The etiquette rules on how to serve and eat crayfish. Tips to be the ideal host or the perfect guest and avoid any embarrassment.

What crayfish etiquette is

Crayfish etiquette is the set of rules to properly serve and eat crayfish. Such rules help avoid behaviors that can disrespect your hosts or guests, or make you look unpolite.

If you are hosting, follow the etiquette to serve crayfish to your guests appropriately.

As a guest, respect the etiquette rules to properly eat crayfish at the dining table and avoid offending your hosts or embarrassing yourself.

how to serve and eat crayfish

What you should know about crayfish

Crayfish are freshwater crustaceans that resemble small lobsters. They are also known as crawfish, crawdads, or mudbugs.

Crayfish are usually brownish-red or greenish-brown in color, with a hard exoskeleton and two large pincers. They have a slightly sweet and mild flavor, similar to that of lobster or shrimp. The texture is firm and slightly chewy.

Etiquette rules to serve and eat crayfish

1) How to store crayfish

The ideal temperature to store crayfish is between 32-36°F (0-2°C). If you’re storing them in the pantry, make sure they are in a cool, dark place. Consume them within 24 hours. In the fridge, store them in a container with a lid or covered in plastic wrap, and they can last up to 2-3 days. In the freezer, they can last up to 6 months if properly wrapped in plastic and placed in an airtight container.

Sliced or cooked crayfish should be stored in the fridge and can last up to 3-4 days.

2) How to clean crayfish

To clean crayfish, first remove the head and tail. Then, use a small brush or toothbrush to scrub the shells and remove any dirt or debris. Rinse thoroughly under running water. There are risks associated with handling raw crayfish, as they can carry bacteria that can cause illness. It’s important to handle them carefully and cook them thoroughly.

If crayfish turns bad, it will have a strong, unpleasant odor and may appear slimy or discolored.

3) How to prepare & cook crayfish

Crayfish can be eaten both raw or cooked. To prepare crayfish for cooking, start by boiling them in salted water for 3-5 minutes until they turn bright red. Then, remove the meat from the shells and discard the heads and tails. The most common ways to cook crayfish include boiling, frying, grilling, and baking. Utensils such as tongs, a colander, and a pot are commonly used to cook crayfish.

Some popular dishes with crayfish include étouffée, gumbo, jambalaya, and crawfish boils.

Crayfish can be used in salads and sandwiches, and can also be prepared in unique ways such as soups or bisques. However, they are not suitable for vegan diets and may not be ideal for keto or paleo diets due to their high protein and cholesterol content.

4) How to serve & present crayfish

Crayfish is appropriate for both formal and informal meals. You can serve them as a side dish, main course, or appetizer. They are not typically served for breakfast or brunch but can be served as a snack.

You can serve crayfish hot or cold, depending on the dish. Present them in a bowl or plate and can serve them with utensils such as forks, knives, or seafood forks.

Accompany crayfish with butter, lemon, garlic, and cajun seasoning. It is common to serve it with corn on the cob, potatoes, or rice.

5) Food and wine to pair crayfish with

Crayfish pairs well with vegetables such as bell peppers, onions, and celery, as well as with fruits such as oranges or lemons. It is not a typical pairing with strong-flavored vegetables such as broccoli or cauliflower.

Crayfish can pair with some types of cheese, such as feta or blue cheese, but generally does not pair well with dairy.

Crayfish can go well with certain meats, such as chicken or sausage, in dishes like jambalaya or gumbo. They also pair well with fish, especially in seafood stews or chowders. However, it is best to avoid pairing crayfish with red meat or strong-flavored meats like lamb or venison, as they can overpower the delicate flavor of the crayfish.

The best wine pairings for crayfish include crisp and acidic white wines, such as Sauvignon Blanc or Pinot Grigio. Avoid heavy or oaky white wines, as they can clash with the delicate flavor of the crayfish. Rosé wine, sparkling wine, and light-bodied red wines like Pinot Noir can also work well with crayfish. Some popular beverage pairings include light beers or citrusy cocktails.

6) How to eat crayfish

The most polite way to eat crayfish is to use your hands and twist the tail off of the body, then peel off the shell and enjoy the meat. It is also acceptable to use a seafood fork or a small seafood pick to extract the meat from the claws. Do not eat the digestive tract or any other inedible parts of the crayfish.

Crayfish etiquette: the worst mistakes

The Rude Index identifies and ranks negative behaviors. 

A high score (8-10) means that the behavior has the potential to trigger a conflict with others. A medium score (4-7) means that the behavior risks making you look inelegant and unsophisticated. Read more about the Rude Index and its methodology here.  

Avoid the most common crayfish etiquette mistakes:

  • 7/10. Not providing enough napkins or a bib.
  • 6/10. Discarding the shells or parts of the crayfish inappropriately.
  • 6/10. Using improper utensils or tools.

Additional information for properly serving crayfish

How many calories per serving?

Counting calories is important to stay healthy and correctly plan a menu.

Crayfish contains approximately 20-25 calories per medium-sized crayfish and around 70-80 calories per 100 grams. The calorie content can vary depending on the preparation method and any added ingredients.

How to buy the best crayfish

A crucial factor in crayfish etiquette is serving your guests the best product possible.

Season and availability 

Crayfish are typically available all year round, but the best season to buy them is in the summer months when they are in season and more abundant.

Choose the best

Crayfish can be found in a variety of ways in commerce, including fresh, frozen, canned, and dried. Fresh crayfish are typically sold in the seafood section of grocery stores or at fish markets. Frozen and canned crayfish can also be found in some stores or purchased online. Dried crayfish are often used in Asian cuisine and can be found at specialty food stores or online.

The most popular varieties of crayfish in commerce include the Louisiana red swamp crayfish and the Pacific Northwest signal crayfish. The Louisiana crayfish are often considered the most prized variety due to its sweet and succulent meat.

When buying crayfish, look for specimens that are lively and active, with no signs of damage or discoloration on their shells. They should have a firm and slightly springy texture, and their tails should curl tightly underneath their bodies. If purchasing cooked crayfish, ensure that they are stored properly and have not been sitting out at room temperature for too long.

Alternatives to crayfish

Some common alternatives to crayfish include other types of shellfish like shrimp or crab, as well as other types of freshwater or saltwater fish. Vegetarian alternatives may include tofu or seitan in dishes that typically feature crayfish.