photo by Caitlin Abrams
There’s a way to feed all your friends an amazing meal without having to sequester yourself in the kitchen all day. A seafood boil is a wham-bam-thank-you-ma’am-style one-pot dinner that is on the table (and on a pile of newspapers, if you want to go for traditional serving style) in about half an hour. Best of all, it requires barely a stir and you can switch up the style however you like.
“The appeal of a seafood boil for a larger group is that it is a one-pot recipe that offers as much variety as one can imagine,” says Ryan Sieloff, retail manager of Coastal Seafoods. “There is something for everyone in the group—it is simple and flexible.”
These family-style seafood feasts are traditional in the South and along the Eastern seaboard. Some versions are more of a spicy, cayenne-and-crawfish affair, while those found in Georgia and South Carolina—known as Lowcountry boil—are minimally seasoned and tend toward shrimp. There’s usually corn, potatoes, sausage and garlic involved. If you’re Up North or in Wisconsin and using local lake fish, it can also involve lighting the whole thing on fire. (We don’t recommend this in your home—outdoor boils only!) No matter what variation you like, Sieloff assures us that a boil is more of an art than a science, and the experience of eating it is entertainment in itself.
Seafood Boil Tips
Sieloff’s no. 1 tip for a seafood boil? “Have fun!” But he does have a few others:
- Use enough water: While boils are forgiving and can be multiplied to feed dozens of people, there’s an important caveat: Use lots of water. Because you’re staggering the addition of cold ingredients, “If there is not enough water, the [colder items] cool the water too much and slow the cooking process,” Sieloff says. “This can be very disruptive to the timing and affects when each item can be added.” You can also cover the pot to ensure that steam builds and cooks anything that happens to pop up above the water line.
- Use a big pot: Like, the most gigantic one you can find. This is a lot of food!
- Start with a basic recipe: Use Coastal’s shrimp boil as a template, multiplying and customizing as you like. Having a huge group over? Triple it. Like it spicy? Go Louisiana style and add cayenne.
- Mix and match: Aim for about 1 ½ to 2-ish lbs. total seafood per 4-serving batch (lobsters will be heavier). The world is your oyster! And/or crawfish!
- Always add seafood last: If you’re riffing on Coastal’s recipe, add your seafood after the corn’s simmered for about 3 minutes, then cook according to Sieloff’s guide.
- Live lobster (1.25 to 1.5 lbs. each): 8 to 10 minutes
- Thawed snow crab clusters: 4 to 6 minutes
- Live clams or mussels: 3 to 5 minutes (these will open when they’re finished cooking)
- Live crawfish: 3 to 4 minutes
Shopping pro-tip: Coastal offers 20% off shrimp on Mondays and 20% off crab on Wednesdays. They also sell seafood-boil staples like Old Bay and Zatarain’s Crab Boil seasonings and Andouille sausage.
Shrimp Boil by Coastal Seafoods
- 1½-2 lbs. shrimp (about 26-30 shrimp)
- 2 lbs. small red potatoes, whole
- 1 lb. kielbasa (or Andouille sausage), sliced into chunks
- 4 ears sweet corn, cut in halves or thirds
- 4 cloves garlic
- 3 bay leaves
- 1 T. whole peppercorns
- ¼ cup + 2 T Old Bay seasoning
- 1 lemon, cut into quarters
- On the stovetop, bring 4 quarts water to a boil in a large stockpot. Add Old Bay, bay leaves, peppercorns, garlic cloves and lemon quarters.
- Add potatoes and cook for 10 minutes. Add kielbasa and cook for 7 minutes. Add corn and cook for 3 minutes.
- Add shrimp and cook for 4 minutes, or until shrimp turn opaque. (See above notes for cooking times for other types of seafood.)
- Drain. Pour mixture into serving bowl and sprinkle with additional Old Bay seasoning to taste.
+ PAIRINGS FROM SURDYK'S
We asked the experts at Surdyk’s for beverages to complement a seafood boil. Here’s what they recommend:
Pairing #1 (wine): Jadix Picpoul de Pinet
Picpoul is a lively, dry white from the Languedoc region of southern France. Aromatics run from blossom to lemon zest to green apple. The wine has a light body and excellent acidity, which is a natural partner for a wide range of seafood. Not to mention it’s elegant, refreshing and affordable! Throw a bunch on ice before the crowd arrives.
Pairing #2 (beer): Boom Islands Witness
The aromas of Witness, a classic Belgian-style Witbier from Minneapolis’ own Boom Island brewery, are banana, spice and wheat. This lovely local beer has a light, airy body with touches of acidity from the orange and lemon—the perfect pairing for seafood.