How to Cook Crayfish with Crayfish Recipes
Updated: Sep 8
Eating crayfish in the UK is a practice enjoyed by many for a variety of reasons. One of the main factors is the culinary delights that crayfish can provide. Their meat is highly regarded for its sweet and succulent flavour, making it a desirable ingredient in a wide range of dishes and recipes. Whether boiled, grilled, or incorporated into pasta, salads, or even the classic crayfish cocktail, these little 'lobsters' are simply delicious and worth the effort of preparing them.
Additionally, consuming crayfish in the UK allows people to connect with local food sources. These freshwater lobsters can be found in abundance in many rivers, streams, and lakes across the country. Harvesting and enjoying crayfish can be a way to support sustainable, locally sourced meals and foster a connection to the natural environment.
Crayfish consumption also holds cultural and traditional significance in certain regions of the world. Special celebrations and festivals, particularly in the US, such as crayfish parties or crawfish boils, often involve gathering with friends and family to indulge in these delectable freshwater 'lobsters'. These events provide an opportunity for communities to come together, celebrate local culinary traditions, and create lasting memories.
Moreover, the consumption of crayfish can serve as a means of invasive species management. The American signal crayfish, an introduced species in the UK, has had detrimental effects on native crayfish populations and freshwater ecosystems. By catching and consuming these invasive, but delicious crayfish, individuals can 'do their bit' to manage populations and minimise their impact on the environment.
Click the link to learn how to catch and prepare crayfish using pots and traps.
Does Crayfish taste like Lobster?
Crayfish can have a similar taste to lobster. Both crustaceans belong to the same family and share certain characteristics in terms of taste. The meat of crayfish is often described as sweet, delicate, and slightly briny, similar to lobster. However, there may be slight variations in taste due to differences in species and habitat, one being from the sea and one originating from freshwater. Crayfish meat can be slightly milder in flavour compared to the rich and buttery taste of lobster. Nonetheless, if you enjoy the taste of lobster, you are very likely to appreciate the flavour of crayfish as well.
What is the difference between a Lobster and a Crayfish?
Lobsters are larger and primarily found in saltwater, while crayfish are smaller and inhabit freshwater environments. Lobsters have long bodies with segmented tails and powerful claws, while crayfish have a compact body structure and pincer-like claws. Lobsters have prominent antennae, while crayfish have shorter ones. Lobsters are typically reddish-brown, while crayfish come in various colours. Lobsters are a famous culinary delicacy worldwide, while crayfish, more's the pity, are less commonly consumed on a global scale.
How to prepare Crayfish for the Pan
Preparing crayfish for cooking involves a few key steps to ensure they are ready to be cooked and enjoyed. Here's a basic guide on how to prepare crayfish for the pot:
Live Crayfish: If you have live crayfish, it's crucial to handle them carefully to minimise stress and maintain their freshness. Keep them in a cool, damp place until you're ready to prepare them.
Cleaning: Prior to cooking, give the crayfish a thorough rinse under cold water to remove any dirt or debris. Scrub their shells gently with a brush to ensure they're clean.
Handling: Crayfish have claws that can pinch, so it's advisable to handle them with caution. Hold them firmly by their body or grasp them behind the pincers to avoid getting pinched.
Numbing: Some people prefer to briefly place the crayfish in the freezer or on ice for a few minutes to numb them before cooking. This step is optional but can help minimise their movement and ease the process.
Cooking: There are various cooking methods for crayfish, depending on personal preference and recipe requirements. Some common methods include boiling, steaming, grilling, or even incorporating them into soups or stews. Follow some of the below recipes for specific cooking instructions and timing.
Serving: Once cooked, remove the crayfish from the pot and let them cool slightly. Serve them whole or use your fingers to break open the shells and extract the meat. Serve with melted butter, lemon wedges, or your preferred dipping sauces like Mary Rose.
How to remove the gut from an uncooked Crayfish
Sometimes you want to cook the tails, or the whole crayfish but you do not want to leave any 'surprises' for your guests. So there is an easy way to remove the gut from the crayfish without having to split or open the shell and leaving the crayfish whole. To remove the gut from the uncooked crayfish, simply follow these steps:
Kill the crayfish humanely.
Hold the dead crayfish securely by the body with one hand.
Locate the tail fin, which is the fan-like structure at the end of the crayfish's body.
Gently crack the tail fin upwards, you'll feel it break.
When you hear the crack of the tail releasing from the body, gently pull the tail fin away from the body.
The gut should come out as a single entity, attached to the tail fin.
They are now clean and ready to cook
Click the link to learn where to find and how to catch crayfish.
How to Cook Crayfish
Cooking crayfish can be done in various ways, depending on personal preference and the desired outcome. The three primary ways to cook crayfish is to boil, steam or BBQ them. Here's a general guide on how to cook crayfish in these ways:
Fill a large pot with water and add salt or seasonings of your choice to enhance the flavour.
