How to Throw a Summer Crab Boil Party

“The best way to eat crabs, as everyone knows, is off newspaper at a large table with a large number of people.” Laurie Colwin

A crab boil is one of the easiest summer entertaining parties to host.    Low on stress and high on fun, I make mine even easier by ordering the crabs already cooked, encrusted in Old-Bay style seasoning and picked up piping hot, right before guests arrive. Where we live these red-shelled beauties are Maryland blue crabs from the Chesapeake.  Their Latin name, Callinectes sapidus, means beautiful swimmer. Their flesh is sweet and succulent and they are in season now.  Aren’t they gorgeous?

Our bushel of crabs arrived pipping hot in this lidded wooden basket lined in newspaper

I heap the crabs up on a newspaper covered table (layer 4 to 5 sheets) along with boiled new potatoes, lemon wedges,  corn-on-the-cob and butter in ramekins, for dipping.  We like to pile some Cape Cod Kettle Chips on the table too!  And voilà, one of summer’s easiest and  fun entertaining ideas.  With a newspaper tablecloth and the eating done with your hands, this party practically cleans itself up!  Let’s get crackin!

Because crabs are messy to eat, we give each guest a kitchen towel as a serviette. They can be bought by the dozen pretty cheaply online (Amazon) or at Ikea, about $1 apiece. I tied a wooden crab mallet with a picking fork on each towel with twine for a nautical touch. The long dish towels can double up as bibs.  Have wet wipes and extra rolls of paper towels available too. Small sharp knives help crack open the shells.  Scatter some around the table too.  The centerpieces were casual summer garden flowers arranged in crab meat cans.  Ask your fish monger to save you some.  My local Seafood USA kindly rinsed some cans out for me to take.Hurricane lanterns offer candlelight as the sun goes down and their candles are nestled in seaglass in the same blue as the crab cans.

At the bar, a large hurricane was dressed in nautical-inspired coiled twine, seashells and starfish.  Dessert utensils were nested in a Nantucket basket handbag.  The hardest part of this party was  feeling like I had nothing to do to get ready for it!

This party is easily adapted for a few guests to a crowd. Per person, I planned on:

  • 2 ears of corn, cut  in 3 segments (tossed in salted butter right before serving)
  • 6 small red bliss new potatoes (tossed in salted butter right before serving)
  • 4 large crabs (women will eat less, men will eat more but this number usually works well)
  • lemon wedges
  • 1 ramekin of melted butter, add garlic if you like.  Optional.  Some purists say no butter with crabs!  It can be used to dip the potatoes or the corn too!
  • handful of chips

We had several kitchen trash bins set near the table so shells and cobs could be easily tossed as guests enjoyed dinner. Soiled newspaper sheets can be tossed as you go or folded over.  There is just something about a party where everyone sits around a table, uses a hammer to get at to their food and eats with their hands that makes everyone relax and ignites conversation.

Happy summer entertaining!

15 thoughts on “How to Throw a Summer Crab Boil Party

  1. Awesome johanne! Wish I could get crabs at our cabin retreat…. I really want to be invited to your next one…haha😊

    On Sun, Jul 1, 2018, 11:05 AM French Gardener Dishes wrote:

    > Johanne Lamarche posted: “”The best way to eat crabs, as everyone knows, > is off newspaper at a large table with a large number of people.” Laurie > Colwin A crab boil is one of the easiest summer entertaining parties to > host. Low on stress and high on fun, I make mine even easie” >

  2. How nice you can order your crabs already cooked!! I went to a peel-and-eat-shrimp dinner served like this at my cousin’s in North Carolina, it was so much fun!! We do low country shrimp boils around here and I think I’ll put one on the menu for this 4th week, thanks for the inspiration Johanne! Happy 4th to you~

  3. What a feast!!!!!!!! Seriously one of THE easiest and tastiest ways to enjoy a summer evening! No need for fancy schmancy linens and such. I LIVE the centerpiece idea!!! Those have got to be the most attractive crabmeat cans I’ve ever seen! I’ve not seen anything that cute here in the Midwest!

    • Oh Alycia, I knew you would love those crab can centerpieces! They were the whole reason I threw the party…sort of…LOL. Even the fish market said they’d never seen that done but loved the idea. It was a fun party. BUT, how would the great and famous Alycia have styled it????

      Johanne Lamarche


    • It was a lot of fun Teresa! You’d be most welcomed! Spending the 4th in Canada this year. Enjoy the holiday!

      Dr. Johanne Lamarche 630 Spruce Lane Berwyn, PA 19312-1457 610-220-2086


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