How to Boil Crawfish

My Recipe for Juicy and Spicy Boiled Crawfish

Boil Crawfish

Learn How to Boil Crawfish!

This is how I boil/cook crawfish.  There are 100s of ways to do it, this is just one.  I have tried many different ways, and found this way to be the best for me.  Most recipes for making crawfish make the crawfish spicy on the outside, not the inside.  The recipes do this by just adding more spices on top of the crawfish after they are cooked.  Many restaurants do this.  This is WRONG!  Crawfish should be spicy in you mouth not on your lips.  This technique will give you really juicy crawfish that don’t burn your lips, but are really hot in your mouth.  Let’s get started!!

WARNING: This recipe takes a long time, if you are serving a lot of crawfish you will need a really large pot or multiple.  Each batch takes at least an hour, so be sure to account for the time commitment.

What you will need(Ingredients):

  1. Aluminum Pot (I like 60-80 qts), with basket
  2. Propane Burner (more btus the better, i.e. High Pressure, a regular one will work, just takes longer) w/ propane tank
  3. Large Cooler
  4. Cajun Crawfish Boil Seasoning (Louisiana, Zatarain’s, etc.), I like 1.5lbs/10lbs crawfish, but less is ok if you them milder
  5. Live Crawfish (obviously)
  6. Lemons – about 2 per 10lb of crawfish
  7. Ice – 10lbs per 20lbs of crawfish or about 1.5 bags per batch
  8. Paper Towels and Trash bags
  9. Sides(these are all optional, but I feel required)
    • Frozen Corn
    • Red Potatoes
    • Mushrooms
    • Onions
    • Sausage
    • Garlic
    • Artichoke
    • Brussel Sprouts

Boiled Crawfish Recipe – Summary Version

    1. Cut up/prepare all ingredients
    2. Purge Crawfish – wash them with salt(1/3 can) and a little water
    3.  Fill Pot 1/3 to 1/2 full of water and turn on fire full
    4. Add Spices to water (5lbs for 60 qt pot, 6.5 lbs for 80 qt pot), squeeze 4 lemons in water
    5. Add all sides except corn to basket and put basket in water
    6. When water starts to boil remove basket and add crawfish ON TOP of sides(sides will go back in)
    7. Add basket to water
    8. Wait for water to boil, ~5-10 min (if you have a high water to crawfish ratio, it will be less time)
    9. When you see first signs of boiling, start timer for 4 minutes!
    10. When timer goes off, dump 1.5 bags of ice into pot along with frozen corn(Shock the crawfish)
    11. Let them soak for 15 min, then start testing for spiciness, serve when spicy enough (I go ~ 30 min)
    12. Drink beer, and enjoy!
    13. If you have more crawfish to boil, remove any excess water from pot to bring back to starting level,
    14. Add more spices, if last batch was too spicy go for .5-1 lb, if just right go 1.5 lbs, if not enough, 2.2.5 lbs
    15. Start back at step 5 until all done!

Boiled Crawfish Recipe – Detailed Version

Step 1: Prepare The Ingredients

Crawfish Boil Ingredients

Prepare the Sides

Crawfish Boil Sides

Cut All The Side into Manageable Sizes

I like to get all the ingredients ready before doing anything.  Cut all the onions, lemons, mushrooms(as needed), potatoes(as needed) in half.  Cut the sausage into bite size pieces.

Purge The Crawfish

Purge The Crawfish

Next, purge the crawfish(rid them of toxins).  Just sprinkle a bunch of salt on them and wash them with water and let them soak until ready.  I generally drain the water after a bit and wash them with hose again, just to get them real clean.  Some places online offer “pre-purged” crawfish.  Don’t trust them! Purge them yourself to be sure.

Step 2:  Start Heating the Water

Note: If you are using equipment for the first time, boil water for 30 minutes dump out and start from step 1.  This cleans the aluminum and creates an oxygen barrier.

Crawfish Pot

Fill Water about 1/3-1/2 full.

I fill my pot about 1/2 full.  It depends on how many crawfish you want to boil at a time, but just make sure the water will cover all the crawfish when you put them in later.  You can alway fill the basket with all the goods and then add the water to get the right level, then pull out the basket and start the fire.  Make sure you add some extra water to account for boil off.