Bring the water to a rolling boil.
Carefully add the crayfish to the boiling water. Make sure there is enough water to fully submerge them.
Cook for about 8-10 minutes or until the shells turn red and the meat becomes opaque.
Once cooked, remove the crayfish from the boiling water and let them cool slightly before serving.
Fill a large pot with water, leaving enough space for steam to circulate.
Place a steaming basket or rack in the pot. If you don't have one, you can use a colander or arrange the crayfish on a bed of vegetables like sliced onions or lemons.
Bring the water to a boil.
Arrange the crayfish in the steaming basket or on the vegetables.
Cover the pot and steam the crayfish for about 8-10 minutes or until the shells turn red, and the meat becomes opaque.
Once steamed, remove the crayfish from the pot and let them cool slightly before serving.
Create an environment on your BBQ where you can cook on a medium-high heat (by pushing the coals to one side). This can be done under a grill too.
Rinse the crayfish and pat them dry.
If desired, brush the crayfish with melted butter, olive oil, or a marinade of your choice for added flavour.
Place the crayfish directly on the grill grates or use a grilling basket to prevent them from falling through.
Cook for about 4-6 minutes per side, turning once, until the shells turn red and the meat becomes opaque.
Remove the crayfish from the grill and let them cool slightly before serving.
How do I know if Crayfish is cooked?
Regardless of the cooking method, it's essential to ensure that the crayfish is thoroughly cooked to a safe internal temperature to avoid any potential foodborne illnesses. The shells should be red, and the meat firm and opaque, check if it separates easily from the shell, and smell for a cooked seafood aroma. Avoid overcooking to prevent touch and dry meat.
Get more wild food recipes by checking out our selection of Forager Cookbooks.
How to Peel a Cooked Crayfish
Hold the crayfish firmly with one hand, gripping the body near the head.
With your other hand, grasp the tail at the base where it meets the body.
Gently twist and pull the tail away from the body, applying slight pressure until it separates.
Once the tail is separated, you can choose to remove the shell either by starting from the top or the bottom of the tail.
To start from the top, use your thumb and forefinger to grip the top shell and peel it away, revealing the meat underneath. Alternatively, you can start from the bottom by bending the bottom section of the shell away and pulling it off.
After removing the top or bottom shell, you'll have access to the tail meat. Hold onto the meat and gently pull it out of the remaining shell.
If desired, you can also remove the small "feathery" gills located on the sides of the crayfish tail.
Peeling crayfish can be a delicate process, so take care not to damage the meat while removing the shell.
Crayfish or Freshwater Lobster Recipes
There are lots and lots of delicious recipes for crayfish, but I'll share just two very simple one's for you to try now. Then go into some more in-depth recipes later on.
I usually opt for the grilled recipe (below) when cooking my crayfish, it's a crowd pleaser and great finger food.
Grilled Crayfish with Lemon, Chilli and Thyme
So.. I have a plate of crayfish split into two halves (guts removed). In a wide flat tin I place the crayfish in neat rows, flesh side up. Now I call this a recipe but it really isn't it's just so simple. Chop some fresh thyme, zest a lemon and sprinkle all over the crayfish. Follow up with some chilli flakes, salt and pepper and then a further drizzle of olive oil. Make sure that all of the crayfish are nicely coated and then grill under a very hot grill for 8 to 10 minutes. You'll see when they are cooked as the shells will turn completely red. Grilled crayfish yummy! Serve immediately with some nice crusty bread.. But keep those shells!
Oh, by the way, if you got some big male crayfish in your pots, some will have substantial claws, using the back of the knife give the biggest claws a crack and cook with the tails. This will help them cook and make them easier to open. The claws are sooo good.
Crayfish Stock Recipe
The next recipe is for a crayfish stock, utilising those shells! In a stock pan, fry the shells of with a little olive oil. Throw in some sliced onions, some chopped carrots and celery. Top up the pot with water and boil for an hour or so allowing it to reduce moderately. That's it! If you want to geta little more complicated you can think about adding some star anise, or other spices. But alone, this stock is amazing. Sieve the stock and you can then freeze it or keep the stock in the fridge for a couple of days. Use the stock as you would fish stock. Those shells really deliver a fantastic flavoursome punch!
Crayfish or Crawfish Boil Recipe
The Cajun boil, also known as a crawfish boil, is a popular Louisiana dish with roots in Cajun culture. It is a festive gathering where friends and family come together to enjoy a communal meal. The Cajun boil is known for its bold and spicy flavours, thanks to the generous use of Cajun seasoning, garlic, and other aromatic ingredients. So, if you have a large haul of crayfish (and a large pot) gather your loved ones and savour the flavours of this Cajun boil recipe, immersing yourself in the rich history and culinary traditions it represents.
