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What is a Crawfish Boil

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Are you ready to spice up your seafood game? Look no further than this classic boil. In this article, we’ll dive into the details of this flavorful feast and give you everything you need to know to whip up your own boil.

crawfish boil on a platter with corn, red potatoes, sausage, and butter with newspaper
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What is a Crawfish Boil

A crawfish boil is a traditional Louisiana and Southern American outdoor gathering centered around the cooking and consumption of crawfish. Crawfish, also known as crayfish, mudbugs, or crawdads, are small freshwater crustaceans that resemble tiny lobsters.

To prepare a crawfish boil, a large pot of heavily seasoned water is brought to a rolling boil. The crawfish are then added to the pot and boiled until they turn bright red and the meat is cooked through. Other ingredients such as corn on the cob, potatoes, onions, garlic, and sausage may also be added to the pot to enhance the flavor. Use our Cajun Crawfish Boil recipe.

What Type of Crawfish to Use (Live vs Frozen)

Most people prefer to use live, fresh crawfish that are suitable for cooking. Specifically, you should use “boiling crawfish” or “mudbugs” (Louisiana’s nickname for crawfish) that are large enough to yield a decent amount of meat.

The most common type of crawfish used for a boil is the Louisiana red swamp crawfish, which is known for its plump, meaty tails and rich, earthy flavor. However, other types of crawfish, such as white river crawfish or Procambarus clarkii, can also be used.

It’s important to ensure that what you are using is fresh and alive. Dead crawfish can spoil quickly and can make you sick if consumed. Before cooking, discard any crawfish that are dead or have broken or damaged shells. Live crawfish should be stored in a cool, moist place until ready to cook.

Live crawfish will typically move around and wiggle their tails when picked up or touched. Dead crawfish will often be limp and motionless.

If you do need to use frozen crawfish, it’s important to thaw them properly before cooking. Thaw them in the refrigerator overnight, or in cold water. Do not thaw them in warm water or at room temperature, as this can promote the growth of harmful bacteria.

When cooking frozen crawfish, be careful not to overcook them, as they are likely already cooked and can become tough and rubbery if cooked for too long. It’s also important to note that frozen crawfish may not absorb the flavors of the boil seasoning as well as fresh crawfish.

Overall, while frozen can be used, fresh, live crawfish are usually what you will find at a traditional boil.

How to Shop for Crawfish

  • Look for live crawfish: When shopping, make sure they are alive and active, and that they move around when the bag is jostled.
  • Choose the right size: Crawfish come in different sizes, from small to jumbo. For a boil, you want to choose crawfish that are large enough to yield a decent amount of meat. Louisiana crawfish, for example, are typically harvested when they are around 3-5 inches long and weigh 2-3 ounces each.
  • Check for freshness: They should have a clean, briny smell, and should not have a strong or foul odor. The shells should be firm and unbroken, and the meat should be firm and opaque.
  • Consider the season: Crawfish season varies depending on the location, but generally runs from late winter to early summer. During peak season, you’re more likely to find fresh, high-quality meat.
  • Buy from a reputable source: To ensure the best quality, buy from a reputable seafood market or online retailer. They should be able to provide you with information about the source and handling of the crawfish.
  • When you bring them home, it’s important to keep them alive and fresh until you’re ready to cook them. Keep them in a cool, moist place, such as in a cooler with ice or in a large bucket with wet towels, until you’re ready to start the boil.

How to Clean Them

Cleaning is an important step to ensure that they are safe to eat and taste their best. They are bottom-dwelling creatures, so they often pick up dirt, sand, and other impurities from their habitat. If these impurities are not properly removed, they can make the crawfish taste gritty or unpleasant.

  1. Rinse the crawfish thoroughly in cool water to remove any debris or dirt.
  2. Fill a large container or sink with cool water and add about 1/4 cup of salt for every gallon of water.
  3. Place the crawfish in the saltwater solution and let them soak for about 10-15 minutes. This will help to remove any impurities and loosen any dirt or sand.
  4. Drain the saltwater solution and rinse the crawfish again in cool water.
  5. Discard any crawfish that are dead or have broken shells, as these may not be safe to eat.


