It's time to get your boil on now that you've got the gear. You will receive lots of advice from friends, neighbors, your in-laws and anyone else who thinks that they know what they're doing.
Boiling crawfish is just like any other form of Louisiana cooking. It's equal parts recipe, experience and winging it. This post covers a foundational recipe and approach for a great boil. This strategy has been tested and approved by hungry Jazz Fest mobs, so you know it works. Make calculated adjustments at your own risk.
One last thing before we dive into the how. Do not under estimate your where. Location is key, particularly when boiling mass quantities, since having what you need within arm's reach will reduce stress and work. You'll need access to a hose pipe and a drain/crawfish water disposal area. Shade is also nice to have so that you and the posse can dine in comfort.
Let's do this.
Make sure the burner is set up on a stable surface, and by stable surface, I mean not directly on your yard. Use patio stones to level the burner feet if you must set up on grass. Better safe than pregnant, friends.
BOILING WATER You need to start boiling your water roughly an hour before you plan to serve the first batch. Assuming that you're using a 60 to 80 quart pot, fill it just behind the halfway point with the basket in the pot. Add a container of salt, and fire up the burner on full blast. You could add the rest of the spices now, but I prefer to get the water rolling first since it takes so long. Pro Tip: add the potatoes to the pot once the water is at a rolling boil and you've added the seasoning.
While we're talking about seasoning, you can throw anything in the pot that you think will result in a flavor that you're looking for. The seasonings listed in the recipe below are a meant to provide a quick start. It is by no means exhaustive. I encourage you to experiment with a small batch (one to two pounds) on your stove top to find the spice combinations that you like.
You don't need to do much aside from a bit of chopping and some light washing. You're about to cook and eat animals that live in ditches. I mean how clean do your veggies need to be?
PURGING CRAWFISH Most of the crawfish you're going to eat come from the Atchafalaya spillway or crawfish farms in Louisiana, which are flooded rice fields in Acadiana. In either case, crawfish grow up in muddy water eating you-don't-want-to-know-what. So, it's important to purge the crawfish (get them to poo) before you boil them since you don't want that poo floating around in your pot.
Dump one sack of crawfish into a wash tub and fill it with enough water so that the crawfish are able to move around. Add one container of salt and use your paddle to stir it up. Give the crawfish about 20 minutes to do their business, but don't leave them soaking too long or the salt water will kill them.
Pour off the excess salt water and then dump the purged crawdads into the boiling basket (that you've removed from pot if you chose to pre-boil the potatoes). Ideally you've timed things so that you are taking the crawfish straight from the purge and putting them straight into the pot.
BOIL THEM SUCKERS Gently place the boiling basket back into the pot. Once your cauldron has returned to a rolling boil, let it continue for five minutes and then extinguish the burner. Add corn, mushrooms and any other short cook time items, including hot dogs and sausage, to the pot now and stir well. You may also want to add citric acid via fresh squeezed lemons to help set the flavor. Another alternative is to add ice to the pot to quickly cool and shrink the crawfish tails, which results in the tail soaking up more seasoning. Do not allow the crawfish to soak too long as they will overcook and disintegrate when you attempt to peel them.
SERVING Extracting the boiling basket from the pot is the most dangerous part of the boil. Get a buddy to help you as it will be tough to look like He-man with 40-plus quarts of 200 degree water washing over your tootsies. Carefully support the basket on the top of the pot, allowing the spicy bathwater to trickle back into the pot.
Dump the crawfish on to your newspaper covered serving table (an old closet door atop two sawhorses works really well) by tipping the open side of the basket on to the table and carefully rolling the basket down the span, allowing crawfish to pour out along the way.
EQUIPMENT Boiling Rig, a.k.a. a burner and pot Propane tank Assorted other gear A large container (10 - 20 gallon) for purging the crawfish Newspaper Beer flats Serving table
CRAWFISH BOILING RECIPE (for ~35 pounds of crawfish)
3 containers of iodized Salt 1 cup Zatarains Liquid Crab Boil 2 cups ground Cayenne Pepper
A couple pounds small red potatoes A couple pieces corn on the cob
10 Lemons, halved
Other Stuff: Artichokes, Cauliflower, hot dogs, pickles, carrots, anything green in the produce section of the grocery store and anything else you think would taste great.
Keep the Houston Press Free... Since we started the Houston Press, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Houston, and we would like to keep it that way. Offering our readers free access to incisive coverage of local news, food and culture. Producing stories on everything from political scandals to the hottest new bands, with gutsy reporting, stylish writing, and staffers who've won everything from the Society of Professional Journalists' Sigma Delta Chi feature-writing award to the Casey Medal for Meritorious Journalism. But with local journalism's existence under siege and advertising revenue setbacks having a larger impact, it is important now more than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" membership program, allowing us to keep covering Houston with no paywalls.