That up there is Chad Sour. He's from Louisiana, but he lives in Dallas, and every year he throws a crawfish boil in his backyard. Because I want to eat more crawfish off of more folding tables, I asked him to walk us through How to Throw a Backyard Crawfish Boil. Read along and throw one yourself, and don't forget to invite me.
Gear up If you're gonna do a boil, you've gotta get the right gear. That means a boiling pot/boil basket, burner, propane tank and a few other goodies. I use an 80-quart pot paired with a double burner, both from Bayou Classic. The set-up is probably a bit overkill. A smaller pot with a single burner would do just fine, but this gets the water boiling insanely fast. It also sounds like a Harrier Jet is about to take off from my back patio.
Sack up Now that you've got your gear, give your local fish purveyor a shout and order a sack of live Louisiana crawfish. A sack is anywhere between 30 and 40 pounds of crawfish - it's the only way to order if you're doing a big boil. TJ's does a solid job of sending out a weekly email with per pound prices that week. Also, I spoke with the guys over at Amberjax a few weeks ago, and it sounds like they'll have some pretty competitive pricing now that they are up and running in Trinity Groves.
Clean 'em Up Dump the mudbugs into a big cooler and fill it with water. At this point, some people "purge" them. Yep, they dump a shit-ton of salt into the water, which theoretically makes the little fuckers throw-up all their impurities. But a study came out last week from Louisiana State University saying all this purging business was bullshit. Up to you, but I purge 'em. I fill and empty the cooler with water three or four times just to get 'em clean.
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Spice It Up After you're done screwing with the crawfish to see if they'll pinch you (they will), it's time to get the boil started. Fill the pot about two-thirds of the way with water and get it going it on the burner.
This is where intelligent people disagree. Everyone has their own special boil recipe, and everyone thinks theirs is the best. I lay the base with a combo of Zatarain's crab boil and cayenne pepper. From there, I layer on some citrus (lemons and oranges), and then just start throwing shit in the pot: garlic, mushrooms, onions, celery, corn, potatoes, and whatever else looks good to you. I like to let 'em boil for about five minutes, and then kill the burner and let 'em soak for 30 minutes. If you want to toss some shrimp in there, do it 10 minutes before you pull the basket.
Set Up The rule of thumb for setting up the perfect boil is to keep it simple. Since your priorities are in order, start with a huge bucket, and ice down a shit-ton of beer. Set up a table and cover it with as many issues of the Dallas Observer as you can find (remember to check the litter box). Make sure you've got a huge trashcan on either end for the tails. If you want to go "fancy," grab some plywood, cut a big hole in the middle, jack it with some saw horses and put the trashcan under the hole. It'll save you tons of time on clean-up. Oh, and don't forget several rolls of paper towels -- you'll need 'em.
Eat Up Dump the deliciousness straight from the boiling pot onto the table, and it's go time. Pick the biggest and best crawfish you can find and get down to business: Grab 'em just below the head, twist and pull the tail off and discard the head. On the tail, you'll see little ripples -- get your thumb up under the first two or three and peel it out and round, over the top of the tail. Grab the meat and with your other hand pinch it out from the rest of the tail. Repeat. The quicker, the better, cause that shit'll go fast, and it's first-come-first-served.