Crawfish Boil Etiquette: Don't Piss Off the Guy with the Paddle

Categories: How To

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Photo by jolene
Don't hoard the veggies.
As crawfish grow ever more popular in Houston, so do crawfish boils. Not a weekend goes by in spring when I don't have a friend or neighbor hosting a boil at their house. And thank God, too, because I have no yard in which to host one of my own. If this isn't happening to you yet, be the boil you want to see and start hosting your own.

For the rest of us: Remember, there are rules to attending crawfish boils that your friends and loved ones are so graciously holding. Just like you don't show up without a casserole to a potluck dinner, there is etiquette around a crawfish boil as well. (Not too much, or else it wouldn't be any fun, but you never want to be a bad guest.)

To help you ensure repeat invitations to future crawfish boils, I compiled a list of crawfish do's and don'ts with the assistance of two Cajun friends who regularly host [awesome] boils of their own. Heed their advice and you'll be the belle of the boil.

Do: Bring a new friend and introduce them to the awesomeness of crawfish boils.

Don't: Show up with an assload of plus-ones unless you've cleared it with the host. Crawfish boils aren't the cheapest affair to host. As such, lots of strategery goes into the guest list to insure the right amount of crawfish are procured.

Do: Wear clothes that you're okay never wearing again. If you plan to wear your "super cute" outfit, bring a t-shirt to wear over it during the boil.

Don't: Wear white, or bitch about your "super cute" outfit if it gets ruined.

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Photo by slinky789
After receiving his third paddling of the day, Dave decided to take a seat and let Mark do his job.
Do: Bring a contribution: beer, ice, etc. It's Southern hospitality.

Don't: Tell the boiler how he/she should be treating the pot (this is the equivalent of someone telling you when to flip the burger on the grill during a barbecue).

Do: Only take one potato and one corn if supplies are limited. Then, fuss at the boiler for not having enough.

Don't: Be surprised if he whacks you with the paddle.

Do: Bring newspaper to line the table.

Don't: Sit. No one sits to eat crawfish.

Do: Allow others to circulate through the serving area/the table.

Don't: Don't be the douche who camps out at the table forever. This is not an eating contest. You are not Kobayashi.

Do: Inform the chef of your dietary needs before the boil if you're a pescatarian, and don't bitch about having sausage in the boil if you don't.

Don't: Bring people who don't enjoy eating crawfish or someone you have to peel for.

Do: Police your own pile of carcasses.

Don't: Show up just in time for the last batch and then complain that it's too spicy. It's always the spiciest.

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Photo by jolene
You'll want to have lawn chairs in between stints at the table.
Do: Bring your own lawn chair. No one owns 50 lawn chairs; if they do, then they need to host the next boil.

Don't: Don't bring your dog unless you ask first.

Do: Wash your hands outside with the hose pipe before you wash your hands inside and use a "good" towel.

Don't: Be that guest who just shows up when the crawfish is thrown on the table and leaves when it's gone; this is an all-day affair. Relax. Drink a beer. Make some new friends.

And perhaps the most important pieces of advice:

Do: Throw up anywhere else outside except the crawfish table or the pot.

Don't: Ever touch the host's music playlist.



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46 comments
Becky_Means
Becky_Means

I looove crawfish.  I throw like 10 different things in mine - lemons, garlic, onions, artichokes, sausage, crab legs, shrimp, corn, potatoes, mushrooms, heck I've even done baby corn and baby carrots.  Everything tastes awesome when boiled in that buttery spicy stuff.  Can't wait till the next boil!

Chef504
Chef504

All the rules are entertaining, but really what it boils down to is; have a god group of friends, and you don't have to worry about douche buggery. Living most of my life in NOLa I find it funny that Houston is in need of all these rules. The biggest rule is to not have many and have fun. Unfortunately there is always "that guy", but hell bitching about "that guy" afterward is a great pastime also. I suppose that when I read lists like these I can't help but get this feeling, that while Houston is trying so hard to be taken seriously it still so often comes off a bit amateur, and forced. I wonder would other cities feel the need to print lists of seemingly common sense issues? Houston, you are a working city. A city full of bloated oil money. The price for that was your soul. Houston is forced into an eternity of internal struggle with who you really are. Just be yourselves. The person at the party that ain't all that bad, but isn't someone you would want to hangout with on a consistent basis. An employed friend though, and thats a bit better than the fun ass friend that's always broke.    

Hoodoo2222
Hoodoo2222

I took six chokes to the last boil I went to and I didn't get any. Now that's rude.

ThurstonH3
ThurstonH3

Cooked crawfish actually travel very well in, believe it or not, thick plastic bags. You can enjoy them at home anytime without boiling them yourself. But for a party, a boil is a blast and I like your rules.

