How To Crack And Peel Crawfish At Your Next Crawfish Boil

Hosting a crawfish boil is a great way to gather friends and family for a good time! A large pot of seasoned broth, potatoes, corn on the cob, and crawfish are the only ingredients you need to enjoy an afternoon of good eating and socializing. Whether you're cooking up a pot of mudbugs in your backyard or pulling on a plastic bib at a seafood restaurant, we have a few tips for eating this succulent meat that will ensure you get your share.

Crawfish look like mini-lobsters, and although they have claws, only the tail meat is worth pursuing because the claws are so tiny and their shell is so thick. And you might have heard about the pleasures of sucking the crawfish head — don't knock it till you try it! The head has spaces that hold spicy cooking liquid and flavorful fat that's full of rich crawfish flavor. Alternate bites of crawfish, potato, and corn, and then slurp up that juicy liquid for maximum deliciousness.

Start by picking the best crawfish in the pile

Scan the pile of cooked crawfish on the table in front of you. Aim for the largest one — it will be the easiest to learn on, and also give you the biggest mouthful. You'll see the division between the curved tail and body, we like to hold the crawfish with the tail slightly angled up so the juice in the head isn't lost when we pull the tail off. Pro tip: Put some of the potato or corn on the cob from the boil in front of you to catch the drippings!

Separate the tail from the body

Hold the head of the crawfish between the thumb and index fingers of one hand, and with the other hand, firmly grasp the tail and twist gently. The meat of the tail stops right where the body starts, so this is an easy move. Now is the time to tip that head up to your lips and gently slurp up the juice and fat. Don't be shy; just like eating ramen, noisy appreciation is part of the fun. Next, get ready for the main act!

Extact the tail meat

Remove the larger segment of the shell on the tail where it met the body, then firmly pinch the end of the tail. In most cases, the tail meat will slip right out of the shell. If the meat doesn't come out easily, put your thumbs on opposite sides of the tail and squeeze to break the shell in half. With the meat in hand, it's now time to devein the tail if you choose. It's much easier than with shrimp, the "vein" (actually the digestive tract) is right on the top of the meat, and slides right off and might even come off with the shell. The crawfish live in muddy rice fields, so the vein can be gritty, but it's not dangerous to eat.

Bonus leftovers

As long as you're cooking up some crawfish, why not prepare extra to add to mac and cheese or pasta? Or save it for a crawfish pie? We also recommend saving those crawfish shells to make a broth to squeeze all the flavor out of your batch of crawfish! Extra peeled crawfish tail meat can be refrigerated for a day or two or frozen and tightly wrapped for no more than 3 months; after that, we're afraid, the crawfish will lose flavor.