Crawfish Boil, the Ultimate Social Cookout1

Crawfish Boil? But we’re the Grillin’ Fools, not the Boilin’s Fools, right? We made an exception here. Besides, this was cooked outside and over fire so we feel it qualifies. That, and a crawfish boil is the ultimate social cookout. This may in fact be the coolest thing I’ve cooked outside including grilled whole hog. It takes a group effort to do a crawfish boil and it is the most social eating experience I’ve ever been around.

It was such a great success that this will be a yearly event for the 4th of July for the Boilin’, er, Grillin’ Fools because the 4th of July is not only the birthday of our country, it’s also my brother-in-law, Kevin’s birthday. He requested the crawfish boil and wants it every year on the 4th from now on.

Because this was so much fun and a pretty lengthy, but by no means difficult, process, I took an inordinate amount of pictures, so kick back and get ready for a long read and plenty of pics.

First off, you have to procure your live crawfish or mud bugs. They have to be live. You cannot get frozen crawfish to do a boil. There are a number of online vendors of live crawfish, but luckily I live in a town with Bob’s Seafood:

Bob's Seafood
The best seafood shop not on a coast

Bob’s Seafood, despite being a good ten hours from the bayou of Louisiana, were able to get me 40 pounds of live mud bugs and crush the prices of the online retailers. And the service was top notch. Tim here helped me load the crawfish into my cooler and added a bunch of extra gel packs to keep them cold:

Crawfish Boil, the Ultimate Social Cookout
Tim was a great help with my giant sack of crawfish

Speaking of a cooler, well, I took my medium sized cooler not having any idea how big one sack of crawfish can be. I had to drive home with the sack sticking out of my cooler:

Crawfish Boil, the Ultimate Social Cookout
We’re gonna need a bigger cooler

When I got the crawfish home, I put them in my jumbo cooler:

Crawfish Boil, the Ultimate Social Cookout
Looks like something from the movie Alien from a distance

At first, my kids were a little intimidated by the mud bugs, but they were still excited. My 4 year old thought they were cool, but was unwilling to touch them at first:

Crawfish Boil, the Ultimate Social Cookout
Look dad, a cooler full of mud bugs!

And while their Maurmi was willing to touch them, the 6 year old was fine with touching one someone else was holding, but would not hold one himself:

Crawfish Boil, the Ultimate Social Cookout
Grandma and Grandson Examining a Crawdad

Once I showed the two boys how to hold them, all they wanted to do was play with them and beg me to keep some of them as pets:

Crawfish Boil, the Ultimate Social Cookout
Dad, can we keep them?

My oldest loved the bigger ones like this that he called a baby lobster:

Crawfish Boil, the Ultimate Social Cookout
That’s a big ol’ crawdaddy

As I type this up, my oldest is leaning over my shoulder and asking me if we can have one as a pet.

Since the crawfish boil was on the 4th of July, I had to pick up the crawfish the day before and keep them alive overnight. To do this, put them in a big cooler, with the drain open. Throw in a bag of ice and close the lid, but keep something to prop the lid open an inch or so. Basically, with the drain hole closed, as the ice melts, it will drown the crawfish on the bottom. And if the lid is closed completely, they can suffocate. So keep them cool, well drained and not sealed shut so they can breath.

When it gets close to the time to boil the mud bugs, they need to be purged. There are all sorts of methods to do this. Some suggest soaking them in salt water to get them to cough up the mud in their systems. I don’t recommend this. Crawfish are not salt water creatures. Leave them in a salt bath too long and it could kill them and your boil is wrecked.

All you really need to do is rinse them, over and over. In the same cooler, with the drain hole opened, Kevin and I filled the cooler with water:

Crawfish Boil, the Ultimate Social Cookout
Crawfish Bath

Basically, keep filling the cooler until the water runs clear. To do this, we elevated the cooler on top of another cooler to see the water coming out better, but this was not the most stable of situations:

Crawfish Boil, the Ultimate Social Cookout
We’re definitely not engineers!

