We’ve all looked at beautiful images of tables overflowing with seafood, corn and potatoes, and thought to ourselves, I wish I could pull that off. Or maybe you’ve been to a seafood or lobster boil and wondered how the host made it seem so effortless. Well, we’re here to let you in on one of our favorite summer secrets: Seafood boils look far more complicated than they are. In fact, they’re as easy as they are impressive, as low-fuss as they are delicious. All it takes to throw a successful seafood boil is a big ol’ cooking pot, a little foresight and a lot of butter.
We’re sharing our classic lobster boil recipe here, along with a few other favorites to put together the ultimate end-of-summer spread. From crunchy coleslaw to the perfect pie, these are the dishes you should be filling your table—and belly—with right now. We’ve also thrown in tips to make your seafood boil a success, because even though it’s easy, there are a few essentials you’ll want to have on hand.

On seafood

Fresh seafood is always best, but frozen is a good option too. If using frozen—such as lobster tails and shrimp—thaw before cooking. You can also buy precooked seafood, but be careful not to overcook—it should be added to the pot only for the last few minutes before serving. Keep in mind: Seafood will continue to cook once removed from the pot, so pay close attention to the recipe and recommended cooking times.

On kitchen tools

A jumbo cooking pot is a must so you can cook everything in one pot and let the flavors meld. (Though less impressive, two smaller pots will do the trick—just make sure to evenly distribute seasoning, seafood and veggies.) A cheesecloth and string make boiling clams easier. Have lobster crackers and picks on hand—or, in a pinch, kitchen shears.

On setting the table

Use an easy-to-clean table covering—newspapers or craft paper make great options and set the stage for the casual, eating-with-your-hands affair that’s about to take place. Spread lots of bowls around the table—fill smaller ones with butter for dipping and lemons for squeezing, and use larger ones for discarded shells. With so many hands reaching for your spread, it’s best to use low glasses and tumblers to minimize spillage. And don’t forget plenty of napkins—or, for an even more festive flair, bibs for all.

On simplicity

Simple is the name of the game with a seafood boil. It should feel like a casual event. It’s okay (and sometimes more fun) if plates, glasses and napkins don’t match. If you don’t have a long table, set a couple side by side. Place drinks in the middle of the table for guests to self-serve. Work with what you have on-hand. And remember: You should get to enjoy the meal too.

Person holding seafood boil platter

Lobster Boil With Drawn Butter

Our favorite lobster boil is simple (as it should be!), calling for lobsters, clams, corn, potatoes and seasoning. This one-pot dish is easily customized—feel free to add shrimp, sausage or other seasonal veggies like green beans. The key to this is the drawn butter, in which everything can—and should—be dipped.

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grilled shrimp on skewers

Grilled Shrimp With Garlic Butter

This recipe could very well be named Butter Three Ways. Shrimp is cooked in butter and garlic on the stovetop, then skewered and cooked on the grill, with more butter for basting. Once cooked, shrimp is served with grilled lemon and—you guessed it—more garlic butter for dipping.

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coleslaw in a bowl with a cup of melted butter and vegetables.

Crème Fraîche Coleslaw

No summer gathering is complete without a side of crunchy coleslaw, and making your own dressing easily elevates any meal with only a few extra minutes in the kitchen. We make our coleslaw dressing with crème fraîche, which adds a delicious tang to this easy summer salad.

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Dinner rolls in a basket

Brioche-Style Dinner Rolls

Butter is the star of these rolls, which can be made round as dinner rolls or oblong as lobster rolls. They're the ultimate addition to any table, made even better when topped with flaky sea salt and chopped parsley. Serve with room temperature butter for easy spreading.

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wild berry pie with forks

Wild Berry Slab Pie With Crème Fraîche

Summer berries mean pie for all, and this combination of strawberries, blackberries, blueberries and raspberries makes the perfect summer dessert—with a flaky, buttery crust and a dollop of crème fraîche as the cherry on top of this crowd-feeding crowd-pleaser.

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