How to Tell If a Crawfish Is Dead

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When you go to a crawfish boil, you might want to know if the crawfish was dead before it was cooked. Crawfish go by different names, including crayfish, little lobsters, and yabbies, and they look very similar to a small version of a lobster. They are usually between two and six inches long whereas lobsters can be more than twenty inches.

When people prepare crawfish for food, they start by rinsing them with clean water. Once they are clean, they throw them in the pot of boiling water with spices and all kinds of food such as mushrooms, carrots, and even hot dogs.

They are dropped into the pot of boiling water when they are alive because it is not always safe to eat a crawfish that died before it was cooked. In many cases, you won’t know how long it has been dead. The problem is that their insides decompose rapidly and give off toxic particles. If you don’t know how long it has been dead, it could lead to food poisoning.

Look at its Tail

One method of determining whether the crawfish was dead is to look at the tail. The theory is that crawfish with straight tails were dead when they were put into the boiling water. When a crawfish dies, its abdomen, which is in the tail, contracts and this is what leads to the curling. You should avoid the straight-tailed crawfish at a crawfish boil.

Smell it

You might also want to smell the crawfish. This can be tricky because it was probably cooked with spices and other foods but if the crawfish was dead and rotted, it will still smell bad.

Taste the Crawfish

You have to be pretty bold to try this method but you can actually taste the crawfish to determine if it was dead. Fresh crawfish are practically addictive but the ones that were dead may taste bad. If you find that the crawfish tastes bad, it was likely dead before it was cooked.

Crawfish boils are popular in the south, especially in Louisiana. They cook a lot of crawfish in a boiling pot and then dump them out across picnic tables. Cajuns always say not to eat the ones with straight tales, which could be a sign that they were dead before they were cooked. If you think that your crawfish smells bad, stay away from it. It should have a smell based on the spices and other food it was cooked with.

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1 Comment

  1. There is no sure way to tell if crawfish were alive or dead before cooking unless decomposition has set in. Since the tail meat sets next to the digestive gland, the meat can become soft and mushy fairly quickly in dead non refrigerated crawfish. So soft or mushy tail meat or bad order or taste is the only indications that breakdown of muscle began before cooking. The existence of tail curl is not a reliable indicator of safety or quality.

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