Boiled Crawfish


This is the ultimate cajun cookout.  It is as much an event and a social gathering as it is a meal.  You have to have live crawfish.  So you can only have a crawfish boil when they are in season.  With the commercial ponds, the season runs from late winter to early summer.  Never boil frozen crawfish.  When we have a crawfish boil, we usually figure 5-7 pounds live crawfish per adult (heavy eater).  Crawfish are almost always sold in old onion sacks, which hold about 35 pounds of crawfish.  So we usually cook 2 or 3 sacks for a medium sized group. 

boiling crawfish outdoors
Boiling crawfish  under a shady oak tree
at my sister's on Bayou Little Teche.


  • live crawfish, 1 sack, approx. 35 lbs
  • Zatarain's Shrimp/Crab Boil, liquid (4 oz) or dry (8 sacks)
  • salt, two 26 oz box
  • cayenne pepper, 8 oz
  • lemons, 6 cut in half
  • margarine, 1 stick (optional)
  • small new potatoes, whole (optional)
  • onion, whole (optional)
  • corn on the cob pieces (optional)
  • smoked sausage, whole link (optional)
  • cocktail sauce fixings: ketchup, Tabasco hot sauce, mayonnaise, horse radish, cajun seasoning mix (homemade, Chachere's or Zatarain's)

Equipment Needed:

  • 60-80 quart boiling pot, with a strainer insert (if you do not have a pot with a strainer insert, boiling crawfish is a pain in the rear - so purchase or borrow one)
  • 40 to 60 quart boiling pot with stainer insert boiling pot with strainer insert
  • propane burner with large jet orifice, and adjustable high pressure gas regulator
  • propane tank and burner propane tank and burner

    insert shows intensity of flame needed.

  • table covered with newspaper
You can buy 'em or you can catch 'em

My sister's constructed crawfish pond
It is about 12-18 inches deep and planted with rice. 
The traps are set amongst the rice stubble.

Running the crawfish traps
That's Grandpa pulling the grand kids in a jon boat 
as Mr. T-Boy Miller runs the wire traps.

Wire trap set in pond

Wire funnel trap with crawfish

Preparing Crawfish

  • Dump live crawfish into a large wash tub
  • live crawfish being washed
  • Wash crawfish with jet of water while filling tub with water.
  • With a paddle, gently stir/turn crawfish, picking out dead crawfish, trash, bait, small fish, etc. as you stir.
  • When I was young, we would pour salt on the crawfish to make them spit up, supposedly to purge their system.  As it turns out salt really did not "purge" the crawfish, so that practice is not done anymore.
  • Pour  crawfish into strainer insert of pot.
Boiling Crawfish:
Grandpa, Jackson, Ace (the black lab) and Bailey (the yellow lab) about ready to boil crawfish.
  • With the pot on the burner, fill pot with enough water so that when the crawfish are added the water level is a couple of inches below the top.  Usually this is about half the pot.
  • Turn on the burner full blast.  And I mean full blast.  You need a burner and regulator that throws a fire over the pots entire base, with the flame licking up the side.  It needs to be hot enough to bring the pot to a rolling boil in about 15 minutes.
  • Add seasoning: (add the following as the water is heating)
    • Zatarain's Shrimp/Crab Boil - 4 oz  if you use the liquid type (add to liquid), or 8 sacks if you use the dry sack type (be careful not to break the bags during cooking). 
    • salt, two 26 oz boxes (that's right - 2 whole boxes!)
    • cayenne pepper, 8 oz (yea that's right - a half pound of pepper!)
    • lemons, 6 cut in half
    • margarine, 1 stick (optional) - some feel it makes the crawfish peel easier, but I wonder if it helps


      Seasonings and 
      some extras

      It's a buffet in one pot!
      (crawfish in the strainer, and on top: sausage, corn-on-the-cobb, onion,  lemon, new red potatoes)

      Optional things to cook with the crawfish - Add any or all, at your preference.

    • small new red potatoes, whole - they are great to eat with the crawfish
    • onion, whole - some like to eat with the crawfish (but not me!)
    • corn-on-the-cob - they are great to eat with the crawfish
    • smoked sausage, whole - This is a treat if you like spicy food.  The sausage link gets big and plumb, and is highly seasoned.  Feel your blood pressure rise with every bit!
  • Boil Crawfish: once the water comes to a rolling boil
    • Add the strainer insert with live crawfish to the boiling water.  That's right - add them alive.  Don't worry, they die instantly.  The water will cool and stop boiling.  Cover pot.
    • Turn the burner/regulator up full blast to bring the water back to a rolling boil as fast as  possible.
    • Boil 13 minutes: Once the water starts a rolling boil again, boil 13 minutes.  Regulate the burner so the rolling boil is maintained, but where the pot does not boil over.
    • Soak 13 minutes: Turn the burner off, keep the pot covered, and let the crawfish soak for 13 minutes.
  • Remove the strainer  from the water, and rest it on the top of the pot using two boards laid on the top of the pot as a rack.  Let the crawfish drain.

  • Remove strainer

    Drain boiled crawfish in strainer
  • You can boil 2 or 3 batches of crawfish in the same water/seasoning mixture.  Sometimes I add more seasoning for the 3rd boil.
  • Cover a table with newspaper.
  • Pour the crawfish along the length of the table.
    a table full of crawfish
    Enjoying a table of boiled crawfish in the backyard.
    A student crawfish boil at the Reed's
    courtesy of Dr. Vandrovec (center).
  • If you like more spice, sprinkle cajun seasoning mix (homemade, Chachere's or Zatarain's) on top of the crawfish on the table.
  • Have ketchup, Tabasco hot sauce, mayonnaise and horse radish available for people to make their own dipping sauce. 
  • Eat until your heart's content.  Don't forget the fat inside the head, and remember to take out that black thing down the middle of the tail.  Go to the crawfishguy site for how to peel diagrams.
©David Wm. Reed