A Proper Shrimp Boil


Food & Wine editor-in-chief Hunter Lewis grew up in North Carolina obsessed with peel-and-eat shrimp, especially those fished out of pots of Frogmore stew in the South Carolina Lowcountry and those cooked and spiced like Maryland crab farther north. Now, he lives in the Deep South, where his shrimp boil has taken on a slight Cajun accent. It still bobs with corn and potatoes, but the Italian sausage is andouille, the Old Bay spice mix is sometimes Zatarain's, and the wild shrimp is always sweet, plump, and scooped from the Gulf. While all of those ingredients are essential, Lewis says the real flavor from a boil comes from a potent cooking liquor, loaded with alliums, lemon, spices, and a bottle each of white wine and clam juice. Read More: How to Cook a Proper Shrimp Boil

A Proper Shrimp Boil
Photo: Photo by Christopher Testani / Food Styling by Margaret Monroe Dickey / Prop Styling by Mary Clayton Carl
Active Time:
20 mins
Total Time:
1 hrs 30 mins

This shrimp boil is a one-pot summer feast for a crowd. In it, sweet, plump Gulf shrimp, corn and potatoes, and andouille sausage, come together in a flavorful cooking liquor. Lewis recommends using large shrimp in the shell, which helps prevent overcooking and imparts its own flavor to both the shrimp and broth. Add dense ingredients like potatoes and corn first, then sausage, then shrimp. Just before serving, the boil is finished in a garlic spice butter.

When you're ready to eat, line your table with newspaper, and serve the shrimp, sausage, potatoes, and corn splayed out on the table with plenty of paper towels and condiments like hot sauce, cocktail sauce, and lemon wedges. This is deeply satisfying food meant to be eaten with your hands.

Lewis cooks his shrimp boils outside in a large pot (with a strainer insert) set over a propane burner (available at bayouclassic.com). You can also divide the ingredients between two stockpots and cook the boil inside on your stove. Prep the ingredients in advance so you can tend the pot and customize the seasonings to your taste. (For more cooking tips, see How To Cook A Proper Shrimp Boil.)


  • 2 lemons

  • 6 tablespoons unsalted butter (3 ounces)

  • 1 tablespoon Cajun seasoning or Old Bay seasoning, plus more for serving

  • 2 garlic cloves, minced (about 2 teaspoons)

  • 5 tablespoons plus 1/8 teaspoon fine sea salt, divided

  • Hot sauce (such as Tabasco), to taste

  • 11 quarts water (44 cups)

  • 1 (750-milliliter) bottle dry unoaked white wine (such as Pinot Grigio)

  • 1 (8-ounce) bottle clam juice (such as Bar Harbor)

  • 1 large yellow onion (about 12 ounces), quartered lengthwise, root intact

  • 2 garlic heads, halved crosswise

  • 8 dried bay leaves

  • 1 tablespoon dried thyme

  • 2 (3-ounce) packages boil-in-bag crawfish, shrimp, and crab boil (such as Zatarain's) or 1/4 cup Old Bay seasoning

  • 2 pounds small yellow, red, or gold potatoes

  • 8 (8-ounce) shucked ears fresh corn, halved crosswise

  • 3 pounds fresh or smoked sausages (such as Italian sausage, bratwurst, or andouille) (about 8 [6-ounce] sausages or 16 [3-ounce] sausages) (see Note)

  • 4 pounds unpeeled raw large wild shrimp

  • Cocktail Sauce (see Note), for serving

  • Whole-grain mustard, for serving 


  1. Grate zest from 1 lemon to measure 2 teaspoons. Set grated zest aside. Cut zested lemon and remaining lemon into quarters; set aside. Melt butter in a small saucepan over low. Stir in Cajun seasoning, minced garlic, 1/8 teaspoon salt, hot sauce to taste, and reserved lemon zest. Remove from heat; cover to keep warm.

  2. Place a 24-quart pot on an outdoor propane burner. Add 11 quarts water, wine, clam juice, onion, garlic heads, bay leaves, thyme, quartered lemons, and remaining 5 tablespoons salt to pot; cover and bring to a boil over high flame. Stir in crab boil packets; cover and cook 10 minutes. Place a fitted strainer inside pot.

  3. Add potatoes to strainer in pot; cover and cook 5 minutes. Stir in corn and sausages; cover and cook until a thermometer inserted in thickest portion of sausage registers 155°F (or until heated through if using smoked sausages), about 10 minutes. Stir in shrimp; cook, uncovered, until shrimp are pink, opaque, and cooked through, 2 to 4 minutes.

  4. Lift strainer from pot, letting liquid strain back into pot, and transfer shrimp boil mixture (potatoes, corn, sausage, and shrimp) to a large heatproof bowl; discard onion, garlic, bay leaves, thyme, lemons, crab boil packets, and strained liquid inside pot. Add reserved butter mixture to shrimp boil mixture; toss to coat. (If you don't have a large enough bowl, you can do this step in batches, tossing half of the shrimp boil with half of the butter mixture at a time.) Arrange coated shrimp boil on a platter or a covered table. Season with additional Cajun seasoning or Old Bay, if desired. Serve with cocktail sauce and mustard, if desired.

Cocktail Sauce

Stir together 1 (8-ounce) jar cocktail sauce, 2 tablespoons prepared horseradish, 2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice, and 1/2 teaspoon hot sauce (such as Tabasco) in a small bowl. Store, covered, in refrigerator up to 5 days. Grate fresh horseradish on top for serving, if you like.

Suggested Pairing

Light-bodied Provençal rosé: 2021 Commanderie de Peyrassol Les Commandeurs, or crisp, lemony pilsner: Firestone Walker Pivo


For a classic Cajun flavor, choose an andouille sausage, such as North Country Smokehouse, available at Whole Foods.

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