Alternately known as the Beaufort Boil, Tidewater Boil, Frogmore Stew – though it is frog-less and is not a stew – the Low Country Boil is South Carolina’s answer to the New England Clambake and the Louisiana Seafood Boil – a one-pot feast made with regional staples.
The Low Country Boil traditionally includes catch-of-the-day shellfish, vegetables, slices of spicy sausage (like andouille or kielbasa) and an array of spices, tossed in a pot and boiled.
Once it’s finished cooking, it’s drained, dumped onto a newspaper-topped table and eaten by hand, best enjoyed with a bottle of hot sauce and a few cold ones.
Where did it come from?
Native to the Low Country of South Carolina, the dish’s origins are unknown and up for debate, like to many other regional recipe staples.
Beaufort, South Carolina historian Gerhand Speiler attributes the dish to local shrimpers, who created a filling meal with whatever ingredients they had around – especially the plentiful catch-of-the-day shrimp, crawfish and blue crabs.
Another story credits the Low Country Boil – or, more specifically, Frogmore Stew – to one Richard Gay, who claims to have whipped up the dish in the 1960s for his fellow National Guardsmen while stationed in Beauford.
Gay is said to have returned back home to Frogmore, where he offered the recipe up at his own market, packaged with all the necessary agreements.
While its exact origins may never be known, the Low Country Boil will likely live forever as a South Carolina staple that is enjoyed in different forms all over the South, from the south eastern coast of Georgia all the way up to Maine.
What do you need to do it yourself?
Large Pot: If you’re cooking for 10, a 24-quart pot is about the minimum size. Most crab boil pots are best purchased in the 44-quart size. It’s always better to have enough room instead of too little room.
Bayou Classic makes an excellent aluminum stockpot with a steam and boil basket.
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Shellfish: Most recipes call for fresh shrimp or crawfish, but crab is a great substitute – or addition. The crab legs are the best part.
Meat: For a spicy, flavorful boil, choose a spicy, smoked sausage like andouille or kielbasa. Ham is also a popular choice.
Vegetables: Small red potatoes and fresh corn are staples, and onions aren’t unheard of. You can even toss in 1-inch pieces of an apple or two if you prefer for a deeper, sweet flavor.
Seasoning: Shrimp boil and crab boil seasonings are sold ready (think Old Bay seasoning), or you can make your own with this recipe. A good Cajun-style seasoning will work with any kind of boil.
Lemons: Squeeze a few into the boil itself, and slice plenty more to garnish the finished product.
Additions: Serve warm bread smothered in garlic compound butter (simply made by blending smashed garlic cloves with butter) to sop up the delicious seafood flavors.
Most folks will line their table with bowls of cocktail sauce. If there are blue crabs present, melted butter and vinegar also make great additions.
Ready to get cooking?
Get going on your very own Low Country Boil with this recipe from Southern icon, Trisha Yearwood. Bon appétit!