: you don’t want overcooked.
- Lift the strainer over the water and help the excess water drain. We recommend propping up the paddle underneath but, really, anything that gets all that water out of the pot and on the ground will probably do the trick.
- Remember the table? Well, here’s where it’s important again. With help from a pal with decent upper-body strength, deftly pour your entire batch across that newspaper-lined surface, crack open those beers, and enjoy!