If you've ever wanted to do a seafood boil, there's everything you need to know to have your own low country crab boil!
I had one of those birthdays this year that just made me sit back and think 'how did I get so lucky?' I hit the life lottery you guys, and I just want to make sure everyone knows how incredibly thankful I am for the food on my plate, the roof over my head, and the extraordinary network of family and friends that surrounds me. I love you all. Thank you.
Lest anyone think we hit the *actual* lottery this weekend, no - we're not wealthy or without flaws. I'm still rocking a size 14 pants and can't keep up with the laundry to save my life. Our bathroom, which is the repository for five boys, should probably be burned to the ground. But none of that matters. Another year older, another year wiser. And I'm just happy to be here in my messy house with amazing people who love and accept me the way I am.
I got it in my head earlier this summer that we should have crab for my birthday dinner. I teased the husband that we would have king crab for daysssssss. All the while figuring we'd meet some friends at Joe's Crab Shack for a meal. But as things progressed I realized it would be so much more fun to try and do it at home. I'd never had a crab boil before, but trying new things is kind of who I am.
So we set out to gather all the materials. I ordered a 64 quart pot with strainer, a propane burner, a paddle (!!!) for stirring, and a giant skimmer. (Seriously, it's almost comical how big the utensils are!). Wesley also started calling around to see who had the best deal on seafood. We picked up the shrimp and Old Bay at Costco, but decided to wait on the rest and get at at our local market the morning of the party.
I also found a flag football set at Michael's for 70% off. These boys played all afternoon. Except when they were in the pool. And when they were eating. But, seriously. There was a lot of football. Coach Pete made sure they earned their supper!
When I first started thinking about my birthday I declared that I absolutely would not be cooking this year. I love cooking. Truly and completely. But often I get carried away with the meal and miss out on socializing or swimming. That wasn't going to happen this year. But the more I thought about it the more I really wanted to try this low country boil thing. So my Wesley (the hubs!) and dad (and all our friends!) were total rockstars, pitching in everywhere they could so I was able to do both! Yay!
My mom wasn't able to make it up for the crab boil, but she came the next day and we continued our seafood extravaganza with a girls dinner out (thanks to my amazing husband who volunteered to watch all SEVEN of the kids!). Dad was there though and despite teasing me about how much work I was doing on my birthday, he was a huge (huge!) help. He was also the one who convinced us to splurge and get king crab. He was right. I mean, you're only 37 once! I doubt we'll ever do that again, but that's why they call it a once in a lifetime experience!
King crab is massive. And so sharp! It took both sides of my huge sink to defrost the 20 pounds of crab we bought. You definitely don't need to use king crab in this recipe. We went a little budget nuts this go round, but next time we'll try blue crab or snow crab. Also super delish!
Fun fact - if you buy crab legs, they're already cooked. Crab is cooked live or immediately after dying. You won't find raw crab legs. For this reason, steaming is really the best way too "cook" crab legs because it's gentler on the meat.
I surveyed many a food blogger before endeavoring on this crab boil quest. It was pretty well agreed upon that you fill the pot enough with liquid to boil the potatoes, but steam the rest of the ingredients. Nearly everyone you ask will have their own magic combination flavorings, but we used water, butter, onion, garlic, and Old Bay Seasoning. And it was delicious.
We found recipes recommending as much as half a cup of Old Bay Seasoning per gallon of water, but we wanted to keep it on the mild side for the kids, so we did less in the broth and then set the seasoning on the table so folks could add more as they saw fit. This worked out beautifully.
We were all pretty excited about the food, but Pete was downright giddy. Unfortunately, we didn't realize that the storm blowing through actually knocked out our flame at one point, so we ended up doing the potatoes, corn, and shrimp in one go, then steaming the crab during round two. Oops! Everything still tasted phenomenal though and it allowed the kids to get settled and started on something while we finished up the crab.
Florida Gulf shrimp was on sale at Costco, so we were able to eat local. I love when that happens. These shrimp were huge, tasty, and reasonably priced. Major score.Way down at the bottom in that incredible broth is 5 pounds of red potatoes. I quartered them thinking it would be easier for service, but I'm not sure I would go that route next time since it was hard to retrieve the potatoes without giving them a bit of a smash. No complaints on flavor though. None at all!
The kids were thrilled we let them start noshing on potatoes, crab, and shrimp first. We also had sausage and hot dogs that Erin stuck under the broiler for me. I know a lot of folks like to throw sausage into their crab pot, but I'm not a fan of sausagey crab, so we kept it separate. I think if we plan another crab boil for this many people (there were nineteen of us eating!), I would get a second steamer basket so we could do things in two really quick rounds. That said, it didn't take much time at all to steam the crab once we got it all loaded into the pot!
