Inside a Louisiana Style Crawfish Boil
Crawfishin’ it’s a Cajun thing
The Cajun people have made a name for themselves in recent years. For a long time, Louisiana, thanks to Cajun and other creole cuisines, has developed its reputation for being home to some of the most flavorful food in America. Chefs from all around come to south Louisiana to learn new techniques while food-lovers from all 50 states and beyond come to marvel in the foods served in Louisiana.
It is spring time, and crawfish season is in our midst. Since the 1970s, the crawfish have become a staple table food for Louisianans. Served in a variety of dishes ranging from rice, gumbos, pies, omelettes and anything else a Cajun cook will conjure up; however, crawfish are most commonly linked to the Louisiana crawfish boil.
A Louisiana crawfish boil is exactly what it sounds like. Basically just boiling crawfish in a large pot. In this article, I am going to show you how to boil crawfish Louisiana style, but also give you a background on how they make it to the table. The Louisiana style way to boil crawfish is not all that complicated, but it is an interesting cultural aspect of Louisiana society. That is the reason that I placed it on the list of things to do in Louisiana.
Before explaining and showing you how to boil crawfish Louisiana style, I should first backtrack and tell you a little about where it all begins. I will start by showing you a few images of a typical crawfish farm that I took recently.
This is the typical look of a Louisiana crawfish farm. Crawfish farms are rice ponds. Those red topped things are traps that look like this.
Crawfish find their way into one of these traps and cannot easily escape.
A boat like this drives through the shallow muddy pond and picks up the crawfish traps. The driver, drives the boat, picks up the trap, empties the crawfish, re-baits the trap, and finally replaces the trap in the pond. They do this all in just a few seconds. Needless to say, they are good at what they do.
Crawfish are poured onto a grater like this. The little crawfish fall through back to the water while the larger ones are kept for bagging.
From the grater, crawfish are bagged in sacs like this. The sacs are then stacked gently and the live crawfish will soon be transported to the market. Then, eventually they are sent to restaurants and/or vendors for consumption or resale. Crawfish are not particularly cheap. The price of crawfish is usually for about $3-4.00/lb for live crawfish and cooked crawfish will usually go for $15-20/3-lbs.
A crawfish boil
I will make a few assumptions here. (1) You already have the crawfish. (2) You already have seasoning and boiling equipment. (3) You know that this article is for entertainment purposes only and every Cajun family has their own recipe for these little Louisiana mudbugs!
Step 1: The Purging process. Place the crawfish in a bucket and fill it with water. Once the bucket is filled, you should add salt. Not too much, but a few tablespoons will be a good start depending on the size of the bucket. This process may be repeated 1-3 times until the crawfish have been cleaned (or the water is clean). This step is important because crawfish can be typically very dirty as they live in the mud.
Step 2: Begin heating the water. While crawfish are purging, families will often boil the water and cook the additional foods such as potatoes, sausage, onions, mushrooms, and corn in the same water. Spices are added during this time directly to the boiling water. Spices should be added liberally depending on spice-tolerance of the people eating. Louisiana style crawfish are typically served spicy as with most Louisiana cuisine. Once the other foods are cooked you can removed them with the basket and place them in another container, such as a pot, until they are ready to be eaten. In this stage and the following, remember that the boiling water will be extremely hot, use extreme caution when working this the equipment
Step 3: Boil the crawfish. Once the other foods have been cooked, it is now time to cook the crawfish. Louisiana style crawfish are best boiled for 3-5 minutes. Typically, it is best to try one or two before taking all of them out and leave the other crawfish boiling (you have to let them cool though as those critters get hot).
Step 4: Enjoy the fruits of your labor!
A few tips:
- Crawfish are best shared with good company.
- One way that a cook tells when the water is boiling is when white smoke arises from the boiler.
- Clearly there are a few intermediary steps, I just wanted to give you an idea of how a crawfish boil actually works. If you’d like to know more, please don’t hesitate to contact me.
- Crawfish smell really bad the days following a crawfish boil. Therefore, it is best to use a double bags and take them to a dumpster or trashcan somewhere whenever you finish eating. An easy way to do this is to put plastic bags over the table then old newspapers on top. When you finish, just bundle them up and throw them into another trash bag.
- Crawfish are extremely hot when fresh off the boiler, wait a few minutes before eating.
Here is a video of a Louisiana Style Crawfish boil that I made recently:
Hope you enjoyed this sharing of Louisiana culture through food!