Get some Assistants if You Can!

 

Step 3: Add Spices to Water

As the water starts to get warm mix seasoning.  IMPORTANT: Put a lot of seasoning in to start.  I put 5 lbs in my 60 quart pot that is filled about 1/2 way.  If you are using an 80qt pot, go for 6-6.5 lbs.

Spices Mixed In

Spices Are Mixed In Ready To Go

Step 4: Add Sides

Once the spices have been mixed in, fill your basket with all the sides besides the corn and lemons(the corn is cooked and frozen we will use this later).  Squeeze lemons and toss in basket. Place basked in water.  The water should not be boiling yet, just warm.

Crawfish Boil Sides

The Sides are Starting to Heat Up

Step 5: Boil The Sides

Let the sides sit in the water, propane should be on full, and wait until the water boils.  When the water is boiling, take out the basket.  Now the fun begins!

Step 6: Add Crawfish to Basket

Add Crawfish to Basket

Add the Crawfish to the Basket

IMPORTANT!- Add the crawfish on TOP of the sides in the basket, do NOT remove them (this is where most other recipes error).  I add crawfish until the pot is about 3/4 full.

Add Crawfish to the Basket

Add Crawfish to the Basket

Step 7: Add Crawfish to Pot

Add Crawfish to the Boiling Water

Add Crawfish to the Boiling Water

 Step 8: Bring Crawfish To A Boil

Once the crawfish are in the pot, crank up the heat.  You want to bring the crawfish to a boil as fast as possible.  With my High Pressure burner it takes about 6 minutes to get back to a boil using a 60qt pot.  With a smaller boiler it can take up to 11-12 minutes.  When you see the water boiling or your thermometer reads 212 degrees start the clock!  Wait 4 minutes, yes just 4 minutes!  When the 4 minutes are up.  SHUT OFF THE FIRE! Note: If you have a large pot the time the flame is on will be less, maybe just 5 min total, just remember, once you see bubbles start the 4 min clock.

Step 9: SHOCK’EM

I learned this technique from a real Cajun so you know it’s good.  Dump 1-1.5 bags of ice on the crawfish, and add the corn. Mix throughly.

Shock The Crawfish With Ice

Shock The Crawfish With Ice

Why? you ask.  Well we don’t want to overcook the crawfish, but we want them to soak.  The ice brings the temperature down so the bugs stop cooking, but can continue to soak up all the good spices.

Step 10: Soak’em

Now this is where you get to decide how spicy you want your crawfish.  I would let them soak 15 minutes, then every few minutes test one out to see if it is spicy enough.  Just let them keep soaking until you like the flavor.  I usually go 30-40 minutes.

Step 11: Serve the Crawfish!

Enjoy the Crawfish

Enjoy the Crawfish

That’s IT!  Enjoy the fruits of your labor!

Step 11: Prepare the Next Batch

If you have more crawfish, well lucky you!  Let’s cook them.  Your pot now has too much water, take a pitcher or cup and get rid of a little bit.  Bring the level to where it was at the start of the first batch. This takes a little practice, but don’t worry anything close is fine.

Add More Spices!  Yep, add more spice, how much? Well here is a scale to use for the 60qt pot.  I add 1.5 pounds if my first batch was spot on.  I add more if they were not spicy enough(2-2.5) and less if they were too spicy(.5-1 lbs).

You are good to go!  Start from step 4 above and repeat until you are out of crawfish!!

Appendix A: Where To Buy Crawfish Online

Unfortunately I don’t live in Louisiana anymore, so I have plenty of experience obtaining crawfish from other states.  Here are some places I have used.  You can generally save more $$ but doing freight delivery to the airport.  I have had success with this, but it was a pain so I just pay the extra money for the door-to-door service.

Fruge Farms (www.cajuncrawfish.com)

Pros:

These guys are great!  They are my favorite.  Customer service is excellent!  They send them VERY well packaged via FedEx or Freight.  If you call they will usually give you $10 off if you ask.

Cons:

They are generally a little more expensive than others.

Louisiana Crawfish Company (www.lacrawfish.com)

Pros:

Crawfish were a good size and of good quality.  Items arrived on time.  Cheaper than others.

