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Nov
10
2021
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Sara Hansen
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How to Do a Seafood Boil on the Grill Like a Pro

With Thanksgiving and Christmas coming up, you may already be starting the planning for your big holiday meals with your family and friends, complete with the smoked turkey and all the sides. But what if you want to get everyone together for a backyard meal before, between, or shortly after the holidays (football tailgate anyone)? A seafood boil makes a great option for this occasion!

Of course, many people associate a seafood boil with the summertime. And yes, this simple meal makes a fantastic choice for that time of the year. But, even in the wintertime, in the south’s mild winter days, a low country boil makes it easy to feed a large crowd without the formal pressure of holiday meals. Plus, you can do a delicious seafood boil on the grill or in your smoker!

Here’s what you need to know about seafood boils and how to ensure you end up with a grilled seafood boil that will have everyone digging in for seconds:

 

The Different Variations of a Seafood Boil

When it comes to what you want to put on your seafood boil, there are a couple different ways to go. The term “seafood boil” is actually an all-encompassing term for a type of social gathering meal that is cooked in a large quantity and will include shrimp and sometimes other seafood. The best part is, with any type of seafood boil, you can just dump everything out and let everyone dig in, making cleanup super easy. 

But, like there are different regional styles of BBQ, there is a variety of different regional styles of seafood boils and the differences will be in what ingredients and seasonings are included. 

For example, you may have heard the term “low country boil” before. Many people ask what is a low country boil exactly? Or what is the difference between a cajun shrimp boil and a low country boil?

Here is a brief breakdown of a couple of different styles of seafood boils:

 

Cajun seafood boil: 

Often referred to as a “crawfish boil”, “cajun shrimp boil”, or “crab boil” and will usually include the one type of shellfish, as well as corn on the cob, new potatoes, andouille sausage, and onion. A seafood boil in Louisiana will usually be on the spicier side and seasoned with cayenne pepper, hot sauce, lemons, bay leaves, and other cajun spices.

 

Low-Country boil:

Low-Country boils, sometimes referred to as Frogmore stew or a Beaufort boil, originated in the Carolinas, eventually making their way down through Georgia, and are usually much milder in flavor compared to Cajun boils. Though they do sometimes contain a little bit of hot sauce, the flavor of these boils will often mainly revolve around butter and Old Bay seasoning. It will always have shrimp and they’ll also include corn on the cob, red potatoes, sausage, and sometimes ham. Unlike Louisiana boils which usually only have one type of shellfish, a Low-Country boil will sometimes also have crabs, crawfish, or mussels included as well. And sometimes even a combination of all of it. 

 

low country boil on the grill | seafood boil on the grill | shrimp boil
Source: Food Network

 

Three Ways to Cook a Seafood Boil on the Grill (or Smoker)

Both of the types of seafood boils above can easily be cooked on your grill or smoker. Just like you’ve got some options when it comes to what you put in the boil, you’ve got a couple of options when it comes to exactly how to cook a seafood boil on the grill:

 

In a Large Pot on the Grill:

Using a large pot to boil everything together is the most traditional way to cook a seafood boil on the grill. Depending on the type of smoker you have, you may have room to use a pot insert and smoke your boil in a pot also. 

Here’s how to do a large pot boil-  

  • Fill the pot with the appropriate amount of water and add 1 cup of Boil seasoning (dry mix or liquid) or your own seasoning mixture. Place on the hot grill and cover until the water boils.
  • Make a flavor bag/sachet for the pot using a cheesecloth or mesh laundry bag and include two lemons sliced in half, two heads of garlic smashed, and a large onion cut in half. Add the bag to the pot. (You can find the laundry bag at the dollar store)
  • Cut your potatoes in half and liberally season with salt and pepper. Put them in a separate bag and add it to the pot (then you can easily remove them when it’s time to add other ingredients).
  • Allow the potatoes to boil for roughly 10 minutes (depending on size).
  • While the potatoes are cooking, cut up the sausage, prep and cut your fresh corn, and make sure the shrimp (and or other shellfish) are ready to go.
  • Once the potatoes are almost done, pull their bag from the pot. Add in the corn, sausage, shellfish, and more seasoning and cook for about 10-15 minutes (depending on the type of shellfish, ie. crab takes longer than shrimp to cook.)
  • Dump the potatoes out of the bag, season them, and gently add them back into the pot and stir everything lightly.
  • Remove the pot from the heat and allow it to sit for about 5 minutes.
  • Discard the flavor bag and drain the liquid from the pot, saving half a cup of the leftover broth. Season everything with additional salt, pepper, and spices, if desired. Serve immediately! (Don’t be afraid to dump it all out directly onto a table covered in butcher paper.
  • Combine the half cup of leftover broth with a stick or two of melted butter and drizzle over the platter.

 

In Foil Packs on the Grill or In the Smoker:

 

seafood boil on the grill | how to cook low country boil on the grill | shrimp boil
Source: Delish

 

This method is a fun alternative to the traditional pot boil and allows you to really smoke everything and infuse some of that great wood-fire taste you love. Doing foil packs will cook everything through more of a roasting/steaming method than traditional boiling. 

