How to Eat Crawfish

Categories: How To

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Photos by Groovehouse
Look at that luscious tail meat.
I have not been eating crawfish my entire life. I'm not even going to lie to you like that. I have, however, been eating crawfish for a little over half of it.

I am also not going to sit here and tell you that one size fits all when it comes to eating mudbugs. You should find a style that suits you, one that makes it easiest for you to pry that tasty meat from its tough little shell.

What I will tell you is that eating a few pounds of crawfish with your friends is one of the best ways I can think of to spend an evening -- or a whole day, if you're a serious crawfish devotee -- as the rewards of crawfish are many. And chief among them is the triumphant feeling you get with every bite of tail meat, owed to the pure physicality of working for your food just that little bit more than merely lifting a fork to your mouth.

There's also the shared jubilation of staring down five pounds of crawfish and leaving a trail of dessicated husks in your frenzied wake. The feeling of emerging from the trenches dirty and perhaps a bit worse for the wear (ever get crawfish juice in your eye?), but knowing that you and your dining companions fought bravely through those bugs. First world problems, perhaps, but glorious in their small victories.

That said, it's crawfish season in Houston and you should be well-armed for battle. Here's our primer on how to get those puppies out of their shells.

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Step One: Grab the head and tail of the crawfish.

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Step Two: Pinch the tail and pull it gently but firmly away from the head.

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Step Three: Congratulations! You should now have your crawdad in two pieces. You can Choose Your Own Adventure from here. Your options are:

1) Peel the tail away from the meat like you would a boiled shrimp and eat it that way.

2) Grasp the tail meat between your lips and/or teeth and suck-pull it out of the shell.

3) Do either of the above and suck the head when you're finished.

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For sake of reference, the photo above shows how to peel the shell away from the meat and eat it with your fingers. This is preferable if you're at a crawfish joint (read: most of the places in Houston) that doesn't add spices to the water as the crawfish are boiling, and instead dumps the spices on top after the bugs come out of the water. In these cases, there is often so much spice on the shells that it can be painful for your lips to come in constant contact with the shells.

If, however, you are at a backyard crawfish boil or at a local watering hole that does it right, it's preferable to suck-pull the crawfish meat straight out of the tail with your mouth. After a handful, you'll get the hang of it.

To see the process in its entirety -- including how to suck the head (or, in this case, the little lungs of the crawfish because all the good goo ended up there when I was popping it open), check out the short and sweet video below.

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The key is to be able to peel and eat the crawfish with one hand so you dont have to dirty up your beer hand.

Ryan Hunzeker
Ryan Hunzeker

One handed peel and eat is an awesome idea. Is it really possible? Any videos to show me how?


I think you just wanted an excuse to show off the cleavage.


I volunteered but I still had razor burn from shaving my chest for the pose downs and I was self-conscious.

Katharine Shilcutt
Katharine Shilcutt

I think you're looking for an excuse to get banned. Seriously.

Grow up.




A 5 year Houston resident and I have yet to make a real go at a pile of crawfish, despite having been to a boil or 2. Intimidated I guess. I think this is the year, so thanks for the tips.

Also, cute bracelet.


it's good stuff, once you get thoroughly messy, and just give in to the fact that you'll be washing spices out of your ears, nose and hair, it's a great time.


Fond memories of many a bug battle! My sister and I once went to a crawfish/baseball event with a $20 entry fee. At first, the organizers refused to serve more than one plate of crawfish per person no matter how much we begged for more. Most people took this for what it was, finished their one plate and headed into the baseball game. Suddenly, the organizers were left with vats of uneaten bugs and only me, my sister, and one other picnic table of intrepid crawfish fanatics to dispatch them. They started bringing us hotel pans full of bugs and at one point even brought over a whole pot and just dumped it on our table. It was pure bliss, sitting in the sun for 9 innings eating crawfish until our fingers bled. Sis and I both suffered massive sunburns that day, and it took weeks for our thumbs to heal, but it was so very worth it!

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