The Right Way to Cook Crawfish
Do you love crawfish but are intimidated by the idea of trying to cook these crawly creatures? Want to throw a big crawfish boil party that will be tasty and fun for all your friends or family? Then you need to check out my guide to cooking crawfish perfectly.
In general, crawfish are a kind of misunderstood cooking ingredient. A lot of guys tend to think it will take a bunch of time and effort to sort out crawfish. I'm here to let you know that it is actually insanely easy to make crawfish as long as you follow my carefully tested method. The recipe I'll be giving you is for 30 pounds of crawfish, which can feed 15 to 6 people depending on how hungry everyone is, but feel free to cut it down or size it up to match your needs!
What You Need to Cook Your Crawfish Correctly
Before we can get started, make sure you have these important items:
- Crawfish: You need four to two pounds of crawfish per person. Look for ones that appear healthy and active.
- Cooler: Either styrofoam or plastic is fine.
- Large steel pot: For a classic 30 pound crawfish boil, pick something that is at least 100 quarts in size.
- Long handled spoon
- Boil basket: Make sure it fits inside your pot.
- Jet burner: Get a quality burner that is a little on the shorter side. A BTU of 50,000 is recommended.
- Water: Expect to use around 14 gallons.
- Vegetables: I like a mix of new potatoes, corn, onions, and mushrooms, but you can get anything hearty that would taste good with crawfish.
- Butter: Go for one pound for each ten pounds of crawfish.
- Seasonings: Salt, pepper, and lemon are classics, but other options include cayenne, crab boil seasoning, or oranges.
- Sausage: Though not necessary, a lot of people love adding sausage to a boil. Any favorite type of linked sausage is tasty.
Step by Step Instructions for the Ultimate Crawfish Cooking Guide
Step 1: Prepare Your Crawfish
The first thing you need to do is clean your crawfish and throw away any that are dead. Pour the crawfish into a cooler and submerge them in water. Swirl the cooler around, drain, and repeat until the water runs clear.
Pro tip: Skip the salt when purging your crawfish. The idea that it helps to clean them is a myth, and it can actually just kill them too early.
Step 2: Heat Up Your Boiling Pot
Set up your pot on the top of a jet burner and turn on the jet burner to begin heating up the pot. Fill the pot about halfway full with water, aiming for enough water to submerge all your crawfish and food. Put a strainer inside of the pot.
Pro tip: Put the burner on a flat surface, and arrange the hose so no one trips over it.
Step 3: Add Seasonings
Now it's time to stir in all of the flavorings. Halve 4 lemons, squeeze the juice, and throw the squeezed lemons in the water. Include two pounds of butter, 7 ounces of black pepper, 3 ounces of cayenne, and a two bags of Zatarain's dry crab boil seasoning to the water.
Pro tip: Put the lemon peels outside of the strainer basket so they don't get mixed in with the final product.
Step 4: Add Your Sausage
Once the water is boiling, put your sausages in the pot, making sure they are all inside the big strainer. Let the water return to a boil and then wait five more minutes.
Pro tip: Cut your sausage into circles no more than a half inch wide, so the flavoring can penetrate all parts of the sausage.
Step 5: Include Your Veggies
Put the potatoes in the pot and boil them for ten minutes before adding other vegetables. Throw in your corn, mushrooms, and any other desired vegetables now and give it a good stir. Once your water returns to boiling, wait five minutes.
Pro tip: To ensure the potatoes cook all the way through, half or quarter them.
Step 6: Boil Your Crawfish
Now it is time to add in your crawfish. Pour them in very gently to avoid any splashing, and then place the lid on the pot. Let the water return to a boil, wait one minute, and turn off the fire. Don't worry, even though you've turned off the flame, there is still plenty of heat residing in the pot to cook your crawfish.
Step 7: Cool it Down
Pour a thin layer of ice on top of the entire crawfish boil. This helps the water to reach the right temperature for slowly poaching your crawfish. It also makes the top layer of crawfish sink a little, so they can properly soak up all the tastiness of the seasonings. Cover the crawfish and wait at least 20 minutes.
Pro tip: While you wait, prep your eating area by laying out a bunch of butcher paper on a clean, large table.
Step 8: Test for Readiness
Use the spoon to pull out one or two crawfish and see if they are ready. Give the head of one a sharp twist to pull it off, and see if the meat slides out of the tail easily when you like it. When done, pull up the strainer and let it drain. Depending on how much you cook, this may be a two man job!
Pro tip: Adjust time for your preferences. A longer soak results in a juicer head, but the tail meat may start to turn mushy.
Serve and Enjoy!
To serve the boil, you don't have to do anything fancy. Just dump all the drained crawfish out on the table and call everyone to eat. Be sure to have a lot of paper towels ready, and pass out some melted butter for everyone to dip their food in. Consider including some remoulade or honey mustard sauces on the side, and be sure to have lots of beer on hand.
Pro tip: If you have leftovers, you can reheat them the next day by throwing them in a steamer for a few minutes.
Did you enjoy learning about crawfish boils with my tutorial? I hope it provided you with plenty of clear information and helped you to feel more confident with this unusual method of cooking.
As you have learned, cooking crawfish correctly does not have to be a huge hassle. With the right tools and a little know how, you can end up crafting an incredible crawfish boil with a minimal amount of effort. Let me know how it went for you and feel free to share some of your favorite tips and tricks for cooking crawfish in the comments!
Frequently Asked Questions
What do crawfish taste like?
Crawfish taste similar to other shellfish, like crab and lobster. They have a rich and creamy flavor that is slightly salty. They are often boiled whole with spicy Cajun seasonings, which leads some people to think that crawfish are spicy.
How do you eat crawfish?
The best way to eat crawfish is to dig right in with both hands. It’s a messy process, but it’s so delicious it will be worth it! Start by grabbing the crawfish and twisting off the tail. Peel off the shell or squeeze out the meat. Don’t forget to suck the heads before moving onto the next crawfish. They’re full of tasty juice, and some people think this part is better than the meaty tail!
What is the yellow stuff in a crawfish?
Many people are turned off by the bright yellow or orange filling inside the crawfish head. If you’re from the South, you’ll just suck the head without thinking about it, but newcomers are hesitant! This yellow part is the hepatopancreas, also referred to as “crawfish butter.” It’s rich, fatty, and delicious, and you won’t be sorry you ate it!
Do you cook crawfish alive?
Like lobster and crab, crawfish are boiled alive. Shellfish have harmful bacteria on their shells, but this bacteria is destroyed during the cooking process if the shellfish is cooked alive. Once dead, the bacteria quickly begins to multiply, increasing the risk of food poisoning.
How long do you boil crawfish?
You usually know when crawfish are finished cooking because they turn a vibrant red color. But, since crawfish is already red, it can be hard to tell if you’re cooking them for the first time. As a general rule of thumb, the crawfish cook very quickly, in about 5 minutes at a full boil. Once cooked, turn off the heat and let the crawfish sit in the hot water for 10 minutes before draining them.