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.
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.
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.