My family is a “gathering” bunch. When I think back on happy memories we’ve made together there is usually a seafood boil at the center of that day. We love an excuse to get together, whether there is a holiday or not. A seafood boil is a delicious summer tradition.
Roll out the newspaper and prepare to enjoy a family feast that will inevitably become your tradition too.
What is a seafood boil?
Depending on the area of the country, seafood boils vary in ingredients. In the northern states they will use more shellfish like clams and oysters. I am more partial to the southern “low-country boil” version as these are the flavors I grew up around. I love the smoky and sage flavors of sausage with the spicy nuances of old bay, slow cooked with shrimp and crab and vegetables.
Let’s get cooking
Seafood Boil Supplies & Equipment:
What do you need to begin this culinary adventure? Let’s start with the basics. Depending if you want to cook inside or outside and how many people you are going to be serving, these can increase or decrease. I am going to do this recipe for a group of 8-10 adults and serving needs for the same. We always have some left over, but that’s just an added bonus.
- Sea Food Boil Pot- look into acquiring a large pot with a boil basket. This is the easiest way to serve the group when all is said and done. For this size group I like a 30-44 quart pot. We like to spend the day outside so we use an outdoor burner, but you can also cook this on the stove.
- Cracker and Pickers- if you choose to do crab is your seafood boil (which I highly recommend), you will need to make sure you have the proper tools to break the claws and such and remove the delectable meaty goodness.
- Corn on the cob holders are great for this experience since there are minimal utensils.
- Newspaper or grease resistant paper- The traditional way to serve this is to dump it all out in a pile for everyone to enjoy. This “family style” way of eating is incredibly social and really brings everyone together. It may be my favorite part of the whole experience.
- Seafood Boil Condiments- Hot sauces (Louisiana hot sauce is perfectly matched for this), melted butter, cocktail sauce, sour cream for the potatoes and malted vinegars are the basics. You may like something more than this, but these condiments will cover the majority of your guests’ needs
- Paper towels, plastic garbage bags, bibs, rain panchos- ok maybe not rain panchos, but this is traditionally eaten with hands so things can get pretty messy. Make sure this isn’t taking place on your great grandmother’s heirloom table or in your favorite sundress. We use basic black trash bags for added protection.
Easy Seafood Boil Recipe
A great part of this feast is that is they make it super easy to prepare this dish. You can mix up your own spice recipe for a shrimp or seafood boil, but I am perfectly fine with keeping it simple with Old Bay. Even if all you have is a small grocery store, there is usually a “crab and shrimp boil” seasoning pack. Here’s the way my sister hooks it up at our house.
Total Prep Time: 45 Mins Total Cook Time: 20 mins (depending on seafood variety)
Seafood Boil Ingredients:
- 2-4 Crabs per person, we use blue crab and snow crab. Snow crab is easier to crack than blue so keep this in mind with guests that may not be as experienced with the process.
- 2lbs- small red potatoes, we use the ones that come in the netted bag, bite sized and delicious.
- 8-10 ears of sweet corn, fresh
- 2 large onions chopped into quarters or eighths (depending on the size and shape of onions)
- 2-14oz packs of sausages, we like spicy sausages in our family, kielbasa and andouille are the best.
- 1 lb shrimp, fresh or frozen, we use already peeled and deveined shrimp.
- 3 Whole lemons, 2 lemons halved for the boil and the remaining lemon sliced for post cooking
- 1/2 cup of old bay seasoning for every gallon of water used
- 4 tbsp. salt for every gallon of water
Seafood Boil Directions:
Bring water to boil with seasonings. Once the water is a rolling boil, add in the the onion slices and the potatoes. You will allow these to cook for about 6 minutes before adding the corn, sausages, and crabs.
After 10 minutes remove the crab, place in pan to keep warm, if the crab gets over cooked it will be tough and watery, therefore, in the event you need to keep the seafood boil cooking, the crab meat won’t suffer. Shrimp should be added in at the 10 minute mark.
- boil water
- cook potatoes and onions for the first 6 minutes
- add everything but shrimp
- at 10 minutes add shrimp NOTE: Medium to large shrimp usually take 5-7 minutes to cook from frozen, less time is needed to cook from fresh, 2-3 minutes if fresh
- total cook time should be around 16-20 minutes at rolling boil
Once everything is fully cooked, remove from water. Since we have many families involved in our gatherings, we like to add the spice to taste after cooking. One side of the family loves to have the old bay thick like a crust, the other prefers theirs more mild like how it come straight out of the pot.
Incorporating your favorite combinations will make this seafood boil your own. This is a great tradition to start in your family.
Other Seafood Boil Options
When it comes to the seafood portion of this boil you can looks into these other seafood options with cook times:
- Crawfish- 15 minutes from fresh
- Oysters- 5-10 minutes depending on how “done” you like them
- Clams- 5-10 minutes until the shells open, any unopened shells should be discarded
- Scallops- 3-8 minutes depending on the size. You want them white, opaque, and firm yet springy in the center
- Mussels- 3-6 minutes until the shells open, any unopened shells should be discarded
- Lobster- 8-12 minutes until shell is bright red.
- Consuming raw or undercooked meats, poultry, seafood, shellfish or eggs may increase your risk of foodborne illness. Be sure that you check that the internal temp has reached a safe level for serving.
After a few minutes, roll out the newspaper and pour out the deliciousness. Set up the condiments with ramekins so everyone can choose their favorites to dip into. If you don’t have a large gathering table for everyone to sit around, then you may need to allow for plating. There are some delicious libations to compliment the event as well.
Bring the drinks!
I love a good pairing to any party. No matter what your style of drink is, there is a beverage to compliment this exciting event. Being that the flavors are robust and spicy, delicate or zesty fruits are the perfect addition.
This event works best with these three beer recommendations.
- IPA- zesty, florally, refreshing with a hoppy bite. You don’t want to go higher than a single IPA as opposed to a double IPA.
- A pilsner- Crisp, effervescent, mild. This has a clean finish that will compliment the spices of the old bay seasoning.
- Shandy- this lemon beer is light and flavorful and a perfect compliment to seafood.
I always prefer my seafood with a white wine. However, there are some reds that can compliment a seafood boil because of the spices. Here are my recommendations for the flavors found in this dish.
- White- Sauvignon Blanc- New Zealand sauvignons are fantastic and well known for their crispness and citrus notes.
- White- Vouvray Demi-Sec AOC- this french wine is perfect with its medium dryness
- Red- Syrah/Zinfandel blend- medium bodied red that is slightly sweet to compliment the spices
Basil Lemonade- 5 leaves of fresh basil 32oz fresh sweetened lemonade Basil and lemon are very complimentary of the flavor profile found in a seafood boil. This is a different twist on adding mint to lemonade. Give this a shot at your next gathering!
I may sound like a broken record, but ginger beer is the best non-alcoholic in my opinion right now. The bubbles and zest with a slice of fresh lime will excite the palate of any of your seafood boil guests.
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Kim’s is the party planning, cupcake loving, celebration catalyst behind the Thrifty Little Mom Blog. Kim was a pro event planner for over 7 years before she became a full-time blogger. Kim is the author of: Live, Save, Spend, Repeat: The Life You Want with the Money You Have. She’s been featured on Time.com, Money.com, Good Housekeeping, Women’s Day and more! Kim aims to inspire you to create parties, celebrations and gatherings that everyone loves!