How to Host a Shrimp Boil (Because Doing the Dishes Is Overrated)
I’ll never forget my first shrimp boil: I was playing at a golf tournament in college, and we stayed with a host family in Charleston, South Carolina. On the night we arrived, they made us a Lowcountry Boil—a hodgepodge of shrimp, andouille sausage, corn on the cob, baby potatoes, onions, lemon, butter, and plenty of Old Bay seasoning.
This particular seafood boil wasn't exactly Cooking Light-approved, but nonetheless, it was crazy delicious. I was instantly hooked, and I knew I wanted to adopt the idea ASAP.
Growing up near Miami, shrimp boils weren’t really a “thing.” So the first time I went home and made a shrimp boil for everyone at a 4th of July party, they went bananas. It’s literally the easiest way to entertain in the summer—just lay some newspaper on your table, and toss the food right on top of it (don’t forget to drain the water first!). No plates or utensils required—just go to town with your hands.
I love a seafood boil because requires very little prep work, it’s a super fun and communal way to eat, it’s delicious, and—best part—there are like two dishes to wash afterwards. Here’s what you need to throw the ultimate shrimp boil party.
Get a Really Big Stockpot
Sure, you can buy an outdoor boiler, but I think they’re really bulky (and, honestly, how often are you really going to use it?) Unless you’re cooking for a super large crowd, I find a big stockpot works just fine.
I’m currently obsessed with this adorable crab stockpot from Le Creuset—and how perfect is it for a seafood boil? If you’re looking for something a little more affordable, this one from Amazon is just $37. The important thing to look for is a roomy and durable stockpot with a lid—over 12 quarts is ideal.
Prep Your Table
If you’re worried about getting your table dirty with shrimp juice, that’s totally valid. Plain newspaper or a red-and-white checkered tablecloth (gotta stay festive!) works on outdoor tables or glass-top tables, but we wouldn’t recommend it for your antique dining room table. Take your feast outdoors and consider buying a folding table for the occasion, or buy some galvanized buckets to dump your boil into.
Add Some Accessories (Optional)
Ok, so this isn’t a vital step, but it’s a fun one! Pick up some disposable bibs from Amazon for guests to tie on (after all, seafood boils tend to get messy!). Oh, and don’t forget to strategically place some decorative napkins or wet wipes on the table for messy hands.
Pick Your Main Menu
There are plenty of variations on a shrimp boil. I’ve thrown crab claws, lobster, and clams into my seafood boil before. My mom is allergic to fish and shellfish, so I’ve made a chicken and andouille sausage version for her. You could also do a crawfish boil, a clambake, or make some plain boiled shrimp.
Tips for a successful boil: Don’t overcook your shrimp or tender veggies like okra—add those in the last few minutes of boiling for best results. Also, drain your boil completely before dumping it on the table (I made that mistake once, and almost scalded everyone with steaming water).
Lastly, taste as you go. Many recipes call for a ton of salt or Old Bay seasoning, which if overused can make your boil taste like a salt brick. Remember: you can always add salt—but you can’t take it away. I like opting for lemon quarters, onion, and fresh herbs to keep the boil flavorful without all the extra sodium.
Choose Your Sides
If you don’t want to put potatoes or corn directly into your boil, make some herby roasted potatoes or dill-smattered corn on the cob for side dishes that everyone will enjoy. Here are some of our favorite sides to go with your shrimp boil.
Take Your Condiments Seriously
Hot sauce, lemon wedges, and Old Bay butter are all fair game, but if you want to up your game a bit, check out our 5 favorite homemade sauces for your shrimp boil.
Upgrade Your Refreshments
Since the meal is so simple, feel free to get creative with your drink choices. On a hot summer day, we especially love infused water or iced mint tea. Craving a cocktail? Whip up a big batch of Grapefruit Beer-garitas or Barbados Rum Punch.
The prep and cook time for most seafood boils takes under an hour, so kick up your feet, have a cocktail, and look like the most relaxed host or hostess of all time. Bonus points if you wear this apron when guests arrive.