Make sure to fill the cooler to completely submerge the mud bugs otherwise only the ones on the bottom will get rinsed:

Crawfish Boil, the Ultimate Social Cookout
Rinse those mud bugs

OK, the crawfish are rinsed so now it’s time to get to the boil. Just a heads up, we never actually boil the crawfish at any time during this process. It’s more of a crawfish simmer. Other ingredients boil, but at no time do the crawfish boil

Crawfish Boil Ingredients:

5 lbs small red potatoes, cut into equal sized pieces
8 ears garlic, halved at the equator
10 lemons, halved
6 big onions, halved at the equator
5 bags crab boil – divided
1/4 cup cayenne
1/2 cup salt
1/2 cup hot sauce
2 oz concentrated liquid crab boil
42 oz smoked polish sausage
40 oz smoked andouille
40 lbs live crawfish
3 packages of frozen corn (a total of 12 ears cut into thirds) – divided

Slice the potatoes so that all the potatoes or potato chunks are the same size:

Crawfish Boil, the Ultimate Social Cookout
Nothing better than doing prep poolside

And slice the onions and garlic at the equator:

Crawfish Boil, the Ultimate Social Cookout
Slice the ears of garlic

Next slice the smoked sausage into chunks:

Crawfish Boil, the Ultimate Social Cookout
Mmmmmm Sassage!

Pro Tip ~ Since I have two different types of sausage that look very similar, I sliced one kind on a bias and one straight to know which was which:

Crawfish Boil, the Ultimate Social Cookout
Slice the two types of sausage differently to differentiate between them

Some don’t like sausage in a crawfish boil as the fat from the sausage can coat the mud bugs. I didn’t want the fat coating the star of the show, so I went with pre smoked sausages which have a lot of the fat rendered out already.

We had a slight problem with this boil, which is understandable as it was our first. I don’t have a dedicated crawfish boil pot big enough for 40 lbs of crawfish plus all the other ingredients. All I had was a turkey fryer. So I had to divide the boil into thirds. So keep that in mind if you are cooking for more people and have to divide into fourths or have a pot big enough for all of it.

Place a third of the potatoes, onions, lemons, sausage, and garlic into the metal sieve pot that fits inside the turkey fryer pot:

Crawfish Boil, the Ultimate Social Cookout
Load up the pot!

Then add three bags of the crab boil, salt, liquid concentrate crab boil, and of course the hot sauce:

Crawfish Boil, the Ultimate Social Cookout
Kick up the heat!

And fill it with water, leaving room for 13.3 lbs of crawfish and a package of corn

Crawfish Boil, the Ultimate Social Cookout
Now we’re getting down to business

How much water to fill is hard to gauge. How do I know? We didn’t fill it enough. More on that later.

Bring the pot to a boil. Once it reaches a rolling boil, set the timer on your smart phone for 15 minutes. During that 15 minutes the spices, hot sauce, onions, garlic, and lemons will meld together and the potatoes will cook and absorb those amazing flavors

In the mean time, we filled a bucket with a third of the crawfish:

Crawfish Boil, the Ultimate Social Cookout
Dead Crawfish Walkin’

We decided to purge the mud bugs one last time in the bucket, which was much better at cleaning the crawfish than in the cooler and was Kevin’s brilliant idea:

Crawfish Boil, the Ultimate Social Cookout
One last bath

Kevin went for a dip in the pool to cool off, so good friend Ed helped me to put the crawfish into the pot after 15 minutes of boiling:

Crawfish Boil, the Ultimate Social Cookout
The end is near for these mud bugs
Crawfish Boil, the Ultimate Social Cookout
I half expected them to scream like lobsters (I know lobsters don’t really scream)

Remember when I said that we had a hard time gauging how much water to put in? When the bucket of crawfish were added, the water didn’t cover them all:

Crawfish Boil, the Ultimate Social Cookout
Oops. Need more water!

