From your backyard to a destination road trip.
The Start of Crawfish Season
Credit: Greg Dupree

For some, the blooming of tulip magnolias herald the beginning of spring; for others, the arrival of ripe strawberries at the farmers market. But for those hailing from the states along the Gulf Coast, especially Louisiana and Texas, it is signaled by the small, fire-engine red crustacean known as the crawfish.

Blessedly, 2019's crawfish season has started earlier than usual, but it's still an all-too-brief affair with the best mudbugs available through April and dwindling through May. With a steady supply happening now, many restaurants have started putting in-season crawfish on their menus now and seafood markets also have live ones ready to cook at home.

WATCH: Crawfish Etouffee Recipe

No matter where you want to pinch some tails, there's more than one way to make the most out of crawfish season.

Backyard Boil

The beauty of a crawfish boil is in the simplicity. There are three easy steps to starting one up: call up your pals, fire up a propane burner (or your stove), and lay some newspaper down on a table outside. We're partial to this boil recipe we developed that adds artichoke hearts to the standard combination of red potatoes, corn on the cob segments, and of course a packet of Zatarain's seafood boil seasoning. Spill it on to the table and crack some beers for an instant party. Bonus points if you have a selection of Zapp's potato chips as a side.

New Orleans Crawfish Crawl

Whether you're game to walk around one neighborhood or drive around the city you can create your own crawfish-fueled restaurant trail. Our favorites: the crawfish and jalapeno capellini at Pêche in the Central Business District; a boiled crawfish platter at Bevi Seafood Co. in Mid City; or the Crawfish Rangoons at Red's Chinese in the Bywater.

Viet Cajun-Style

After Vietnamese communities settled along the coastline after the Vietnam War, they lent their own flavors to traditionally cajun ingredients, but the genius addition of a five-alarm spicy garlic butter sauce to boiled crawfish came more recently in the early 2000s. One of the hottest places to experience it is Crawfish and Noodles in Houston, the city where the heated hybrid was born.

Jazz Fest: The famous food vendors at New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival take full advantage of the 50-year-old fest's coinciding with crawfish season from crawfish enchiladas and crawfish pasta (known a Crawfish Monica) to crawfish bread and beignets,

Head to Hawk's

This unassuming building deep in the swamps of Cajun country is the pilgrimage point for true crawfish enthusiasts. Owner L.H. "Hawk" Arceneaux created the method known as purging at Texas A&M University, which rids the crawfish of mud, waste, and other unsavory elements. But instead of using chlorinated water like most people, Hawk's throws live, hand-graded crawfish in a "live well" where they float in a slow-moving current of fresh, aerated fresh underground water. The result: grit-free, subtly sweet tail meat and bright yellow, unctuous fat in the heads so you don't taste a swamp while you're eating near one.