Crawfish glut hits the market as restaurants close, switch to takeout

louisiana crawfishing
Fishing for crawfish in a previous rice field in South Louisiana — photos by Vicky Boyd

With a glut of crawfish on the market, prices are dropping, and consumers might be interested in boiling and freezing crawfish at home.

Many restaurants have closed or switched to takeout- and drive-through-only operations amid concerns about spreading the novel coronavirus. That means restaurants aren’t buying nearly as much crawfish as they usually do.

Evelyn Watts, Louisiana State University AgCenter food scientist, said home preparation will result in crawfish with a shelf life of about three months. After that time, the crawfish will still be safe to eat, but the quality will decline as the fat starts to digest the tail meat, she said.

“It won’t have the optimum quality that you get from frozen crawfish bought at the store,” she said.

The shelf life can be extended by washing the fat from the tail meat, she said, but that will also take away much of the flavor.

Watts said a 30- to 35-pound sack of crawfish will yield about 5 pounds of meat.

Cooking to freeze

If someone doesn’t have a boiling setup with big pots and outdoor burners, crawfish can be boiled on a stovetop in smaller amounts, she said.

crawfish boilIf the crawfish is being prepared just for freezing, no seasoning or salt should be added to the water, Watts said. Dump crawfish into the boiling water, and once the water starts to boil again, cook for seven minutes. She said the key is for the tail meat to reach 180 degrees.

She recommends cooling the cooked crawfish before peeling it. The best results are obtained when crawfish are cooled to 50 degrees in less than an hour.

After peeling, crawfish can be placed in resealable plastic bags.

“A vacuum-sealed bag is even better,” Watts said.

Flattened bags of crawfish can be chilled quickly by placing them in a slurry of half water, half ice for 20 to 30 minutes. The bags can then be placed in a freezer.

“Put the bags in a single layer to freeze as fast as possible,” Watts said.

The LSU AgCenter contributed this article.

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