2 kg live crayfish (or other seafood like shrimp or crab)
4 litres water
1 lemon, cut into wedges
4 onions, quartered
6 garlic cloves, crushed
4 bay leaves
4 tablespoons Cajun seasoning
4 tablespoons salt
2 tablespoons black peppercorns
4 corn cobs, halved
8 small potatoes
500 grams smoked sausage, sliced
Hot chilli sauce, for serving
Melted butter, for dipping
Fill a large pot with 4 litres of water and bring it to a boil.
Add the lemon wedges, onions, garlic, bay leaves, Cajun seasoning, salt, and black peppercorns to the boiling water. Let it simmer for 10 minutes to infuse the flavors.
Add the corn cobs, potatoes, and smoked sausage to the pot. Cook for 10 minutes or until the potatoes are tender.
Carefully add the live crayfish to the pot and cook for an additional 5 minutes until they turn bright red.
Once cooked, remove all the ingredients from the pot and drain them.
Serve the crayfish boil on a large platter, garnished with the cooked corn, potatoes, sausage, lemon wedges, and other desired accompaniments.
Serve with chilli sauce and melted butter on the side for dipping.
Click the link to buy large crayfish cooking pots.
Prawn and Crayfish Cocktail Recipe
A symbol of sophistication at the time, the prawn and crayfish cocktail is a classic dish that gained popularity in the mid-20th century. It emerged during a time when elaborate and elegant cocktail parties were in vogue. The dish quickly became a staple on the menus of upscale restaurants and fashionable social gatherings. Although a little retro, this recipes still stands the test of time.. Why? Because it is yummy. Here's the details:
200g cooked prawns, peeled and deveined
200g cooked crayfish tails
1/2 small iceberg lettuce, shredded
1/2 cucumber, diced
4 cherry tomatoes, halved
2 spring onions, finely chopped
Fresh dill, chopped (for garnish)
For the Mary Rose Sauce:
4 tablespoons mayonnaise
2 tablespoons tomato ketchup
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
1 tablespoon lemon juice
Salt and pepper to taste
In a large bowl, combine the cooked prawns, crayfish tails, shredded iceberg lettuce, diced cucumber, cherry tomatoes, and spring onions.
In a separate small bowl, mix together the mayonnaise, tomato ketchup, Worcestershire sauce, lemon juice, salt, and pepper to create the Mary Rose sauce. Check the seasoning.
Pour the sauce over the seafood and vegetables. Gently toss until everything is well coated.
Divide the prawn and crayfish cocktail mixture into individual serving glasses or bowls.
Garnish with fresh dill on top and a few more of those crayfish tails.
Chill in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes to allow the flavours to meld.
Serve chilled as a starter or as a light meal with a chunk of bread.
Crayfish Bisque Recipe
Crayfish bisque is a rich and delicious soup that traces its origins to French cuisine, a gastronomic journey back in French cookery. The word "bisque" refers to a smooth and creamy soup made from shellfish, typically enhanced with aromatic ingredients and spices. Similar to the crayfish stock above, the secret of making a bisque involves extracting the rich essence and flavour from the shells of the crayfish through a slow simmering process.
500g crayfish tails, cooked and peeled
2 tablespoons butter
1 onion, finely chopped
2 carrots, diced
2 celery stalks, diced
4 garlic cloves, finely chopped
2 tablespoons tomato paste
250ml dry white wine
1 litre fish or vegetable stock
250ml double cream
1 tablespoon brandy
Salt and pepper to taste
Fresh parsley, chopped (for garnish)
In a large pot, melt the butter over medium heat. Add the chopped onion, diced carrots, diced celery, and finely chopped garlic. Sauté until the vegetables are softened and aromatic.
Stir in the tomato paste and cook for an additional minute.
Add the crayfish tails to the pot and cook for a few minutes to incorporate the flavours.
Pour in the white wine and allow it to simmer for a couple of minutes to reduce slightly.
Add the fish or vegetable stock to the pot and bring the mixture to a boil. Reduce the heat and let it simmer for about 20-30 minutes to allow the flavours to meld.
Using an immersion blender or transferring the mixture to a worktop blender, puree the soup until smooth (do this in batches if you have small blender).
Pass the soup through a fine sieve or chinois and return the bisque to the pot, stirring in the double cream. Heat the soup gently over low heat, but do not let it boil.
Add the brandy for extra depth of flavour.
Season with salt and pepper to taste.
Serve the crayfish bisque hot, garnished with fresh chopped parsley and some extra crayfish tails.
Cooking crayfish opens up a world of culinary possibilities. Whether you prefer to boil, grill, or incorporate them into delicious recipes, crayfish can add a delectable touch to your meals.
From classic crayfish boils and bisques to elegant salads and pasta dishes, there are countless recipes to explore and enjoy. The versatility of crayfish makes them a versatile ingredient that can be incorporated into various cuisines and cooking styles.
Whether you're enjoying a traditional crayfish boil with family and friends, indulging in a rich and creamy crayfish bisque, or experimenting with innovative crayfish recipes, these 'freshwater lobsters' offer a unique and delicious dining experience.
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