Another advantage to this method is that everyone will have their own individual portion already separated out. Here’s how to do foil packs - 

  • Preheat your grill or smoker to 400 degrees F.
  • Chop the corn into thirds and the potatoes in half and pre-boil them together in a pot for roughly 10 minutes. Drain and set them aside.
  • Then combine your shrimp and/or other shellfish, sausage, corn, and potatoes in a large bowl. Stir everything together with melted butter, Old Bay seasoning, garlic, lemon juice, and salt and pepper to taste.
  • Divide the mixture evenly onto 12” x 12” sheets of aluminum foil. Fold the edges of the foil up around the food and seal the packet closed.
  • Cook the packs over the indirect heat side of the preheated grill for 10-15 minutes with the top seal-side down.
  • Flip the packs and slightly open the seal and cook another 10-15 minutes. You want to cook them until the corn and potatoes are tender and the shrimp is pink and somewhat firm.
  • Remove the packs and immediately serve them with chopped parsley and lemon wedges to squeeze.

 

In a Large Foil Pan on the Grill or in the Smoker:

Similar to the foil pack method, cooking everything in a large foil sheet pan will also allow you to infuse that great smoke flavor into your boil. Here’s how to do it - 

  • Preheat your grill or smoker to 400 degrees F.
  • In a pot, partially boil the fresh corn and potatoes for about 10 minutes, until tender. Drain the water and set them aside.
  • In a bowl, mix together your melted butter, garlic, Old Bay seasoning, and Cajun seasoning.
  • Put the corn, potatoes, onion, sausage, and shellfish into the foil pan and mix in the melted butter and seasoning mixture.
  • Place the tray on the indirect heat side of your grill and cook with the lid down for 10-15 minutes or until the shellfish is properly cooked through.
  • Top with lemon juice and fresh chopped parsley and serve immediately!

 

Tips to Ensure Your Boil Turns Out Perfect

 

seafood boil on the grill | how to cook low country boil on the grill | shrimp boil on table

 

If you want to ensure you end up with a delicious seafood boil that will have everyone raving, there are definitely some pro tips to keep in mind. These include:

  • If you are using the pot method on the grill, make sure your pot is covered with a lid. Steaming is an essential part of the cooking process and trying to cook your boil uncovered will be much more difficult.
  • If you are cooking the boil in foil packs or a foil pan, partially pre-boil the corn and potatoes. They take much longer to cook than the shellfish so you don’t want to overcook those while you’re waiting for the corn and potatoes to finish.
  • If you are doing the large pot method, stagger the cooking times of your ingredients. Place the potatoes and corn in first. When those are done, remove them and add the next set of ingredients.
  • If using frozen shrimp make sure they are thoroughly defrosted before you start cooking. Not doing so can result in overly soggy shrimp.
  • Cook until the shrimp have gone from translucent white to bright pink and semi-firm. If cooking crawfish, cook until the tail meat is firm.
  • Make sure to season everything liberally. Season the water, season the potatoes, corn, shellfish, and season everything once it’s done. The more flavor, the better.
  • Don’t be afraid to get creative with what you want in your seafood boil. Add whatever you think you will like in your pot. Throw in some mussels. Substitute Kielbasa for Andouille sausage. Make it your own!
  • Pair with a lager beer for a delicious combo of complementary flavors.

 

Make Sure You Have Enough of Each Ingredient for Everyone

To ensure you have a successful seafood boil, it’s important to make sure you include enough of each ingredient for everyone to get a good portion. Of course, this may leave you with a little leftover, but it’s better to have a little too much than not enough for everyone. 

To give you an idea of how much to get, here is a breakdown of ingredients for if you were doing a shrimp boil in foil packs on the grill. For every 4 people you want to have:

  • 1.5 pounds jumbo shell-on shrimp (21-25/per pound)
  • 1 pound smoked sausage
  • 2 ears of sweet corn, shucked and cut in half
  • 8 baby red potatoes the size of a golf ball, approximately 

For this amount of ingredients above (for 4 people), you would need this much seasoning:

  • ½ a yellow onion
  • 1 lemon cut in half
  • 1 ¾ tablespoons Old Bay seasoning or another seasoning mix
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil (*if cooking in foil packs or foil pan)
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1 cup beer, preferably a lager
  • ½ cup water

 

Enjoy a Delicious Seafood Boil Today!

No matter what time of the year it is, a seafood boil on the grill is a great way to easily feed a large crowd and have very little cleanup to worry about afterward. As you can see, the process is very simple and you can get creative with what exactly you want to put in it. Whether you have a grill or a smoker, you can quickly cook up a delicious seafood spread big enough to feed a small army.

Have you done a grilled seafood boil recently? What is your favorite type of boil, maybe a cajun shrimp boil or is it a low country boil? Leave a comment below. We want to hear from you!

Want more great backyard BBQ recipes you can cook all year long? Check out our step-by-step virtual Championship Backyard BBQ Classes with some of the top competition Pitmasters and Grillmasters. In these, you’ll learn a variety of delicious recipes with all of the insider tips you need to know. You can master your backyard cooking today!

Also, make sure to subscribe to the BBQ Champs Academy YouTube channel to stay on top of all the latest insider info and competition BBQ news straight from pros!

 

*Feature image from Traeger Grills

Sara Hansen

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