Crawfish are a very popular delicacy found in every seafood restaurant and hotel. And they are best enjoyed when cooked fresh to get the maximum flavor. But to achieve that flavor you have to keep them alive before cooking them. So, how do you keep these freshwater dwellers long enough to cook?
The best way to keep crawfish alive is to place them in a sack or plastic bag and store them in a large, clean cooler. Then cover them with a soaking wet towel, cloth, or unopened ice packs. Keep them somewhere safe and away from direct sunlight. Do not place them underwater or they will drown.
In this article, we will look at the details of maintaining live crawfish for as long as possible. We will discuss how to store them properly for both short-term and long-term purposes.
How to Keep Crawfish Alive Overnight
This is particularly pertinent for restaurant and hotel owners. Sometimes they get the products in the evening but they will cook them then the next day. In this instance, they need to store them somewhere they will remain fresh and alive.
First, you should keep them in the bag or sack they were delivered. If not, transfer them to a new, clean sack or plastic bag. Make sure they are large enough to house all the crawfish comfortably. Rinse them with clean water to prevent them from drying up. These creatures will die if they become dehydrated.
Next, you need to place them in a big ice cooler. Keeping them cool is the only way you can ensure their freshness. It is better to line the cooler with newspaper beforehand. This will help with keeping the moisture.
Then, put some sealed bags of ice or a large, wet towel over the sack. This should ensure that the moisture is kept inside and the temperature is low. The ideal temperature you are looking for is between 35-45 degrees Fahrenheit. If they get too hot, they will start to dehydrate.
Finally, store them in a cool, safe, and moist location. Your crawfish will be able to survive long enough in this state to cook them the next morning. Keep the lid open so that there is proper ventilation. This step is important as it keeps a steady flow of oxygen within the tank or cooler.
You should look to change the bags of ice from time to time. This is to further guarantee that the temperatures do not rise. Also, make sure that the water level does not fill the entire cooler. You do not want to drown all of your crawfish accidentally. So, keep this in mind.
How Long Do Crawfish Live Out of Water?
When stored properly, crawfish can live up to 2 days. Now, this depends on several factors and situations. Sometimes you may be able to keep them for longer than a couple of days. Other times, they may start to deteriorate the next day. It also depends on how fresh and healthy they were when initially caught.
Typically, they are kept alive overnight to be cooked in the morning or noon in restaurants. At home, you can stretch this period to 2-3 days before you cook them. But remember that the fresher they are, the better will they taste.
How to Store Live Crawfish
Now, let us discuss storing the crawfish properly. This process is not overly complicated. However, you do have to look after a couple of things. Otherwise, you will have to deal with dead crawfish.
When you keep them in a cooler, keep them away from direct sunlight. The sunlight will drain away the moisture from their body very quickly.
A common mistake we see is people putting them in water. But that is a risky thing to do even though they are freshwater creatures. This is due to a lack of oxygen. See, crawfish work a little differently compared to other aquatic creatures. They require plenty of oxygen and they can acquire that oxygen directly from the air.
Now, if they are placed in still waters, the oxygen amount in there will run out. And without sufficient oxygen supply, your crawfish will die. This is why they are not usually kept in still water for preservation. Rather they are kept in water-less coolers with plenty of room.
For long-term storage, you have to change the ice packs or wet towels regularly. If you do not, they will start to heat up. Also, if you are using ice, then their packs should be closed. Otherwise, the ice will melt and may end up drowning the entire stock. If water does build up inside the tank, change it.
The temperature is very key in preserving crawfish. Keep it too high and they start to lose moisture. Eventually, they will end up as dead seafood. On the flip side, keep it too low and you risk losing some of the freshness.
So, the temperature should be kept at crisp of 35-45 degrees Fahrenheit. This is easily achievable without the need for a refrigerator. You can use a thermometer to check if it is in the correct parameter. If you see it rising, quickly get more ice packs or replace the old ones.
Do Crawfish Need to be Purged?
You have to properly clean and purify a crawfish before you start cooking it. This process is known as “purging” the crawfish and it is absolutely vital.
Crawfish are usually cultivated in freshwater where they live in the mud. They consume pretty much anything to sustain their life. So, their intestines are often filled with all sorts of grass, dead larvae, and mud. This is different from lobster which lives in seawater. Other than the excess salt, seawater is much cleaner.
Now, this mud and other digested food particles will probably not cause you great harm once cooked thoroughly. The heat will kill any potential bacteria and germs. However, this will significantly affect the taste of the crawfish and your entire dish. Plus, some harmful substances might remain even after boiling.
This is especially important as crawfish are kept alive to keep them fresh. This also means that their intestines are filled with unwanted materials.
This is why it is essential that you clean and purge the crawfish before you put them in the pan. By cleaning out the impurities, you are making the food safer and significantly increasing its taste at the same time. So, you should always purge or clean your crawfish at the beginning of your cooking process.
Purging is also necessary to pluck out the dead crawfish within the group. Dead crawfish are just not as palatable as live ones. So, you are saving yourself a lot of trouble by purging the dead ones out at the start.
How to Purge Crawfish
Purging means getting the mud and other debris out of the crawfish. The best way to achieve this objective is by washing them in a water bath.
Take a large tub or tank of water, depending on the number of crawfish you want to wash. Then soak the crawfish in the water nicely. Make sure every one of them is properly submerged underwater to get the most result.
If you can, take a large handle or something similar to stir the water. The added motion will fasten the process up and make it more efficient. After about 5-10 minutes, drain the tub of all of the water. Then repeat the process by filling it up with fresh water. You can also use a hose to supply a moving current.
You can use salt in this process, though it is uncertain whether this helps or not. So, you can purge your crawfish without the use of salt or any other minerals. Usually, clean water and stirring do the trick.
Additionally, try and spot the dead crawfish in the batch. They are typically floating and are non-responsive. So, they should not be too hard to notice. Let the batch sit for a few minutes in the water. Once you spotted them, simply use the handle or something similar and pick up the unwanted members.
How Long Can You Keep Crawfish in the Refrigerator?
This relies on the state of your crawfish. If they are alive and fresh, you can store them inside a refrigerator for 2-3 days at most. It is similar to storing live crawfish in a cooler. But it is best used within 24 hours to get the best taste.
If the crawfish are cleaned and cooked, they will last up to 2-3 months inside a fridge. These crawfish have already been cleaned and boiled. So, they will not rot as quickly as live ones. If the packaging is done well, you can store them for months.
Crawfish are a delicate seafood item that needs to be handled carefully. If maintained well, they are sure to satisfy the taste buds. Hopefully, with the insight provided here, you can enjoy freshly cooked crawfish on your own.