Crayfish, or kreef as they’re known locally, are a relative of lobster and a pretty great local delicacy. They’re beautifully dark fresh out the water, and turn a striking crimson after they’re cooked. I must admit that I’m not a big seafood eater myself, but my fiance and family love anything with gills and even I tried a few deliciously smokey bites.
My aunt Anne-Marie is quite the cook, and between her, my mom and my fiance (all are great in the kitchen) we had quite the feast that night.
We were staying in Hluleka, a truly extraordinarily beautiful part of the Eastern Cape, and bought some crayfish from local fishermen (please do this legally to prevent overfishing) as a 30th birthday treat for my fiance.
A big concern for us was killing the crayfish humanely. As The Atlantic Monthly puts it, “Even with further advances in science, we may never know precisely what crustaceans feel. But it doesn’t take much of a leap to imagine that being boiled alive isn’t pleasant, and that’s exactly why we’re squeamish.”
With this is mind, and after a lot of research, I put together a guide to killing crayfish (or lobster) humanely. Cooking them on the braai makes them completely delicious; the sweet flesh steams gently and has a deliciously dark, smokey note.
How to kill a crayfish (or lobster) humanely – and then how to eat it
- Empty a freezer drawer, and put your crayfish in the freezer for at least an hour. This knocks them out.
- Take out a large chopping board and place the anaesthetised crayfish on the board. Find the ‘cross’ on the creature’s head (this is a weak spot), and swiftly and with force stab it through there. You might need to do this with two tools to get through the shell.
- Before braaing, you will need to boil your crayfish. Place a large pot of cold salted water on the stove, and put your crayfish in the pot. Slowly bring to the boil. As BBC Good Food puts it, “At boiling point, lower the heat and simmer the lobster for 15 minutes for the first 450g. Simmer for a further 10 minutes for each 450g thereafter to a maximum of 40 minutes.”
- Rinse the crayfish off under running tap water (there will be ‘foam’ on the shell).
- Get your braai coals hot and smokey. Put the crayfish on the braai for a further 10 – 20 minutes.
- To eat: Twist the head off from the body. Crack the back shell open. Find a thick, dark tube in the crayfish, and pull this out.