A gallon and a half of added water submerged them completely:

Crawfish Boil, the Ultimate Social Cookout
Time of death, 5:15 pm

Give the pot a good stir. This requires a rather large spoon. Some use an oar to do this. I went to buy one that morning. Of the two options, the plastic one said may contain lead. The wood one had a finish on it. Neither of those I wanted to stick in a pot of boiling water. Instead, I used an extra plank from my hardwood floors. The unfinished red oak worked perfectly to churn the ingredients around:

Crawfish Boil, the Ultimate Social Cookout
Bring the lumber!

You want to bring some of the ingredients from the bottom to the top:

Crawfish Boil, the Ultimate Social Cookout
How does that look?

Adding the crawfish takes the pot down from a boil. Put the lid on and keep checking and stirring every few minutes until bubbles start rising to the top again as it gets close to a boil like this:

Crawfish Boil, the Ultimate Social Cookout
Starting to bubble

Turn off the gas and put the lid on. Wait 2-3 minutes and add the frozen corn. If you have larger crawfish, leave the lid on for 5-6 minutes before adding the corn:

Crawfish Boil, the Ultimate Social Cookout
The final part of the “boil” except we’re not really boiling

This will bring the heat down in the water which allows for more flavor penetration of the craw fish without over cooking them. Leave the lid on for about 10 minutes and then do a little quality control test:

Crawfish Boil, the Ultimate Social Cookout
Time for a Quality Control check!

To eat the crawfish, pull the tail off and suck the cavity of the head to judge the spiciness. This little fella here told me I had forgotten to add the salt. So I added the salt and a little extra cayenne because I felt the spiciness was a little light. This is totally up to you. Now peel back some of the layers of shell from the tail, pinch the tip of the tail while pulling the meat out with your teeth. The flesh of the tail should be firm, yet tender. If the meat falls apart, they are way over cooked.

I left the crawfish in the simmer in the hot water for another 5 minutes with the lid on for the salt and extra cayenne to penetrate.

Next up, prepare the table. I highly suggest a disposable, plastic table cloth first:

Crawfish Boil, the Ultimate Social Cookout
Prepare early for the cleanup

Then layer with newspaper:

Crawfish Boil, the Ultimate Social Cookout
Cleanup will be a dream

Pro Tip ~ The plastic table cloth will act as your trash bag when it’s time to clean up because it’s about to get messy. A glorious, culinary mess that is!

Kevin pulled the sieve pot out, letting it set on the top edge of the outer pot to completely drain:

Crawfish Boil, the Ultimate Social Cookout
Is that Kevin or the Captain?

Then dump the basket out on the table next to any extra sides:

Crawfish Boil, the Ultimate Social Cookout
Serve it by dumping the pot on the table

How magnificent does this look?

Crawfish Boil, the Ultimate Social Cookout
That’s the coolest thing I’ve ever cooked outside and it’s not even close!

And of course, the perfect accompaniment to any crawfish boil is ice cold beer and hot sauce (not pictured)

Crawfish Boil, the Ultimate Social Cookout
Serve with some ice cold beer

That’s it. Tell everyone to grab a plate and a beer and fill one while emptying the other.

About the only knock on crawfish is that it takes a lot of work to get to the meat from the tails. All it takes is a little practice. For example, here is my 4 year old, mowing them down:

Crawfish Boil, the Ultimate Social Cookout
If you’re grossed out by sucking the head of a crawfish, realize that guy, at 4 years of age, had no problem with it. #ProudPappa

And my 6 year old:

Crawfish Boil, the Ultimate Social Cookout
And this fella wanted it spicier, but then again he wants Sriracha on everything #ProudPappaAgain

If they can do it, so can you. That being said, you have to take into consideration who you are serving when buying the crawfish. If you are serving people from the gulf coast that have been to a few of these, you need about 3-4 lbs per person. For those who have never done this before, 1-2 lbs per person will suffice. We had about 10 adults at the party and we only ate about half the crawfish. The rest we shelled to harvest the tails.

