Cajun Recipes: Traditional Crawfish Boil

Cajun crawfish boil recipe

Crawfish, or crayfish, are small crustaceans that live in fresh water, although they resemble their cousins, lobsters. Crayfish are common in the Southeast – not just in Louisiana. In fact, there are over 300 species inhabiting the southeastern states and Kentucky’s Mammoth Cave. In some parts of the South, like in Louisiana, crayfish are commonly referred to as “crawfish.” In other areas, like Georgia, the critters are often called “crawdads.” They’re also called “mudbugs,” occasionally.

Louisiana produces more crayfish commercially than any other state. In fact, the Bayou State was by far the leading supplier to the world for years, but now this is being threatened by China. And by the way, crayfish are eaten pretty much world-wide. As with lobsters, the tail is what’s usually consumed, although individual crawfish with large claws also supply meat from that appendage. Many people also suck the heads of boiled crawfish, where the spices collect in the fatty parts there.

Cajun crawfish are the main ingredient in many Cajun recipes. Crawfish recipes include crawfish pie, crawfish etouffee, crawfish bisque, crawfish stew, jambalaya, crawfish in pastry, crawfish burgers, crawfish bread, crawfish gumbo, and numerous other Cajun recipes and Louisiana recipes. Perhaps the most popular crawfish recipes of all, however, are those for the traditional crawfish boil.

A crawfish boil is very similar to a Low Country shrimp boil, except that crawfish are used instead of shrimp. Crawfish require more work to prepare than shrimp do. Crawfish have to be “purged” before cooking. This can be done in an ice chest or a large bucket.

Live crawfish are sold in woven mesh bags, each weighing 30-40 pounds. You can get crawfish shipped by air for your crawfish boil. Schedule their arrival to coincide as closely as possible with the time of your event. If they arrive the day before, leave them in a cool, shady place. If the temp dips below 35 degrees, many of your crawfish will die, and you don’t want to cook dead crawfish.

There’s an ongoing debate about the best way to purge crawfish. Some use salt because it results in a cleaner batch, but others avoid salt because some of the critters will die from the salty water. Either way, the crawfish can be left in the bag or released from the bag, and covered with clean, cool water. If you choose to add salt, use one box, sprinkled over the submerged mudbugs. Stir the crawfish for about three minutes. Remember, they have to have oxygen. Drain off the dirty water and rinse the mudbugs again. ..and again…until the water is clear. Once they’re clean, they’re ready to cook!

A big outdoor cooker with a basket works best for a crawfish boil. You can use a turkey fryer for this. Depending on the size of your pot and the number of crawfish you’re cooking, you might have to do several batches. A Cajun crawfish boil almost always includes small red potatoes, corn on the cob, onions, and sausage links. Boiling pots come in different sizes, and the 80-quart pot is popular. For a Cajun crawfish boil, you’d use about 40 quarts of water in the pot.

Your cooker should be set at “full throttle” to bring the water to a boil. While you’re waiting for the water to boil, add the seasonings:

  • 1 box salt
  • 10 lemons
  • 1 cup vinegar
  • 8 whole bay leaves
  • 8 tablespoons Holle’s Cajun seasoning
  • 1 cup liquid crab boil
  • 4 small quartered onions

Directions: Squeeze lemon juice into pot and toss in remaining ingredients. Boil for fifteen minutes for flavors to release. Next, place the lemon halves, 8 red potatoes, 2 pounds smoked sausage cut into 3-inch sections, and 4 ears of corn, cut in half, into the basket and lower into the pot. Boil for 10 minutes. Add about 10-12 pounds crawfish – or 1/3 of a bag. Boil for 4 minutes, place lid on, and turn off burner. Allow the crawfish to soak for about 10 minutes. Remove basket, drain, and turn out contents onto paper-lined picnic table. Repeat the process for the rest of the crawfish and any other veggies you might want to cook. You probably won’t need to add any more seasoning for the remaining bag of crawfish.

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