How to Boil Crawfish

You want to do it right to get the most flavor.

Crawfish. Photo: Chris M. Rogers

Crawfish boils are a way of life in the South. Neighbors gather to enjoy piles of meaty "mudbugs," and the rhythm of snacking on crawfish and taking breaks to laugh and tell stories means crawfish boils generally last the better part of the day. The lazy, enjoyable pace strengthens family bonds and turns neighbors into friends.

Part of what gives a crawfish boil its magic is that, although the boil is time-consuming, getting that delicious flavor doesn't involve tricky culinary skills or mastery of a complicated recipe. All you really need for a good crawfish boil is fresh crawfish, a big cooking pot, a few friends and a beautiful day.

How to Buy and Prepare Crawfish

You can buy live crawfish ahead of time and keep them fresh in a cooler full of ice. Before you begin, add salted water to the cooler covering the crawfish for about half an hour, forcing the dead crawfish to float the top so you can discard them. Once you've separated the live crawfish, rinse them with fresh water.

How to Cook Crawfish

If you can, choose a large, 19-quart stockpot with an interior basket, and cook your crawfish outdoors. If that isn't practical, you can cook smaller batches on the stovetop instead. Add water to your pot and bring it to a boil.

Next, add spices and vegetables to the pot bring it back to a boil. Here's a favorite crawfish boil recipe that we love; it calls for spices like bay leaves and red pepper and cooks celery, onions and garlic along with the crawfish. Feel free to use a premade spice pack or a favorite family recipe instead, and add vegetables—shucked and quartered corn on the cob and quartered red potatoes are traditional additions to a hearty crawfish boil.

How Long to Boil Crawfish

Once your pot of vegetables and spices reaches a rolling boil, add the crawfish and bring to a boil over high heat for about five minutes. When the crawfish are done, remove the pot from heat and let it stand for at least 30 minutes; you can leave it for up to 45 minutes for spicier crawfish.

How to Serve Food at a Crawfish Boil

Serve outside—this is going to get messy. Cover a large table with newspapers and dump all the drained crawfish and veggies onto the newspapers; be sure guests have paper towels and handy buckets or trash cans to dispose of their shells. The traditional way to enjoy a crawfish boil is to eat, take a break, and eat again, so be sure to have lots of drinks available (a cooler full of beer and a pitcher of sweet tea are good options). A few sides and desserts will be welcome as well.

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