It can’t be summer in the South without an Old BaySeafood Boil overflowing with your favorite seafood, sausage, corn and new potatoes. Perfect for when you’re having a big crowd, just make sure you have a big enough pot!
This summertime classic is the most flexible recipe, you can increase the amount and variety of seafood depending on what you can find at your market or fish stall. Most fresh seafood is available from Spring through December, so you don’t have to save this for the summer.
Don’t let the summer get away from you without having an Old Bay seafood boil. While you’ll have to stand in the kitchen for 25 minutes while you’re adding things to the pot, it’s one of those dishes that’s worth every minute and you can get your guests to help. This is a great dish for entertaining a crowd because you don’t need sides, just dessert.
This may look intimidating but I promise it’s so easy to make a seafood boil, the only way you can mess it up is if you leave the shrimp in too long. You can add and subtract seafood depending on what you like and what you can find in your area. We’re pretty lucky in NC to get fresh seafood, but I still have to get frozen crab legs from colder climates.
Why you’ll love this recipe
- You can substitute and alter the amounts of the seafood depending on what’s in season and what you’re willing to spend.
- The seasoning compliments without overpowering the seafood.
- Potatoes and corn are cooked all in the same pot.
- Clean up’s a breeze with only one pot to clean..
- Have more than 6 people for dinner, just increase the veggies, sausage or seafood.
What you’ll need
Before you decide to make a seafood boil, you need to see if you have a big enough pot. Not only does it need to hold 6 quarts of water, but it has to hold all the ingredients. A traditional Dutch oven is not large enough.
I use a canning pot that will hold 12 quarts. You don’t need one quite that big, a large soup pot would also work. It doesn’t have to be a great quality pot, it just needs to be big and have a lid.
- Protein – shell fish works the best, shrimp, mussels, clams and crab legs are my favorite seafood additions. For the sausage, I like andouille but smoked sausage is also delicious. You can use frozen shrimp and crab legs, the mussels and clams will need to be fresh. I like to use large shrimp if available, the small ones cook so quickly it’s hard to keep them from overcooking.
- Veggies -corn on the cob and small new potatoes.
- Flavor enhancers – carrots, celery, garlic, orange and an onion will flavor the broth.
- Seasoning – beer/wine, Old Bay, paprika, bay leaf, Worcestershire sauce
You’re going to start with a flavorful broth. The only thing that you MUST include in my book is Old Bay, everything else is optional. It can’t be a seafood boil without it. As to the other seasonings, I add smoked paprika and bay leaves, maybe some cayenne.
To the boiling water, either add two bottles of beer or whatever white wine you have hanging around. The amount is not critical and you can leave it out and just use water but it won’t have as much flavor. To the liquid, I’ll throw in carrots, celery, a Vidalia onion and lots of garlic.
You want some type of citrus in the mix, most add a lemon but I prefer the sweeter taste of an orange and then a splash of Worcestershire sauce.
PRO TIP: This is really one of those recipes where it’s crucial that you have everything prepped before you start, otherwise, you’ll overcook the seafood.
Step by step directions
Step 1: Bring water to a boil then add the seasoning ingredients and let the broth boil for 10 minutes. Set a timer for 25 minutes. That’s about how long new potatoes will take to cook.
Step 2: While the water is boiling, brown some butter in a small sauce pan and set it aside.
Step 3: Add small new potatoes, cover and cook for 10 minutes. Next you’ll add things based on how long they take to cook.
Step 4: Add corn on the cob that has been cut into thirds and andouille sausage and cook for 5 minutes, you should have 10 minutes left on the timer. Crab legs, shrimp, clams and mussels only take a few minutes so make sure the potatoes and corn are almost done before you start adding the seafood.
Step 5: When the potatoes and corn are done, about the 5 minute mark, add uncooked crab legs. If the crab legs are already cooked wait to add them until the end. With 3 minutes left add shrimp, clams and mussels or whatever mixture you have. Cook until the shrimp are pink and the shells have opened on the clams and mussels.
Step 6: Drain and pour out everything onto a platter or a large rimmed baking sheet works nicely. Drizzle with browned butter.
Try to keep the lid on the pot while it’s cooking so that you don’t loose all those great flavors. If your pot is not enormous, you might have to crack the lid to keep it form boiling over.
PRO TIP: Remove any clams or mussels that did not open before serving. This means they were probably dead before you started and should not be eaten.
What type of seafood boil sauce should you serve
I like to drizzle brown butter over the top. You could add cajan seasoning to the butter or garlic but with all the flavors from the broth, I think a simple brown butter sauce is all it needs.
To brown butter, cook butter over medium high heat until it just begins to turn brown. As soon as it starts to turn brown take it off the heat and put it in a glass bowl. If you leave it in the pan you browned it in it will continue to cook and burn.
While a seafood boil may sound complicated, once you’ve done it the first time, you’ll see how easy and adaptable it is. It’s great for a crowd.
FAQ’s and tips
Shell fish like clams, mussels and shrimp. It’s not complete without crab legs, if lobster is in your budget, it’s a wonderful addition.
You can substitute chicken or vegetable broth or just use water.
Depending on the size of the potatoes, it will take about 25 minutes to cook. If you want to speed this up, you can pre-cook the potatoes before starting.
The best way is to let them thaw in the refrigerator. Another option is to place them in a bowl of cool water in the sink. It should take about an hour or so to thaw depending on their size.
What can you serve with a seafood boil
- Cornbread biscuits
- Soda bread
- Fruit salad
- Spinach strawberry salad
- Chocolate pudding cake
- Strawberry slab pie
- Cherry hand pies
More seafood recipes to try
- 4-6 quarts water
- 24 ounces white wine/beer 2 bottles of beer, 1 bottle of wine
- 1 Orange unpeeled, cut into quarters
- 2 carrots cut into pieces
- 2 stalks celery cut into pieces
- 2 head of garlic Sliced in half
- 1 Vidalia onion cut into chunks
- 3-5 tablespoon Old Bay Seasoning
- 1 tablespoon salt
- 1 tablespoon smoked paprika
- 2 bay leaf
- ¼ cup Worcestershire sauce
- 4 ears corn on the cob cut into thirds
- 2 lbs new potatoes
- 12 ounces andouille sausage sliced into 1 inch slices
- 1 lb shrimp peeled and deveined
- 1 lb crab legs
- 2 lbs mussels/clams
- Bring water to a roiling boil then add beer or wine, orange, carrots, celery, garlic and onion. Next add the seasoning and continue to boil for an additional 10 minutes.
- Set a timer for 25 minutes and add the new potatoes, cover and continue to boil. After 10 minutes, add corn and sausage. When the timer gets to the 10 minute mark, check to make sure the potatoes are done, if so then add uncooked crab legs. If the crab legs are already cooked, wait to add them until the end. When it reaches 5 minutes, add mussels/clams. With 2-3 minutes left, add the shrimp and precooked crab legs. Keep the lid on while you are cooking except to add the ingredients.
- Once the shrimp is pink and the mussels have opened, pour through a strainer and place seafood on a platter or lined baking sheet. Drizzle with browned butter if desired.
Barbara’s Tips + Notes
- Start with a large pot, try a canning pot.
- You can substitute white wine for beer.
- Have all the ingredients ready before you begin.
- Make sure the potatoes and corn are cooked through before you start adding the seafood.
- Don’t over cook the seafood.
- Throw out any shell fish that does not open.