  • Corn on the Cob
  • Red Potatoes
  • Andouille Sausage
  • Onion Powder or Fresh Onions
  • Garlic Powder or Fresh Garlic
  • Paprika or Smoked Paprika
  • Old Bay Seasoning: Classic choice for seafood dishes; includes a combination of celery salt, paprika, black pepper, cayenne pepper, mustard, bay leaves, and other herbs and spices.
  • Cajun seasoning: This is a blend of spices commonly used in Louisiana cuisine, including paprika, garlic powder, onion powder, cayenne pepper, and black pepper. Cajun seasoning adds heat and flavor to the crawfish boil. You can substitute it for lemon pepper or any of your favorite seafood spices if you wish.
  • Bay leaves: Bay leaves add a subtle herbal flavor to the crawfish boil.
  • Lemons: Lemon halves are added to the pot during cooking to add a bright, acidic flavor to the crawfish.
  • Butter: If you love dipping!
  • Parsley: If you love a pop of green color.
andouille sausage, corn on the cob, and red potatoes in separate glass bowls


  • Large stockpot: You will need a pot that is big enough to hold all the crawfish, as well as any other ingredients you plan to add. A pot that can hold at least 30 quarts is recommended.
  • Strainer: You will need a strainer to remove the cooked crawfish from the pot.
  • Long-handled spoon or paddle: You will need a spoon or paddle to stir the ingredients in the pot while they are cooking.
  • Outdoor table: The boil is typically dumped onto a table covered in newspaper or butcher paper. Make sure you have a sturdy outdoor table that can support the weight of everything.
  • Cleaning supplies: Boils are messy, so you will need cleaning supplies such as paper towels, trash bags, and a hose to clean up afterward.

How to Prepare the Boil

  1. Bring a large pot to boil with water. Add enough water to cover the crawfish and vegetables.
  2. Add the spices, halved lemons, and bay leaves, to the pot. Stir well to combine.
  3. Add the halved corn on the cob, halved red potatoes, and andouille sausage to the pot. Stir well to ensure that everything is submerged in the water.
  4. Cook for 10-15 minutes or until the potatoes are fork-tender.
  5. Add the crawfish to the pot and stir well to ensure that they are evenly distributed.
  6. Cook for 3-4 minutes or until the crawfish are bright red and cooked through.
  7. Turn off the heat and let the crawfish sit in the pot for 10 minutes to absorb the flavors.
  8. Use a strainer to remove the crawfish, corn, potatoes, and sausage from the pot and drain the excess water.
  9. Spread newspapers or butcher paper over a large outdoor table.
  10. Pour the crawfish, corn, potatoes, and sausage onto the table.
  11. Squeeze fresh lemon over the top of the crawfish boil and sprinkle with additional Cajun seasoning to taste.
  12. Serve hot and enjoy!
corn on the cob, lemon, bay leaf, potatoes, and sausage in a large Dutch oven with crawfish boil sauce
crawfish, corn on the cob, lemon, bay leaf, potatoes, and sausage in a large Dutch oven with crawfish boil sauce

How to Serve

Once the crawfish are cooked, they are drained and then served hot on a table covered in newspapers or butcher paper. Diners usually peel the crawfish by hand and enjoy the spicy, flavorful meat. Cold beer/drinks, music, and high energy is typically the mood. It is a social event that celebrates Southern culture and cuisine.

  1. Drain the crawfish: Use a strainer or crawfish sack to remove the cooked crawfish from the pot and drain any excess water.
  2. Pour the crawfish onto the table: Dump the crawfish onto the table covered in newspapers or butcher paper. Make sure the table is sturdy and can support the weight of the crawfish.
  3. Add additional ingredients or spices (if necessary): I like to sprinkle parsley throughout the spread to give an extra pop of color.
  4. Serve with a dipping sauce if preferred: Our Crawfish Boil Sauce is amazing!
  5. Peel and eat the crawfish: They are typically eaten by peeling the shell off the tail and sucking the meat out. Provide small bowls or buckets for guests to discard the shells.
  6. Serve with sides and beverages: See below for suggestions.
  7. Enjoy the meal: A boil is a social event, so encourage guests to sit, eat, and enjoy the lively atmosphere.

Remember to provide plenty of napkins and hand sanitizer, as crawfish boils can be messy. And when the meal is over, be sure to clean up the table and dispose of the newspapers or butcher paper and shells properly.

crawfish boil on a platter with corn, red potatoes, sausage, and butter with newspaper

Seafood Boil Recipes

Seafood Boil in a Bag
Seafood Boil Sauce
Slow Cooker Low Country Boil
Southern Seafood Boil
Skillet Shrimp Boil
Cajun Shrimp Boil

Pair With These Sides

Southern Coleslaw
Collard Greens with Smoked Turkey
Southern Baked Beans
Southern Soul Food Potato Salad

Smoked Baked Beans with Ground Beef and Bacon

Crawfish Recipes and Guides

How Long to Boil Crawfish
Crawfish Boil Party Guide
What is a Seafood Boil
Shrimp Boil Party Guide