How to Throw a Backyard Seafood Boil Party

By: Devon O'Brien, Digital Food Editor

Boiled lobsters and classic low-country boils are the easiest way to feed a crowd and put garden-fresh veggies to good use in the summer. Find everything you need to pull it off including an equipment list, recipes and tip

Since eating seafood like lobster, crab and peel-and-eat shrimp is both a deluxe food experience and a hands-on activity, it's great for a party—especially in the summer. Boiling up a large pot of shellfish with all the fixings of a classic low-country boil—potatoes, smoked sausage, Old Bay seasoning and plenty of melted butter for dipping—is one of the easiest ways to feed a crowd. The benefits are endless:

  • You can make it your own by adding garden-fresh veggies, like green beans and corn, right to the boil or serving it with delicious fresh summer salads and grilled bread.
  • Fewer dishes! You only dirty a few large pots since almost everything can be cooked together.
  • The crowd and mess are contained to your backyard—plus the outdoors, with the help of your garden, does all the decorating for you.
  • This delicious meal is relatively hands-off (just boil, drain and dump!) and everyone will love it.

But before you send out your invites, you'll want to make sure you've got the right goods to make the event a success.

Related: Healthy Lobster Recipes

What You'll Need:

  • Large Pot: To make a big low-country boil or to cook more than 6 lobsters, you'll need a super-large pot. A turkey-frying rig works too, because it has a jumbo pot and a sturdy propane burner.
  • Lobster crackers and picks, or kitchen shears make getting the meat out of the shells easier
  • An easy-to-clean table covering, newspapers or a paper table covering like this lobster-themed craft paper
  • Bowls or pails for discarded shells and peels
  • Lemon wedges for squeezing
  • Melted butter for dipping
  • Plenty of napkins (and maybe some bibs)

Related: The Best Reusable Products for Outdoor BBQ Parties

Seafood Boil Shopping Tips

Lobsters in a pot

For a Lobster Boil:

How many: One 1 1/4- to 1 1/2-pound lobster per person, to yield 4 to 6 ounces of meat.

What to look for: Ask your fishmonger to hold each lobster up. Choose those that are kicking their tails when removed from the tank.

Or buy it cooked: Many markets will steam lobster for you while you wait (call ahead). Some stores also offer cooked, picked lobster meat.

Related: Clean Eating Buyer's Guide to Seafood

For a Low-Country Boil:

How many: Three 21-25 count shrimp per person

What to look for: For sustainably raised shrimp, look for shrimp that's certified by an independent agency, such as the Marine Stewardship Council. If you can't find it, choose wild-caught shrimp from North America—it's more likely to be sustainably caught. Look for raw, shell-on shrimp, either fresh or frozen.

Or buy it cooked: You can buy shell-on (or without shells if you want to skip peeling!) shrimp cooked too. But remember, they just needed to be heated through rather than cooked fully, so be careful not to overcook.

Related: Shrimp Shopping Guide

How to Prepare a Seafood Boil

Low-Country Boil

Pictured Recipe: Low-Country Boil

Lobster Boil Cooking Steps:

  1. Keep live lobsters for up to 24 hours in a ventilated container, such as a cardboard box, placed at the back of the bottom shelf of your refrigerator. Pack them in seaweed or damp newspapers to keep them moist but not wet. Don't store them on ice or in tap water as the fresh water will kill them.
  2. If you'd rather not cook live lobsters, you can kill them just before cooking. Wearing gloves, place a lobster on its back on a cutting board. Holding it steady by the tail, insert the tip of a chef's knife right below the claws and between the small legs. With one swift motion, cut down through the head. (This kills the lobster instantly.)
  3. Steaming is the most traditional way to cook a lobster. Bring 3 inches of water to a boil in a large pot. (If you have access to fresh seaweed, add a few strips for flavor.) Remove the rubber bands from the claws and add lobsters, claw-side down. Cover and steam for 12 to 14 minutes for a 1 1/4- to 1 1/2-pound lobster. (For larger lobsters, add 2 minutes for each additional 1/4 pound.) To test for doneness, pull off one of the legs: if it pulls off easily, the lobster is ready.

Related: How to Shell a Lobster

Low-Country Boil Cooking Steps:

  1. Prep all your ingredients ahead of time for smooth sailing when the cooking starts. Scrub the potatoes, thaw the shrimp if using frozen, trim the green beans, halve the ears of corn, cut the sausage into bite-size pieces and measure out your spices.
  2. Bring a large stockpot of seasoned water to a boil. Add the ingredients that take the longest to cook first—potatoes and sausage—and boil for about 20 minutes.
  3. Next, add the quicker-cooking vegetables—green beans, frozen pearl onions and corn—and the shrimp (if using cooked shrimp, don't add them in until about the last 2 minutes of cooking) and cook until the shrimp are pink, about 8 minutes.
  4. Drain the boil and spread the cooked seafood and vegetables down the center of the table surrounded by bowls of melted butter for dipping and baskets of whole-grain bread to soak up all the juices and extra butter.

Related: How to Prep Fresh Green Beans

Watch: How to Make a Healthy Low-Country Boil

More Summer Entertaining Ideas:

The Ultimate Outdoor Garden-Party Menu for Summer Entertaining
Garden Party Decoration Ideas Featuring Fresh Herbs
How to Make a Perfect Summer Cheese Board
Food & Drink Hacks for Your Summer Pool Party