How To Eat Boiled Crawfish

Peel, pinch, suck, repeat.

Winter ushers in Louisiana's ever-anticipated crawfish season, and these crustaceans just get bigger and better as spring inches along. Crawfish restaurants open their doors around mid-February, and lines of cars sit in drive-thru lines to haul brown paper bags of boiled mudbugs home.

Crawfish (aka crayfish or crawdads) may be messy, but that doesn't stop people from peeling them at engagement parties, Easter, and other celebrations. And no amount of crawfish juices and organs should stop you from peeling them, either! But let's not get ahead of ourselves. You have a more pressing concern: how to eat crawfish. Here's everything you need to know.

Where To Find Crawfish

Louisiana accounts for more than 90 percent of the crawfish harvested each year. These freshwater crustaceans thrive in the state's bayous, swamps, ponds, and rice fields. In some areas, you'll even spot them in muddy ditches. A handful of other Southern states harvest crawfish, such as neighboring Texas and Mississippi.

In Nordic countries, the crayfish parties mark the end of summer; this Swedish tradition dates back to the 1500s. And in China and Vietnam, the market for crawfish has boomed in recent years.

If you live outside of these regions, you can order live crawfish or boiled crawfish from vendors like Louisiana Crawfish Company. If you're lucky, you may even find a restaurant in your area where you can eat them freshly boiled.

Which Part of the Crawfish Do You Eat?

You'll find succulent, subtly sweet crawfish meat in the tails, plus a small amount in the claws. Many crawfish enthusiasts, however, can't resist the heads. The heads contain a flavorful yellow goop that people confuse for fat. It's actually an organ — the crawfish equivalent of a liver, essentially. It often spills out onto the crawfish tails when you're peeling, but no need to remove it. Think of it as sauce!

You do want to devein crawfish, though. Removing the thin black lines from the tails isn't as tedious as it sounds. You won't have to do this with every crawfish, as it usually slides off with the shell.

How To Peel Boiled Crawfish, Step by Step

The Tail

  1. Grab the crawfish head in one hand and the tail in the other. Holding the tail at the center (the thickest part) makes removing it easier.
  2. Twist the head and tail in opposite directions as you pull the apart.
  3. Use your thumbs to peel a few segments of the shell from the tail, starting on the end that was connected to the head.
  4. Use one hand to pinch the fan-shaped part of the tail at the other end, and pull the meat out from the shell with the other hand.
  5. Eat the tail meat, and (if you're feeling bold) suck the head to get every last bit of flavor.

The Claws

  1. Use one hand to pinch the crusher, the larger part of the claw.
  2. With the other hand, bend the pincher (the smaller, movable part of the claw) back and forth until it snaps off.
  3. Gently repeat the bending motion to pull the meat out of the socket.
  4. Bite the the base of the claw with your front teeth, then pull the claw away so that your teeth scrape the meat off the cartilage.

Crawfish Cleanup

People who eat crawfish on the regular don't mind the mess, but first-timers can always turn to food-safe gloves to keep their hands clean.

By the time you finish eating boiled crawfish, seasoning will coat your fingers and the juices will drip down your hands. Your skin may feel irritated, but that will subside when you wash your hands.

The crawfish smell, on the other hand, lingers after washing your hands. Rubbing a sliced lemon on your hands helps get rid of the scent, though you may get a whiff of crawfish until you shower. Embrace it!

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