Woodlands Mama
Woodlands Mama

I grew up on Poche's...crawfish, plate lunches, and pralines!

FattyFatBastard
FattyFatBastard

Where are we finding places with artichokes?  That sounds awesome.

David Valentin
David Valentin

I'm going to frame these rules for my next boil! Awesome!

Woodlands Mama
Woodlands Mama

Being from Crawfish Capitol, Breaux Bridge, LA, I can totally vouch for the no sitting & eating at the table. If there are enough tables, everyone rotates while standing & eating. The only ones ever sitting were our older relatives sitting & drinking it up. BTW ~ Breaux Bridge Crawfish Festival 1st weekend of May ever year....the best & biggest!

Jeannie Mitchell
Jeannie Mitchell

Man you guys are a bunch of negative people..LOL. She is only trying to tell you whats up about craw fish. I have never eaten it before since I am from California and it's not too popular from where I am at..but I heard over the radio last year how popular it is, and quite expensive. I think it sounds like a lot of fun. Who cares about the pictures above..it's all about the experience. And yes..there should be some "rules" about visiting someone's house. I always think you should bring something over if you are invited to something like this. Just plain etiquette. I think it is very rude going to someone's house empty handed. 

Terry Alexander
Terry Alexander

Is it just me or is that top photo one of the most unappetizing piles of crawfish ever seen? Lot's of dead one's. No spice in boil = white potatoes?TA

Popular Crawfish
Popular Crawfish

"As crawfish grow ever more popular in Houston,"  You really are not from Houston, are you?  This is like an awful 80's movie in which you're an alien, lost on an intergalactic journey, only to find yourself writing about food  in a city that you seem to know nothing about.  

Tara Burkholder
Tara Burkholder

Every boil I've ever been to, you grab a plate, get some bugs from the table and then sit down away from the table to eat. It's no fun to stand the whole time.

Matthew
Matthew

no sitting while eating? i've never heard this rule before.

Katharine Shilcutt
Katharine Shilcutt

I think perhaps you've taken the list itself too seriously, rather. It's all in good fun. :)

pbd007
pbd007

We must be related. I graduated high school with Floyd Poche. As a transplanted cajun who has hosted numerous (read dozens) crawfish boils over the years I'll say that this post is cute. I especially agree with the idea that it's bad form to tell the host how to boil his/her crawfish. I also would never invite anyone who uses the noun "bugs" when refering to crawfish.

Katharine Shilcutt
Katharine Shilcutt

I've never seen artichokes anywhere else except at friends' boils at their homes.

JB
JB

Mmm...Charlie T's.

s h a w
s h a w

 i am glad they are dead after soaking in that boiling pot. me no eating live crawfish.

MadMac
MadMac

I got 42 years born and raised here and only recall wide spread (away from the I-10 east corridor) action from the early 90's on. Took several more years for the average backyard bug cooker to learn about safety, (both cooking and serving). I only now eat them away from the in-laws' houses, Jeanerette/PAT represent!

TX_Cajun
TX_Cajun

Yo, Popular, she said it was growing "ever more popular", not that crawfish weren't already being enjoyed by folks in Houston. Are you saying they're not more popular now than they were a few years ago?  One of you doesn't know what you're talking about.  I've got my hunch which one it is...

Terry Alexander
Terry Alexander

 Wait! Are you saying I don't have to drive to LA anymore to get crawfish? I can get them here in Houston?TA

Vanderslice
Vanderslice

I've lived in Houston for over 20 years and have always heard of places with crawfish boils but I honestly did not begin enjoying them until a few years ago. I never actively seeked them out like I do now. As mentioned before, unless you knew a transplanted Cajun a backyard boil was uncommon for most folks. Sure places like Rajin Cajun and other restaurants have served them since their inception but I have to agree with the author and have noticed increased popularity of them here in Houston in the last 10 years.

Katharine Shilcutt
Katharine Shilcutt

Born and raised. Been here for 31 years. There were no Vietnamese crawfish restaurants when I was a kid. There were no backyard crawfish boils in the suburbs unless you happened to know a transplanted Cajun. There was no spring crawfish fever, no one blowing up each others' pagers or gigantic cell phones trading info on the best per-pound deals around town.

Maybe you have an entirely different perspective on the phenomenon, but I've been pleasantly astounded to see this city's love affair with crawfish grow over time -- especially since they were just ditch bugs to me as a little kid, something to dig out of the bayou or creek, play with and release. It never occurred to me to eat them, and I can't be alone.

brandius
brandius

I can't fathom being able to fit pounds of crawfish on a plate and then trying to sit in a lawn chair with them. And I plow through crawfish pounds at a time, so standing may last all of thirty minutes tops until the next pot is ready.

