Attending a traditional crawfish boil is one of the greatest summertime joys. The only better experience is hosting your own crawfish boil. While easier said than done, crawfish boil hosts will find the process to be pretty simple. In fact, one of the more difficult aspects of hosting is knowing how much crawfish to buy and where to get it.
Picking Your Product
If you’re hosting a crawfish boil, you’ll want crustaceans that are fresh, alive, and clean. Try to avoid crawfish caked in mud as much as possible, as you’ll end up paying more for dirt than meat. Crawfish orders often come in several grades: value, select, and premium. When possible avoid value grade, which can be branded as “mixed catch.” These orders will often include more mud, and the crawfish sizes will be mixed, leading to uneven cooking.
If you’re preparing for a crawfish boil, choose select or premium grade. The crawfish in these orders are larger and often cleaner.
In the time between getting the crawfish and serving them, you’ll want to keep the little guys alive. Make sure you have a spray bottle, a large cooler, and several ice packs or bags in order to keep the order nice and cool. Be sure to maintain an internal cooler temperature of between 36 and 46 degrees Fahrenheit, and leave the lid cracked to the crawfish can breathe. Remember to never store or soak your crawfish sacks in water.
How Much Crawfish Should You Buy?
Crawfish is often available by the pound rather than by the number of animals in a given order. The crustaceans have a 15-20% meat yield, around the same as a lobster. A good rule of thumb is to buy between 3 and 5 pounds per person. Remember that beginners tend to eat fewer crawfish than more experienced eaters – it can take a while to get used to accessing the meat.
From there, it’s easy to figure out how much product to buy. Simply multiply the number of people coming to your party by the number of pounds you plan to serve per person. If you’re planning to add the traditional potato, sausage, and corn, you can probably go a bit lighter on the crawfish. That said, it’s better to have leftovers than to leave people wanting more, so add a few pounds to the top of your order just in case.
Buying Locally vs. Online
Most people know Louisiana as the center of the crawfish industry, but several states can produce a mean crustacean. That said, there are benefits and disadvantages to buying locally and online.
If you choose to buy your crawfish locally – say, at the dock, or maybe at a fish market – you’ll be able to see the product before you buy. This is a great advantage, as you can determine how big and clean the crawfish are before putting money on the table. If you get the opportunity, be sure to ask your seller how long ago the crawfish were caught. These crustaceans can live for up to seven days if their metabolism is slowed by cooling, but there should ideally be only two to three days from the farm to the customer’s table.
Unfortunately, not everybody lives close enough to crawfish farms to buy locally. But ordering live crawfish online is easier today than ever before. There are several crawfish farmers and retailers in Louisiana, Texas, and elsewhere who will pack and ship your product overnight. This is a great option for those living in northern states who might not have access to fresh crawfish and whose fish markets don’t often carry the southern delicacy. The downsides? You won’t be able to inspect the product before you buy, and you’ll often pay a relatively hefty shipping price. That said, nearly universal access to fresh crawfish is never a bad thing!