I know the post is really image heavy, but I just want to remember every moment of this incredible birthday. The whole day was great. Well, except for a really bizarre run-in with a (legitimately) crazy lady at the market. But I'm going to focus on the overwhelming good. In fact, the whole long weekend was fantastic.
I took Friday off because my dad came up to visit. We spend the day playing with the kids and shopping. In the evening we met my sister and her kids for dinner at Joe's Crab Shack (yes, yes we did have crab two days in a row. Just call it market research.). Saturday was the epic party. Sunday my mom came up and we took it easy during the day, then had a girls night dinner.
I took Monday off too (seriously, first long weekend in I don't even know how long!) and got a sitter for the entire day. Wesley and I went antiquing in the morning, had a wonderful lunch (and giant margarita) at Bahama Breeze, saw the new Star Trek movie (geeks unite!!!), then window shopped at the mall while it stormed, and finished up the date with burgers at Burgerfi. We came home and put the kids in bed, then my sister and I ate ice cream on the couch while binge watching Stranger Things.
It truly was the best birthday yet, and I'm so incredibly thankful that at 37 I'm still saying things like that.
I even scored big on birthday gifts. Honestly, I had considered the equipment for the crab boil my present this year and was totally good with that. But Wesley, who maybe hasn't always historically been the best at gifting, went above and beyond. Like, to infinity and beyond. He took an awesome picture of our kids (like stood them outside and got them to all smile at the same time), had it blown up, went antiquing and found a large antique frame (I have a thing for old frames), cleaned it and framed the picture. He also replaced the windowsill herbs I accidentally murdered while we were out of town. Have I mentioned that I had the best birthday this year?
Are you wondering if all the fuss and work was worth it? Imma tell you, yes. Yes. Unequivocally, yes. The food was delicious, the experience was fun. And if you go old school and pour everything out onto disposable tablecloths and newspaper, clean up is a breeze. Still need more convincing? Here's what Pete wrote on my Facebook wall:
Low Country Crab Boil, Ingredients:
- Crab - rule of thumb is 1 1/2 pounds per adult and 1/2 pound per kid
- Shrimp - about 1/4 pound per person
- Red potatoes - we went with a 5 pound bag, but just make sure there's at least one potato per person
- Corn - at least one cob per person
- Onion - 1 medium sweet yellow onion per gallon of water
- Garlic - 5 cloves per gallon of water
- Butter - 2 sticks per gallon of water
- Water - enough to fill the bottom part of your steaming basket and cover the potatoes. A good rule of thumb is to check in advance how many gallons of water you're going to need so you can prepare the right amount of seasoning ingredients.
- Old Bay Seasoning - as little as 3 tablespoons per gallon of water and as much as 1/2 cup per gallon depending on whether you want it spicy
- optional: Sausage - figure 1 link per sausage eater, clarified butter, lemon wedges
Low Country Crab Boil, Directions:
- Make sure your crab is thawed. If you buy large amounts of crab from the grocer, it will usually come frozen. Thaw by running cool water over it for about 15 minutes.
- Quarter your onions and slice or mince your garlic (I sliced mine using my very favorite garlic press). If your potatoes are very large, you can quarter them as well.
- Place pot with strainer in it over the heat source (we used a propane burner). Add water (enough to cover potatoes), butter, onion, garlic, and Old Bay Seasoning. We used about 4 tablespoons of seasoning per gallon of water and it was a great mild flavor.
- Cover and bring to a rolling boil (we had a 64 quart pot and about 5 gallons of water, this took 45 minutes to come up to a rolling boil).
- Add potatoes and sausage, then on top of that (above the water) add corn. Cover and simmer/steam about ten minutes until potatoes are nearly cooked through.
- Add shrimp, then crab. Cover and steam an additional 5 - 10 minutes until shrimp is cooked and everything is heated through.
- Strain and dish onto a newspaper lined table. If you have more crab to do, let the water come back up to a simmer and dunk it for another 5 - 7 minutes, being mindful that the crab on the bottom will be submerged in the water now that you've removed the potatoes. (It will still be delicious, don't worry!)
- Serve with clarified butter, lemon wedges, and extra Old Bay. ENJOY!!!
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- Bayou Classic 62-Quart Stainless Steel Stockpot with Steam and Boil Basket
- Bayou Classic High-Pressure Outdoor Gas Cooker, Propane
- Bayou Classic 36-Inch Nickel-Plated Skimmer with 8-Inch Mesh Bowl
- Bayou Classic Cajun Stir Paddle
- Old Bay Seasoning, 24-Ounce
- Large Plastic Tablecloths
- Seafood Crackers (and fun bibs!)