How to Peel a Crawfish: NOLA Style!

Are you planning a trip to New Orleans?  If you’re looking forward to visiting the “Big Easy,” chances are that you will encounter crawfish at just about every restaurant during your stay.  From crawfish etouffee to crawfish omelettes, these shellfish are everywhere!  While the crawfish may look like a miniature lobster, the only tools you need to eat them are your hands.  However, if you want to blend in with the locals, you gotta know how to peel ’em! A few tips before we begin:

Tip #1:  Boiled crawfish are ordered by the pound.  They are called crawfish.  Asking your server for “mudbugs” or “crawdads” will be a dead giveaway that you are a tourist.

Tip #2:  Eating boiled crawfish can be quite messy.  Don’t wear white.

Tip #3:  Crawfish are spicy and are eaten with your hands.  Absolutely do not, I mean DO NOT touch your eyes while you are eating crawfish.  You will regret it!

Tip #4:  Don’t eat the dead ones.  I know you are confused and are thinking that there is NO WAY you are eating live crawfish!  But every New Orleanian knows that when selecting a crawfish to eat, you always skip over the “dead ones” which were already dead BEFORE boiling.  You can tell these “dead” crawfish because they have straight tails.  Throw ’em out.

IMG_1333

Left: Bad; Right: Good

How to Peel:

IMG_1329 Everyone has their own technique and tricks to peeling the perfect crawfish, but I will tell you how we do it in my family (demonstrated by my husband and my Dad in the following photos).  First, hold the head of the crawfish in your left hand, and the top of the tail in your right.  Twist the tail and pull it away from the head.  At this point, you may suck the head.  Yes, I said suck the head.  While I am not a fan, my 2 year old daughter LOVES to do this!

Discard the head and concentrate on the tail (where the meat is!).  Hold the bottom of the tail in your right hand, and the top of the tail in your left.  Twist your right hand and pull the tip of the tail away from the rest.  This should devein the tail (or as we call it, remove the poop line).  It should be noted that not everyone deveins their crawfish, but it is something I always do.  You may find a small amount of yellow substance on the meat which is the “fat.”  Once your crawfish tail is deveined, you can peel away the red outer shell and remove the meat.  Enjoy and repeat….alot! IMG_1332

If you are lucky enough to attend a crawfish boil while you are in town, the crawfish are generally eaten outside and accompanied by boiled potatoes, corn, celery, garlic, onions, sausage and just about anything else we can think of to throw into the pot!  Make sure you keep lots of iced tea, beer, water or other suitable liquid on hand as the crawfish and sides can be quite spicy!

While the main dish is quite tasty, it can be argued that the best part of the traditional crawfish boil is the company!  There is nothing more “New Orleans” than sitting around a table with your family and friends eating crawfish and sharing stories, jokes and memories.

Want to see how it works?  Check out my husband and Dad demonstrating two ways to eat boiled crawfish:

Comments

  1. Cheryl W. says:

    Oh my gosh, I just got through reading this article over there @Nola. LOL maybe that is a sign I need some crawfish.

  2. Ellen B says:

    I would be so tempted to call them crawdads, but ya know, we have em up north, and if you know the right folks you learn how to eat em 🙂

  3. Didn’t realize you can tell which one is dead beforehand. But then again, I’ve never had a crawfish before. Maybe one day . . . 🙂

  4. Boudreaux says:

    The so called “dead” ones rule is a myth. Straight tails on boiled crawfish is no indicator of death before being cooked, and they pose no health risks. The only thing I’ve noticed is the damn things just don’t peel as easy. Really, that’s it.

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