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How to Select Crawfish

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How to Select Crawfish
Photos by Danny Culbert

When you go through 1,000-1,200 pounds of crawfish a week, it only makes sense that you gain a crawfish education. You must how they fast they can crawl, know how heavy they are, how hard they can pinch, and how to pick the best ones that will boil up right and spicy.

Such is the case for John Michael Rowland, general manager and crawfish expert at New Orleans’ Superior Seafood and Oyster Bar, a hotspot on St. Charles Avenue. So we tapped him to tell us exactly how to pick the best mudbugs.

Photos by Danny Culbert
Photo by Denny Culbert

1. “Choose farm-raised.”

Crawfish aren’t called mudbugs for nothing, so quality soil and water is key. Rowland looks for farm-raised crawfish because they live in a controlled environment, usually flooded rice fields. Superior’s primary source is from Bieber Farms in Manou, Louisiana.

2. “Buy them live.”

Rowland and his staff go through each sack of crawfish they purchase, and they pull out any dead ones. It’s just good practice, and you know how fresh they are when you cook them—ultra fresh.

3. “Clean them yourself.”

Photos by Danny Culbert
Photo by Danny Culbert

Rowland was adamant about this. Crawfish should not smell fishy, and if not cleaned properly, can taste gritty and muddy too. In order to control quality, Superior Seafood handles as much of the process as they can, and that includes cleaning. They rinse them at least four times until the water coming out is as clean as the water going in. “And you have to be careful; crawfish can drown if you leave them submerged for too long.”

Although crawfish are available in some areas year round, now through June is the high season for the Cajun delicacy. “These are a staple of the Cajun diet,” Rowland explains. “It’s important that we do it right.”

Delicious ways to use your perfectly selected crawfish

Crawfish Fettuccini
Crawfish Étoufée
Baked Pimento Cheese and Crawfish Grits
Crawfish Croque Madame