Cons:

The packaging was not great, they just used sacks in cardboard boxes(the boxes where the wax covered kind), not really a huge deal.

Buy Locally Via A Seafood Market

I live in Austin now, and I can get crawfish whenever they are in season.  I go to Fiesta Mart, best prices in town.  Go Friday at 11am, that is when they get them in stock (call to confirm though).  If you are not lucky like me, ask a local seafood market if they will order them for you, it might be cheaper.  I was able to do this in D.C. and Austin(before I learned about Fiesta).

If you live in Austin – Louisiana Wild (http://www.louisianawild.com/

Found out about these guys this year. Haven’t used them yet but I know someone that did with good results.

Pros:

Good prices! Will deliver to you home the day of you boil!

Cons:
Only available in Austin

Appendix B: What Equipment to Use

Check out our recommendations page: Crawfish Boil Recommended Equipment

Hope you enjoy!!!


58 Comments on “How to Boil Crawfish”

  1. ABM says:

    delicious bugs / sexy chef!

  2. Wesley Montgomery says:

    How long do you let the vegetables boil before you take out the basket and add the crawfish?

  3. victorjd says:

    I stick the veggies in and turn on the burner. I add the bugs when the water starts to boil. If the water is really warm and thus boils faster I may let the veggies boil for a few minutes longer before adding the bugs.
    All in all I would say it’s about 10-20 minutes. The potatoes are really the only issue, so if you are really concerned test the potatoes to see if they are slightly soft, remember they will remain in the water for an additional 20+ minutes, so they don’t need to be done. If you mess it up and they are undercooked, just toss them in the next batch!

    -Good Luck!

  4. Wesley Montgomery says:

    Wow! Followed your advise and everything was delicious.
    Thanks!

  5. Mike says:

    No Salt in the pot???

  6. victorjd says:

    The spices I add already contain salt, so I don’t think it is necessary, but by all means go for it if you think your crawfish are not salty enough.

  7. matt says:

    This recipe is dead on. I lived in TX/LA for a number of years and tried to soak up all the “secrets” from every chef I spoke to… this article pretty much sums up the best practices! I actually put carrots and celery into mine as well to complete the mirepoix.

  8. Jake says:

    What spices do you use?

  9. victorjd says:

    My favorite is Louisiana Crawfish, Crab and Shrimp Boil, but I have also used Zatarain’s with just as much success. If you order online from say http://www.cajuncrawfish.com it comes with seasoning included which works just fine. Good Luck!

  10. victorjd says:

    I haven’t tried carrots(I have done crazy things like pork tenderloin and peppers), that’s a good tip, so simple! I will try it out in two weeks when I have my annual Big Boil.

  11. orion0194 says:

    Does shocking the bugs with ice cause them to go completely cold? I dont like cold ones.

  12. victorjd says:

    No. It will only drop the temperature a little bit, just enough to stop the cooking part. When you serve them they will still be really hot.

  13. Louise says:

    This will be my first crawfish boil & your site has been very helpful. I am doing about 20 lbs so is that about 2 batches in the 80 qt pot? How long a process is this going to be?

  14. victorjd says:

    2 10lb batches is kind of small for an 80 qt pot, so you need to make a few adjustment or do 1 20lb batch. If you go for the 2 smaller(what I recommend so you can make adjustments if needed) you will use less water and thus less spices. Also, your cook time will be faster because it won’t take long to bring the crawfish to a boil. For water you want just enough to cover all the ingredients when loaded up(if you come up short just add some more water when everything is in there, no harm). I would put 2.5-3lbs of spice to start(I like em spicy though). Then proceed as usual but keep an eye on that pot and make sure you don’t boil for more than 4 minutes. Other than that, you should be good.
    If you go for the 1 batch, add a lot of spice, 4-5 lbs, and then test them every couple of minutes during the soaking stage for the level of spice you require. It’s easier to have too much spice and then take them out than it is to add spice. Good Luck! let us know how it goes!

  15. T Morrell says:

    I’ve seen many recipes add butter or oil to help with the release of tail meat when the peeling and eating starts. What are your thoughts on this? We will be using your recipe today for sure. Very helpful website. Thanks.

