Get ready for the ultimate Lowcountry feast.

By Sheri Castle
May 18, 2018

The easy, fun, one-pot feast known as a Shrimp Boil would benefit from a more precise and descriptive name. Sure, it features fresh shrimp, but the title skips right over the smoky sausage, sweet corn on the cob, and tender red potatoes. Plus, the ingredients don’t actually boil; they simmer in a big pot of richly seasoned liquid that they absorb as they cook.

Come serving time, the cook drains off the remaining liquid and pours everything onto a table covered in newspaper. The guests gather round to dig in, and when they’re all done, the only cleanup is to roll up the paper. Talk about easy. It’s a most congenial type of self-service, just right for easy entertaining and beach trip getaways.

This type of dinner is common along the coast, but in some places, a shrimp boil is called Frogmore Stew. Some stories credit the original recipe to a man named Richard Gay who hailed from a coastal community known as Frogmore, located on St. Helena Island near Beaufort, South Carolina. He needed to cook an easy, hearty meal for 100 of his fellow National Guard soldiers, so he combined simple, plentiful local ingredients in big stewpots. His friends loved the hospitable food, and they loved to rib Richard about coming from a place called Frogmore, so they nicknamed the great meal Frogmore Stew.

By any name, this feast is incomplete without the shrimp, sausage, corn, and potatoes, but some cooks add their own signature touches to the pot, perhaps aromatic vegetables, a bottle or two of beer, and plenty of seasoning. By the way, markets that sell fresh seafood usually also sell the premeasured, ready-to-use mesh bags of seafood boil seasoning that you simply toss in the pot. There is also a liquid form that comes in a small bottle.

The Secret to a Great Shrimp Boil

Beyond using great shrimp, of course, the key is to add the ingredients to the pot in stages so that each one can cook properly. The potatoes take the longest, so they go in first, followed by corn and sausage. The delicate shrimp go in last, off heat. Low and behold, everything turns out just right. If you use great ingredients and follow that guideline, you’ll have your best crowd-pleasing boil ever, ready in only an hour.

It’s smart to serve this meal with crusty bread, melted butter, zesty lemon wedges, and a can of Old Bay for tableside seasoning and sopping.

A classic shrimp boil
Photo: Jennifer Davick

How to Make Lowcountry Shrimp Boil

Our favorite Lowcountry Shrimp Boil recipe is scaled for a small crowd, but can easily be doubled, tripled, or more—if you have a big enough pot, or multiple pots. Although a boil can be prepared indoors, many people like to tackle them outdoors, perhaps in a huge pot set on a propane burner ring or grill. Some stockpots designed for seafood boils have a handy drainage spout.