Crawfish boils are just one of several events one encounters throughout the American South that are as much social as gustatory in nature. They are often the centerpiece of a larger social event, such as an Independence Day celebration. The mechanics of a crawfish boil are simple, yet many cooks spend a lifetime perfecting their art.
Vegetables in a crawfish boil vary by region and by cook. Standards are corn on the cob cut into sections, small red potatoes, and garlic cloves. Other popular vegetables are onions, lemons, celery, mushrooms, artichokes, and green beans. Sausage is also a popular ingredient at a crawfish boil, but it’s preferable to cook it separately, to keep the grease from coating the other ingredients. The seasoning also varies, and often includes commercially prepared crab or shrimp boil seasoning.
One key to a successful crawfish boil is the timing. The vegetables should be cooked until soft, but not falling apart, while the crawfish, which only need 5 to 10 minutes, tend to get tough when overdone. Thus, the vegetables should be not quite done when the crawfish are added.
When the crawfish are ready, all the ingredients are thoroughly drained and dumped on a large table, usually covered with newspapers. If sausage has been prepared, it is added to the mix. Guests serve themselves.