  16. victorjd says:

    I’ve never done butter, but I’ve used vinegar to aid peeling with crabs though. It’s still early in the year so the shells won’t be too hard. My advice, don’t worry about it, you will be fine without either one. Good luck! Let us know how it goes.

  17. matt says:

    Crawfish turned out very well! I was surprised how easy this was. Seasoning was perfect.

    I ran into a small issue by using too small of a basket. 10 lbs of crawfish + sides is too much for a 30qt basket. They fit in the basket dry, but once they boil I guess they swell up and they started to overflow. Next time I’ll do a smaller batch or get a bigger basket.

    Thanks again!

  18. victorjd says:

    Good to here. A good rule is about 1-1.5 lbs per gallon capacity. So for a 60qt pot don’t do more than 22.5lbs, 80 qt 30lbs etc.

  19. Byron says:

    Well im going to have a boil this friday my first boil nothing to big something small like 6-8lbs. My question is about how much spice do you recomed for that small of a batch and what kind of side other than corn and red potatoes could i put in the pot.

  20. victorjd says:

    Mushrooms, garlic, broccoli, onions, etc. Try anything that is good spicy.

    For 6-8 lbs, it’s tough not knowing other variables like pot size,etc. but a good rule is .5-1 lb per gallon of water, with 1lb being really spicy. As I have mentioned before, a lot of the spiciness comes during the soaking phase, so just keep checking for desired spiciness and take them out when you are satisfied. Good Luck!

  21. MudBugNewbie says:

    Doing my first boil this weekend with 10 pounds of crawfish. Thank you for the great write-up! I have a couple questions. First, can you give an estimate for quantity of sides used with a 10 pound boil? What do you do to prepare the artichoke? And what about using fresh vs. frozen corn? Thanks!

  22. victorjd says:

    Corn, you want frozen precooked, the cold corn aids the cooling of the water.
    Qty, depends on how hungry your guest are, but just use what you would do when cooking any other dinner. I go about 1lb sausage to 8lbs crawfish. The other stuff I just eyeball it.
    Just cut the thorns off the artichoke and toss it in.
    Good Luck!

  23. john says:

    hey im getting 60lbs and have a 80qt cooker. can i break that down into two cooks?

  24. Brent says:

    Hey. I have everything for my boil in two day except for the spices. I couldn’t find anything but the 3oz box of Zatarain’s at the grocery store. Any help would be great!

  25. texasqueen says:

    How do you purge them?

  26. victorjd says:

    You can, but 30lb is gonna be close to the max I imagine (use less water to prevent boil over). If it were me I would do 3 batches of 20lbs, but don’t let that deter you(some people wanna spend less time cooking).

  27. victorjd says:

    Tough one, I have never made my own spice before. I would search for a recipe online, or check other store/seafood markets. Or shoot the guys at cajuncrawfish.com an email they are really nice and may give you their recipe for the spices. It will have cayenne, salt, allspice, red pepper I imagine. Good luck, post back your results it may help others, thanks

  28. victorjd says:

    Most crawfish you buy will be prepurged, this is the process of washing them in aerated water for a day. I don’t do that. My purging is not technically purging, but rather doing a rinse. To do this, on the day of the boil put them in a cooler, spread salt all over them, spray with water and let them soak until you are ready to cook them.

  29. Travis vB says:

    Life long resident of LA, and live in the NE now, so wanted to cross check a couple of things, and found this technique to be spot on. Only other thing I would add, I reuse the netting from a bag of onions to put the sides in for each batch and keep them on the top…so they aren’t floating around everywhere. …technique only.

  30. Si Robertson says:

    What’s that pot you use? When can I buy one? Thanks.

  31. victorjd says:

    I just added a page for equipment recommendations. Check it out, boit equipment recommendations.

  32. victorjd says:

    Travis, Thanks for the tip. I choose to mix the sides in because I just dump it all on a table and left everyone pick through the stuff. If you use buffet style serving this would work great!