And finally, a couple artistic shots, just because I took over 600 pictures of this process and can’t limit it to just one:

Crawfish Boil, the Ultimate Social Cookout
Some of the crawfish are dark, and some are bright red like this fella
Crawfish Boil, the Ultimate Social Cookout
Crawfish, corn and beer. Is this heaven? No, it’s poolside in St. Louis

When we did the next third of the ingredients in the second part of the boil, we added more corn as it really soaked up the spices well and was devoured quickly in the first batch. I also added another bag of crawfish boil to replenish what seasoning was removed by the first batch. Some more cayenne and hot sauce were added as well. For the final batch, we skipped the potatoes entirely as everyone was full and we just wanted to get them cooked to harvest the tails. For round three, another bag of crab boil, hot sauce and cayenne were added without any onion or garlic or lemon. When they were done we called everyone down to help us harvest the tails which didn’t take long with so many hands.

So how was it? The potatoes were perfectly cooked and pulled in the spices beautifully. The corn, despite only being in hot (not boiling) water for about 10-12 minutes was raved about. It was cooked properly and it really pulled in the spices into all the little crevices. So much so, if I ever boil corn again, rather than grilling it, I’ll add some crab boil to the water. And the crawfish was perfectly tender and really juicy. Each iteration of the process got a little spicier but that was actually appreciated as those that were with us till the third batch were asking for more heat. Honestly, I’m not sure we can wait until next 4th of July to do this again. We might have to do another one before we shut the pool down.

In the future, I’ll do more corn with every batch, invite more people over and add cauliflower as I hear it absorbs the flavor really well. I might add some eggs also. Someone told me they come out hard boiled and really spicy. That’s SOOO my speed. I’m also in the market for a much larger crawfish boil pot, so if you know anybody that has one for sale, let me know by shooting me an email. If you have any questions or comments, as always, you can leave them below or use the email address in that link.

Crawfish Boil, the Ultimate Social Cookout
Author: 
Recipe type: Crawfish Boil
Cuisine: Cajun
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 12-15
 
Step by step, picture by picture, foolproof instructions on how to do a crawfish boil with corn, red potatoes and smoked sausage.
Ingredients
  • 5 lbs small red potatoes, cut into equal sized pieces
  • 8 ears garlic, halved at the equator
  • 10 lemons, halved
  • 6 big onions, halved at the equator
  • 5 bags crab boil - divided
  • ¼ cup cayenne
  • ½ cup salt
  • ½ cup hot sauce
  • 2 oz concentrated liquid crab boil
  • 42 oz smoked polish sausage
  • 40 oz smoked andouille
  • 40 lbs live crawfish
  • 3 packages of frozen corn (a total of 12 ears cut into thirds) - divided
Instructions
  1. Make sure to rinse the crawfish thoroughly
  2. Add ⅓ of the potatoes, garlic, lemons, onions, sausage to the pot
  3. Add three bags of the crab boil, salt, cayenne, hot sauce, and liquid crab boil and bring to a boil
  4. Once it reached a rolling boil, add ⅓ of the crawfish, stir the pot well and put the lid on (adding water if all the crawfish are not submerged)
  5. Keep checking the pot and stirring until it starts to bubble a lot indicating it's about to come back to a boil
  6. Turn the heat off and close the lid
  7. After 2-3 minutes, add ⅓ of the corn
  8. After about 10 minutes pull one of the crawfish out and check the flavor and doneness adding whatever seasoning you feel it lacks
  9. Pull the sieve pot out and let it set on the top edge of the main pot until all the liquid drains out
  10. Dump the pot out on a table that has a cheap plastic table cloth and a thick layer of newspaper
  11. Serve with ice cold beer
 

Scott Thomas

Scott Thomas

Scott Thomas, the Original Grillin’ Fool, was sent off to college with a suitcase and a grill where he overcooked, undercooked and burned every piece of meat he could find. After thousands of failures, and quite a few successes, nearly two decades later he started a website to show step by step, picture by picture, foolproof instructions on how to make great things out of doors so that others don’t have to repeat the mistakes he’s made on the grill.
Scott Thomas

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one comment

That’s a great cook guys. It’s fire outdoors so it counts as “grillin'” to me. We did one of these two years ago for our blogger party and it was lots of fun. Of course it helped that our head cook for that year was a Cajun, he rocked it.

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