How To Eat Crawfish Like A Pro

Delicious and succulent, crawfish (also known as crayfish or crawdads) are an integral part of cuisines around the world. They are especially prevalent in the southern United States, where they are a crucial component of Cajun and Creole dishes. These freshwater crustaceans boast a rich, sweet flavor that pairs perfectly with a variety of spices and seasonings, making them a staple ingredient in dishes like étouffée, gumbo, and jambalaya


As anyone who's been to a seafood boil can attest to, eating crawfish is as much about the experience as it is about the food itself. And like other hands-on foods, chowing down on crawfish can get messy really quickly. While the sight of plastic bibs, newspaper-covered tables, and buckets of mini lobsters can seem overwhelming to those new to the world of crawfish, with a bit of practice, you'll be eating them like a pro in no time.

The first step is to get comfortable handling them. Crawfish have two main sections, the head with its face and legs, and the tail. Start by grabbing one (tip: you may want to wear plastic gloves to save your hands from getting coated with sauce and spice), holding firmly by the head with one hand, and pull off the tail with the other. If you're having trouble, give the tail a small twist as you pull.


Breaking down the crawfish

Once the head and tail of the crawfish have been separated, you'll need to peel the shell off of the tail in order to get to the meat. You should see the white flesh peeking out of the shell where it was broken off from the body; looking at it, use your thumb and forefinger to apply pressure to the top of the shell. This should crack it and allow the meat to be easily removed. It's not uncommon to find a part of the crawfish's digestive tract after breaking down the tail — some people refer to this as the "vein." It can be removed with a knife, but you can also just eat it along with the rest of the interiors.


Most of the meat in a crawfish comes from the tail, but many people also opt to suck out the rich, orange, fatty organ from the head. Others like to use a spoon to remove this bit, which is sometimes called "crawfish butter," and then spread it on the rest of the meat. There's no graceful way to suck out the crawfish butter, so don't be ashamed to really go for it. Chances are you'll be surrounded by a chorus of people doing the same thing. If crawfish head organs aren't your jam, feel free to simply toss them to the side.

What to eat with crawfish

Crawfish are usually served boiled or steamed, and as with most other varieties of seafood, the delicate taste is delicious when adorned with nothing more than some butter and a squirt of lemon. Of course, if you're at a crawfish boil (which is one of the most common ways to indulge in the delicacy), there will likely also be a selection of sauces for you to slather over your food. These can include hot sauce, cocktail sauce, and roulade — a mixture of mayonnaise, mustard, horseradish, and Cajun or Creole seasoning. 


Along with different dips, crawfish is usually accompanied by corn on the cob, potatoes, collard greens, and cornbread. For drinks, crawfish pair well with lemonade, sweet white wine, and hearty ale.

If you are indeed attending a full out crawfish boil, there are a few rules to abide by that will make it go smoother. Before you sit down, prepare for a messy meal by taking off any hand jewelry, tying back long hair, wearing clothes you don't mind getting dirty, and washing your hands extremely well. Don't hog the big juicy crawfish either, and share the sides with everyone, and then prepare for one of the loudest and most incredible meals of your life.