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Texas Style Crawfish Boil

Liam Williams

March 16, 2022

Texas ranks fifth in rice production in the US. What’s this got to do with crawfish, you say? Well, where there’s rice farming in the South, there’s crawfish rearing, as farmed crawfish are often double-cropped with rice. 

In my humble chef’s opinion, crawfish are by far the most delicious crustacean out there. They’re sweeter than shrimp, more delicate than lobster, and their culinary preparation follows traditions that run as deep in the South as the bayous themselves. 

Equipment

Ice chests

Though it’s best to cook crawfish as soon as you’ve caught them, ice chests are there to keep the crawfish cool, damp, and, most importantly, alive – this is important to prevent possible food poisoning. The crawfish need oxygen, so make sure the container isn’t airtight. Using an ice chest, you can quite easily keep them alive for a couple of days.

Therefore, make sure to have some ice chests at the ready when you go to buy your crawfish, even if they’re just the styrofoam kind.

pots and strainer baskets

Boiling pots & strainer baskets

I use seafood boiling pots to clean and cook my crawfish. I own quite a few – some for cooking, some for cleaning – but if you don’t feel you need an extra pot, just make sure to give it a thorough clean before using it for cooking.  

Looking for a pot with a strainer basket? Here’s a list of some of the best seafood pots I’ve worked with. 

stick

A big wooden stick 

Of course, by this I don’t mean just a random stick. Rather, a super long wooden spoon or a kitchen mixing paddle. Having this makes it so much easier to clean, process, and cook such a large amount of food.

Purging crawdads

purge crawfish

What is purging?

Purging is the process of thoroughly cleaning live crawfish with salted water to clear out their digestive tracts. It’s common practice in the preparation of crawfish, however some people say it’s unnecessary. For me, it makes sense from a seasoning and purifying point of view, so I’ve never not done it.

The ethics of purging

Crawfish are freshwater crustaceans, so heavily salting them is bound to cause them a lot of discomfort. Many people argue that what the crawfish go through outweighs the benefits of purging them. 

While I understand these concerns, let’s get real: the whole crawfish preparation process isn’t nice for the critters. In my opinion, if you’re a fan of shellfish, which are best served boiled alive, you probably shouldn’t talk too loudly about the ethics of purging. 

How to purge crayfish

The first step is to give the shellfish a good clean. This is most easily done by using a hose fitted with a nozzle or spray gun. You don’t have to pressure wash the mudbugs, just use a decent amount of water to rinse them thoroughly. 

As mentioned earlier, the best way to clean your crayfish is in a seafood boiling pot and basket strainer. Once the water runs (pretty much) clear through the strainer, place the shellfish back into the pot and pour eight to nine ounces of salt over them. Then fill the pot with water until they’re just about submerged.

Grab a large wooden spoon or kitchen paddle and stir the crawdads for three or four minutes. Remove the strainer basket from the pot of salted water and give them a really thorough rinse with the hose. Ideally, you want your water to be boiling by the time this process is finished.

Choosing the extras

Roots, fruits & vegetables

The original Creole crawfish boil used red potatoes, lemons, corn, and onions. In Texas, some commonly added ingredients include mushrooms and garlic – I’ve even seen someone add asparagus!

I have to say, I’m a fan of the traditional boil, though I like to add some oranges to the classic Creole ingredients.

Smoked sausages

Being a Creole and Cajun sausage, boudin is an ingredient that often finds itself dripping in the juices of a good ol’ crawfish boil. Not got any boudin to hand? There are a number of German, Polish, and Czech sausages synonymous with Texas BBQ that you can choose from.

Boiled Crawfish on a Wood Background

Boiling & serving

How long should you boil crawfish?

Crawfish don’t take long to boil at all – only a couple of minutes per pound. This means you should add all the other ingredients around 10 minutes before cooking the crawdads. If you do this, the potatoes won’t come out hard and the onions and citrus fruits have enough time to infuse the water. 

In this recipe, once you toss in the crawfish, bring the water to a really intense boil and boil for 5 to 10 minutes. Then simply turn the heat off and let the crustaceans soak in the water for about 10 to 15 minutes. 

A classic Texas serve

A crawfish boil would almost feel incomplete without the classic picnic table lined with newspapers (to soak up the brine), weighed down by hunks of shellfish. 

Serve up your boil with some fresh lemons and your favorite sauces for a meal that will have your face and your belly smiling. 

Nutrition facts: 200 calories 20 grams fat
Rating: 5.0
( 1 voted )
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