How to Host the Perfect Crawfish Boil
Here's what you'll need, and need to know, to invite friends over for a memorable backyard boil
If you've ever enjoyed an authentic cajun crawfish boil, you know the pure joy of sitting at a newspaper-covered table piled high with crawfish, popping those perfectly spicy little mudbugs one after the other, followed by a swig of ice cold beer.
Summer doesn't get any better than that. And right now it's peak crawfish season. (It runs March-May.)
So to find out how to host your own crawfish boil — for those of us who didn't grow up down on the bayou — I spoke with Charlie Hohorst III. Charlie runs CajunGrocer.com, and for 13 years has been supplying everything you need for the perfect boil, from 120-quart stock pots and propane burners to live crawfish delivered overnight.
“My usual choice for a May event is a seafood party, which can include boiled crawfish, crabs and shrimp all cooked with small red potatoes, corn-on-the-cob — and anything else you might want add to the pot, such as andouille, mushrooms and smoked sausage," says Hohorst.
Sounds like the perfect way to spend a May evening. And a great alternative to the typical barbecue. Here's what you'll need, and need to know, to invite friends over for a memorable backyard boil:
(NOTE: If all this sounds like a lot to go through to enjoy some shellfish, or if you live in an urban area where you can't hold a boil, CajunGrocer has “fresh boiled" crawfish. They cook 'em so you don't have to, then overnight them to you. Just reheat on arrival and enjoy.)
How Many Crawfish Will You Need?
The average crawfish eater can down 3-5 pounds, according to Hohorst. A crawfish boil veteran can consume up to 8 to 10 pounds. Order accordingly. Having 20 friends over? 60 pounds should cover you.
Too much crawfish for your first boil? Order half that amount and make up the rest with shrimp, crabs, and other shellfish.
How to Buy Them
Just like their relative, the lobster, crawfish should only be cooked when alive. So if your local fishmonger doesn't stock them, ordering from a reputable source like Cajun Grocer, who will ship them live and overnight, is a must.
What You'll Need to Cook Them
You're going to need a stock pot big enough to hold your crawfish. Hohorst says, “The general rule for boiling live crawfish is: An 80 qt. pot will boil 40 lbs. of mudbugs." And if you're cooking them outside, you'll need a propane stove to put the pot on.
Don't have a stock pot that big? I was at one boil where the guys cooked 10-15 lbs of crawfish at a time in a smaller pot, alternating that with potatoes and corn. They manned the pot all night, beers in hand. You can also do that with a large stock pot on your kitchen stove.
But it wouldn't be a boil without cajun spice. “Of course you'll need seasoning to give that added flavor," says Hohorst. "The general rule is 1 lb of seasoning blend per 10 lbs of live crawfish boiled."
How to Cook Crawfish
If you can boil water, you can cook crawfish.
1. Fill large pot with enough water to cover all the seafood.
2. Add your seasoning mix and bring the water to a rolling boil.
3. Add the crawfish (and any other shellfish). Return to a rolling boil and boil the crawfish for 5 minutes.
4. Turn fire off and let the crawfish soak for 15 to 25 minutes (depending on your desired spice level).
Crawfish boils are the least formal affair you can host. Just line tables with a couple layers of newspaper, dump the cooked crawfish on top, along with the potatoes and corn, and start grabbing.
Hohorst suggests putting on some Louisiana Zydeco music to get in the mood. And make sure to have a cooler nearby with plenty of beer on ice.
How to Eat Crawfish
Some get intimidated when faced with food with the head still on. Getting at the meat is easier than you think. “The only way to eat crawfish as we do down here," says Hohorst, “is 'pinch the tail and suck the head'." Here's your step-by-step:
Twist the head away from the body. Set the head aside. Remove a few shell sections away from the tail. Pinch the tail at the top to release the meat, and pull the meat out. For added flavor, suck the spicy juices from the head. (And while you may have heard “sucking the head" is a tradition, it is optional. Many boil veterans I've met skip this part.)
Once you host your first boil, you'll be hooked. And so will your friends. For more tips on hosting a boil, handling live crawfish, what other foods to use, or anything else boil-related, head over to CajunGrocer.com.