  33. MarcW says:

    Thanks Victor for all the great tips. I live in Austin too, married a Cajun girl and am having my 3rd annual boil this weekend. I like to read as many techniques as I can to get prepped; this year we doubled the guests and doubled the crawfish (70lbs+). I’ve not tried the ice in the pot to shock them and allow to soak longer, but will try it. Initially I soaked for a short while then dusted them in a cooler, then last year I soaked a little longer and used some of the liquid boil to up the spice factor – it worked but the second batch was just a tad overdone (only I felt that but you KNOW how they should be).

    I did want to say to find the big sacks of spices, try a sporting goods store with a good BBQ/Camping section. I get mine from Academy every year. I’ve had great luck with Quality Seafood in town, getting tips from the guys at the store as well as the gloriously huge crawfish (and they really do purge them for you).

    My question is I’ve seen on a couple sites that folks like to boil the sausage separate, that the sausage can affect the taste of the crawfish. I’ve never experienced that before but since I’ve always boiled them together I wouldn’t know the difference. Have you ever heard of this or tried sans-sausage?

    FYI my boil consists of crawfish, little bit of shrimp, small red potatoes, corn, yellow onion, sack of pearl onions, garlic cloves, lemons, mushrooms, smoked sausage and artichokes; I always try a few new things so this year tossing in some green beans, cauliflower, okra, sweet potatoes and oranges. I have a 120qt pt and dual burner…it’ll all fit!

    Appreciate your guide, some really good tips. Happy Boiling!

  34. Nancy says:

    What is the diameter and height of your 80 qt pot? I borrowed a huge pot with a basket but there is no marking to indicate size and the owner can’t remember. Thanks! Also, do you eat the artichoke? What is your thought on using oranges instead of lemons?

  35. victorjd says:

    Thanks Marc for the info. I have also never tried the sans sausage approach so I can’t comment there, but it’s an interesting thought. Report back if you try it. Some good ideas for additional sides too (sweet potatoes, humm..); I may actually eat cauliflower now, gonna have to try that out.

  36. Nancy says:

    Did the boil yesterday and it was a success! Thanks for your instructions. No one ate the potatoes so I was wondering if I can just do without it next time? Someone did suggest using sweet potatoes instead and I might have to try that next time.

  37. Aaron says:

    Thanks a ton for this fantastic article!!

    Question…When is the best time to order live crawfish? I plan on my first family crawfish boil this saturday and wanted to have them delivered friday (the day before cooking). How do you keep them alive overnight? Or do you recommend Saturday delivery?

    Thanks again!!

  38. victorjd says:

    20.5″ dia, 16″ H.

    Eat the artichoke like you would a steamed one. Don’t bother adding it if you are not going to eat it. Oranges? Go for it!

  39. victorjd says:

    Were they not good or did you have a non-potatoe loving crowd? Potatoes don’t add much flavor, so next time buy fewer or none at all. Never done sweet potatoes, might be good might be weird, give it a shot and report back!

    -Derek

  40. victorjd says:

    I used to get them delivered Friday(sometimes I buy locally on Friday), just keep them in a cool place in original packaging and you should be fine. You may have fewer survivors, but it will hardly be noticeable, not worth the extra $$ for Saturday delivery IMO. Good luck!
    -Derek

  41. Angel says:

    I first tried it with a half a dozen I caught at the river boiled them for 5 min then I let them soak for 15 min but I did not put ice so when I cracked them open the meat was still greenish. I’m not sure what I did wrong..did I overcook them?

  42. Paul says:

    I am going to be doing my own bug boil for the first time and plan on using this recipe. I saw someone do something similar and now it’s my turn to fly solo…wish me luck!

  43. Ann says:

    Thinking of making crawfish boil 1st time with your instructions for Memorial Day. How do you keep them alive until Monday? Or is it better to buy it Sunday for a Monday boil?

  44. victorjd says:

    Get them Monday or Sunday if you can, but if you get them earlier just keep them on ice(ie cold), and make sure to add new ice. You may get more dead ones, but there should be ample live ones after 2-3 days.

  45. victorjd says:

    hmm, greenish is not an indicator of overcooking. Overcooked crawfish break apart easy and are hard to peel. The greenish I bet is just from not being purged.

  46. victorjd says:

    Good Luck! It’s not an exact science so if you make a few mistakes here and there just go with it, it will be fine!

