Seafood Boils Are Messier Than You Might Expect

The concept of a seafood boil often evokes a picture of the perfect summer day. There are friends, sunshine, canoeing on the lake, fishing on the bayou, lots of chilled Pinot Grigio and lager, and a feast that has been literally dumped onto a newspaper-covered picnic table, with dishes of drawn butter and wedges of lemon close by for enjoying the quintessential summer feast. Dinner at the Zoo describes a classic seafood boil as consisting of a variety of fish or shellfish like shrimp, crawfish (aka crayfish or crawdads), crab, lobster, oysters, and clams all boiled together in a flavorful, spicy broth. Sausage, corn on the cob, and potatoes are often included, producing a full, well-rounded meal. Part of what makes a seafood boil unique and special is that it's meant to be enjoyed communally, with lots of people and (very often) without individual dishes or utensils, except for maybe shellfish crackers.

While the idea sounds delicious and fun (and it is), actually taking part in a seafood boil may not turn out to be as romantic as it looks in magazines and summer Hallmark movies. In reality, adults chowing down with their bare hands is a bit like babies eating in their high chairs: It can get messy and loud. It's probably not the best choice for a first date or a job interview dinner. If you love seafood, you'll probably enjoy it very much, but go into the experience knowing you're about to look and feel a bit barbaric.

Making a mess

There is no shortage of meals that are considered messy. Spoon University lists spaghetti, saucy ribs, buffalo wings, and Sloppy Joes among the dishes that will leave you reaching for multiple napkins. But they have nothing on the seafood boil. Food & Wine lists several tips for making crawfish boils (a type of seafood boil that includes lots of crawfish) a little easier to master, including wearing dark clothes and pulling your hair back because cracking into shellfish the wrong way — and even sometimes the right way — can lead to jets of juice spraying on anything in the immediate area, i.e. you. Remember, too, that all of the ingredients will likely be covered in bright orange, spicy seafood seasoning, so definitely don't rub your eyes.

You will get corn in your teeth and make a lot of noise doing that, but don't worry, the sounds of you crunching on the cob will be overshadowed by the rest of the cracking, crunching, and slurping going on all around the table. When you've eaten your fill of sea creatures and summer vegetables, your hands, face, and nails will be sufficiently caked in seasoning, shellfish residue, and potato peels. If this doesn't scare you away, you're not alone. The taste and spirit of a seafood boil is usually worth all the mess it involves. Now, take off your bib and go wash your hands. Or better yet, just go jump in the lake to rinse off.