Guest
Guest

Exactly.  Try telling my Grandma she's got to stand the whole time, then asking her to peel the head shells for bisque.  

Beaux
Beaux

This rule is meant for boils where the crawfish is spread on one large table mostly at a private residence. Not for places that serve crawfish at your table, say at a restaurant. 

brandius
brandius

Sitting means you are camping out at the table. You have to let the guests circulate so everyone gets a chance to eat the crawfish. Not an issue if there are several large pots and several tables to accommodate the guests. But, if you can only boil 40lbs at a time and only have one table, then a guest sitting and not letting others in is just rude. 

LouisianaBoy
LouisianaBoy

Hell to the yeah.  Thanks again for the tip - been stopping there ever since.

El guapo
El guapo

Clearly none of you grew up in the north side of town... The crawfish festival at old town spring has been going on for damn near 30 years. I suppose crawfish is more popular now but I've been going to boils for as long as I can remember.

Ali
Ali

Seriously. I'm a transplanted Cajun whose been in Houston for 26 years of my 36. Trust when I say it hasn't been as popular as it has been in the last 10. And this is coming from someone whose family owns Crawfish ponds and raises crawfish for a living.

You have drive-thru boiled crawfish places now that open on a seasonal basis. I would have killed for that back in the day. You have HEB selling freakin' boiled crawfish now. You couldn't buy crawfish there unless it was the Chinese variety and frozen 10 or 15 years go. 

I have friends who have opened crawfish businesses here and business is booming. Always looking for someone to cater a boil or just supply them with some good Louisiana crawfish. 

This is definitely a more recent trend. A great trend. 

However, we sit to eat. And we pride ourselves on how long we sit there to be satisfied. That's because we aren't having a boil to just have some fun and enjoy a little crawfish appetizer. We are there to EAT. My immediate family of 8 adults eats two sacks easily. We end up with just enough left over to make a good étouffée. And very little "belly bluffers" added - potatoes, corn, sausage, etc.

Matthew
Matthew

i probably wasn't aware of crawfish boils in the houston area till the mid 90's.

MadMac
MadMac

And that's why I don't take your Grandma anywhere, anymore. That and she's a mean drunk with a peg leg. Just saying.

Matthew
Matthew

that's what plastic trays are for. load up your tray and take a seat.

FattyFatBastard
FattyFatBastard

I don't really recall, but it was in the 90's.  I remember my ex-wife's parents doing crawfish boils in Memphis TN in their backyard in the mid 90's and thinking "they do crawfish boils there?"  But that was for their company, which was primarily where you would see crawfish boils, IIRC.  (ie.  company parties serving 20+ people at least.)

Katharine Shilcutt
Katharine Shilcutt

Right, and I think we can all thank Jim Gossen for that.  :D

But what about backyard boils with friends? Do you recall when you started going to those with increasing frequency?

FattyFatBastard
FattyFatBastard

As a native Houstonian, I can say that crawfish has been widely available since right around 1990.  We would switch off between Ragin Cajun, Magnolia bar & grill, Sam's Boat, Big Woodrows, and a couple other places.  I can't vouch for any earlier, because this was right when I turned 18 and started exploring food venues, but they've been popular longer than 15 years.

Woodlands Mama
Woodlands Mama

My fam & friends have told me that they now put turkey necks in the boil. Sounds weird, but it's supposed to be great.

Katharine Shilcutt
Katharine Shilcutt

I'm a fan of mushrooms, cauliflower and artichokes. Not too filling, and they all soak up the boil so damn well.

Terry Alexander
Terry Alexander

 Belly bluffers - LoL. Thanks for the new term. I feel the same way. It's called a crawfish boil. Not a potato and corn and crawfish boil. Although I do like mushrooms and asparagus thrown in. Not as filling as 'taters.

JB
JB

Must have been Garden District.

mermer
mermer

lived in NOLA for years and most of the boils I had and went to had plastic trays. tis cool if there is and cool if there isn't but by no means a "princess" thing. 

brandius
brandius

"Buy crawfish, cook in big pot, then dump them out on any flat surface." = a crawfish boil. Thats really all that there is to it! Do you want the host to provide you with some wet naps too, princess?

JB
JB

Huh.  Next time I'll remember to pull out the linens and napkin rings.

Matthew
Matthew

or at the house of someone that put more thought into a party than, "buy crawfish, cook in big pot, then dump them out on any flat surface."

brandius
brandius

Yeah, at a restaurant. 

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