F.A.Q. How Do I Cook A Crayfish?

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F.A.Q. How Do I Cook A Crayfish?

Ok so now that you've caught your own Crayfish it's time to look at how we can cook it. There are many different ways that you can prepare Crayfish and many different recipes. Here we will look at the main methods but this is certainly just the beginning of how you can prepare them, it really depends on how adventurous you feel. Many Crayfish lovers say that Crayfish is best eaten whole and steamed. However, you can also cook your Crayfish and use the meat to make sandwiches, salads, soups, risottos and a large number of other varied dishes. Before we begin we will quickly cover the most humane method to kill your crayfish before starting cooking.

Preparing Your Crayfish

A lot of people consider boiling a Crayfish alive to be inhumane and cruel. Other people believe that the nervous system of a Crayfish is too simple for it to feel any pain at all, similar to insects. This subject remains a topic of controversy, still to this day. Studies have been carried out by a number of researchers and universities to determine the most humane method of cooking Crayfish. Various methods of relaxation techniques were carried out prior to boiling and the lowest number of tail flicks upon insertion into the boiling water was thought to mean that the Crayfish felt less pain. It was found that the best way to minimize the tail movements of the Crayfish upon boiling is by placing the lobster in the freezer for a period of 5 - 10 minutes in order to numb the Crayfish before cooking. Unfortunately this method still involves putting live crayfish into a heated pot which in our opinion isn't humane for the Crayfish.

In our experience, we have found the simplest method and certainly the most humane method is to place the Crayfish into a container of water. Salt water is preferred however fresh water will also suffice. By doing this and leaving the crayfish for around 30 minutes you actually "drown" the crayfish. What happens is that the water has a limited amount of oxygen in it which the Crayfish will breathe. As the levels of oxygen decrease, the Crayfish are slowly and painlessly put to sleep by the buildup of Co2 levels. We have also found regularly when using this method that the Crayfish become so relaxed that they lose control of their bowels and pass what remains in them as they fall asleep (it doesn't always happen however). This has a great advantage of making the Crayfish much cleaner for the plate as well. Just remember to thoroughly wash the Crayfish down before proceeding to the next step of cooking them. Remember when you use this step the more water you put into the container the longer it will take to drown the Cray’s, so just enough to cover them is best, but no more. This is by far the most humane method we know of.

Which parts of a Crayfish can you eat?

The majority of the Cray's meat is found in the tail and in the two front claws. Smaller amounts of meat can also be found in the legs, antenna and in some parts of the body. Parts which should not be eaten are the shell, the sac behind the eyes, the black vein running through the tail and the green tomalley, although this is debatable, as some Cray eaters claim this to be the best part.

Some of the most popular ways to cook Crayfish are:

  • Boiling
  • Blanching
  • Pan fried
  • Grilled

Boiling and Blanching

Blanching and boiling will achieve better results when your Crayfish are in a single layer. Be careful not to over pack your pot with Crayfish because it will result in uneven blanching/cooking and generally the Crayfish closest to the heat source will be blanched/cooked to a greater degree than the others.

Blanching

Blanching is a common method of extracting the meat from the shell; however the meat is not green. This method slightly cooks the external edges of the Cray and will generally fully cook the leg, knuckle and horn meat.

To preserve the greatest degree of uncooked meat, put the Crayfish into boiling salted water (or seasoned court bouillon) and bring them back up to the boil. Immediately after they turn bright red (2-3 minutes) remove them to an ice bath to arrest the cooking. Proceed with meat extraction when they are completely chilled.

Boiling

1. Bring a large pot of salted water to the boil with your Crayfish in the pot from the very beginning.

2. When the water comes to the boil observe the following cooking times.

Weight Range

Grams

Weight Range

Pounds

Cooking Time

Minutes

600 - 800 1.32 - 1.76 lb 9 - 10 Minutes
800 - 1000 1.76 - 2.2 lb 11 - 12 Minutes

For every 100 g

Over 1 Kg

For every 0.22 lb

Over 2.2 lb

Add another

Minute

2 kg Plus 4.4 lb 22 Minutes

For every 100 g

Over 2 Kg

For every 0.22 lb

Over 4.4 lb

Add another

45 Seconds

Tips

  • To maximise flavour always cook your Crayfish in salty water, so that the flavour of the meat is maintained, sea water is preferred if available. Do not panic if sea water is not an option for you, as salted tap water will be fine. Some chefs will acidulate the water with lemon or vinegar; others use court bouillon to retain the flavour of the Crayfish.
  • You may wish to add a mixture of wine, vegetables and herbs to the water in order to give the Cray meat more flavour. The residual liquid may also be used to make a delicious stock or sauce. Ingredients that can be added include white wine, pepper, parsley, celery, onions, carrots, or bay leaves.
  • Don't forget to set up ice baths to terminate the cooking process as quickly as possible after blanching or boiling. Remember that just because you remove the Crayfish from the pot does not stop the cooking process; they will still be cooking on the inside until you cool them down.

How to tell when your Crayfish is cooked:

Great care must be taken not to overcook your Crayfish, as this will result in tougher and less succulent meat. Overcooking also means that some of the delicious flavour will be lost and the meat may shrink, become stringy or even mushy.

Follow these tips for great tasting crays:

  • Do not remove the Cray from the pot before the shell has turned bright red
  • The Cray is properly done when an antennae comes off easily when pulled gently
  • The cooked Cray meat will be firm and white in colour
  • The internal temperature of the Cray meat will have reached 180°F (80°C)
  • The green tomalley or liver, which is situated inside the body cavity, will have turned a greenish yellow colour

Pan Fried

Pan frying is usually associated with cooking Crayfish medallions or steaks and it requires accurate timing to prevent them drying out or over cooking.

1. Roll the portion through extra virgin olive oil or clarified butter and season.
2. Pan the portion quickly on both sides on high heat.
3. Remove from the pan to a seasoned small tray, cover with a lid and rest them in 100ºC/200ºF resting oven for 3-4 minutes to finish cooking.
4. Serve as required.

Grilling

  • Hold the Crayfish firmly and split it lengthwise with a very sharp knife
  • Working over a bowl, remove the tomalley and stomach material. Vac and/or freeze this for another purpose
  • Rinse the Crayfish under cold water and pat dry with a clean towel
  • Roll the Crayfish through molten herb butter or extra virgin olive oil, season generously with Maldon sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • Place them in a box with lid and refrigerate away from the fan. Herbs such as mint, coriander and basil should be added AFTER cooking and immediately prior to serving, as they will go black during the cooking process.
  • Place on the grill, meat side up
  • When the degree of cook almost reaches the top of the Crayfish, brush butter or oil into the sides and crevices and place the Crayfish under a salamander for a couple of minutes to colour up
  • Brush flesh again and leave in a warm place for five minutes to finish cooking
  • Serve with just a cut lime or lemon wedges and if you like, a beautiful tarragon or herb mayonnaise that is complementary to your original baste
  • The tomalley sieved through a very fine sieve is stunning in a mayonnaise with a little chili juice and Tabasco

We hope you enjoy the above suggestions and please feel free to contact us with your own recomendations for your favourite Crayfish recipe for inclusion. 

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