  47. Kurt says:

    Thanks for the great write up. I lived in ATX for 10 years and have eaten my fair share, but never boiled my own. Going to give it a go for the wifey’s 30th on Memorial Day here in NorCal. Fortunately lacrawish.com ships Southwest freight, so we are getting them Sunday night… 40 lbs.

    I could use help with number of batches and amount of spice for a bunch of new crawfish eaters.

    I have a 50 qt pot, but the basket is only about 2/3 the size of the pot.

    Based on your comments above:
    - 50 qt = 12.5 gallons
    - Rule of 1.5 lbs (crawfish) * 12.5 gallons = ~ 19 lbs per batch max (2 batch minimum)
    - 3 batches or 40 lbs / 3 = ~13 lbs per batch might be safer

    Would you go two or three batches?

    Three seems safer, but three hours of cooking might be excessive.

    For spices, I see your rule of 0.5 – 1 lb spices per gallon water and 1/3 full of my 50 qt = 4 gallons = 2 lbs of spice min, 4 lbs of spice max.

    I’m thinking 3 lbs to split the difference and then dial in the taste with the soak time.

    Onions, potatoes, corn, and sausage as sides and some grilled hot dogs for the kids and crawfish adverse. I’ll report back!

  48. Andrew says:

    Awesome write-up!

  49. victorjd says:

    If it were me I would go 2 batches because of time, but if you are nervous just do 3, it will give you one extra chance to dial in your process if you have the time (just start earlier and make the first batch smaller than the 2nd and 3rd when more guest are around). 3lbs for a 50qt pot seems fine to me, you can always add more on the next batch and soak longer to spice it up. Good Luck! -Derek

  50. MarcW says:

    Wanted to comment on my experiments – green beans were great although I’d wait to throw in after off the burner to maintain some firmness. Cauliflower – put in too long and fell apart…plus I could taste the flavor in some of the potatoes (skip next year), okra soggy mess and apparently no one likes them but me (skip), sweet potatoes were a huge hit – next year nothing but mini reds and hunks of sweets; oranges didn’t add any distinct flavor will try again and throw in a couple late as the pulp cooks away quick. I will say my first boil with a 120 qt pot….more spices! First round was good; second round we dumped it in heavy was spicy perfection.
    Oh and I was too chicken to try cooking the sausage seperate…think it adds to the flavor too much. Next year’s boil is moving to Portland, OR (we’re moving) we shall see how that goes!

  51. victorjd says:

    Thanks for the update Mark, gonna definitely try some sweet potatoes next time. Part of me thinks the sausage adds a little fat to the water and really adds to the “sucking the head” experience, if you are in to that kinda thing. Good Luck in OR, that place is amazing (I go at least once a year).

  52. spencer Turpin says:

    I use a laundry garmet basket to hold all the corn, sausage, mushrooms, celery, potatoes, etc. This keeps all items together and holds up well in the boiling process.

  53. Sean B says:

    I am hosting my first ever crawfish boil in a couple of weeks. It is for my LSU grad school and we are hosting about 50 people. We are going with about 3 lbs. per person, so 150 lbs. of crawfish. I know I can’t boil them all at the same time. How can I keep them warm while I am cooking the rest?

  54. victorjd says:

    You can store them in coolers if you cook them all before they are consumed. They will stay warm for a while if all you have is a plastic bin to store them as well. I always go from pot to table and just cook during the event, I am not organized enough to do everything up front. Good Luck!

  55. Jill says:

    Great article!
    Question: We want to keep vegetables/corn/potatoes separate and don’t want to add crawfish on top. Whats the recipe or length of time for just the sides??

    Thanks!

  56. victorjd says:

    Potatoes take the longest, so you need to boil for at least 20 minutes. Just test the potatoes every so often after 15-20min, when the potatoes are ready you can pull them. Warning, a lot of the side may not be as tasty all the way through because you are not letting them soak. If you have an extra pot for just sides, then boil for 20, and let soak for 15-20. You can add the corn after you stop the boil because it’s already cooked.

  57. Mark says:

    where do you find precooked frozen corn

  58. victorjd says:

    Any supermarket in the frozen veggie section. I get mine in bags at Fiesta Mart.


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