Crawfish vs. Lobster vs. Shrimp: Learn to Tell the Difference

Crawfish vs. Lobster vs. Shrimp: Learn to Tell the Difference

Three of the most popular seafood in the Southern states are crawfish, shrimp, and lobster. While to some people there appears to be very little difference between the three, to those who catch them or are big foodies, there are a number of important differences.

The Physical Differences

Although there may seem to very very little that’s aesthetically different between lobster, crawfish and shrimp, you might be surprised to learn that they are actually quite different.

Shrimp is the collective name for several species of long-tailed crustaceans. Most are under 8 inches long and are usually found in saltwater on sandy or muddy bottoms. They vary in color, but the most common in the U.S. are white, brown and pink. They are a great source of protein and are low in fat and calories, although they are high in cholesterol.

Crawfish Has a Short Harvest Season but it’s Available Year-Round

Crawfish, on the other hand, are normally 3 to 4 inches long, and almost exclusively live in freshwater. They tend to be the most active at night and they live on the muddy bottoms of water. This is why they’re so popular in the Southern states of the U.S., as they can be farmed in combination with rice paddies, and are at home in swampy waters.

Their color varies, and they can be found in red, brown, orange, dark green and black, although this doesn’t affect the taste. They have a pair of claws, which means they are sometimes confused for small lobsters. Like shrimp, crawfish are high in protein and low in fat and calories, which makes them a great choice for those who are weight conscious.

Lobsters are the largest of the group. They are typically no longer than 8 inches, but can grow up to 20 inches in length. Apart from their size, they are very similar to crawfish in appearance, although lobsters exclusively live in salt water.

When to Get Them?

As with most good food that needs to be harvested, there is a season where you can get the best of each type of seafood. Crawfish season is dependent on the previous winter, the temperature, and rainfall, but the season normally begins in February or March and runs until June or July. Despite this season, there are some good restaurants which serve farmed crawfish year-round that they bring in fresh, so you can usually get your crawfish fix any time you want.

The first few months of the year are the worst time of the year for eating lobsters, as they tend to move further offshore owing to the cold weather which makes it more difficult for fishermen to catch them. Prices then peak in early spring, but as the days get warmer, the fishing picks up and prices drop.

May is usually the best month to get the best live lobsters, as they are at their firmest and meatiest after the cold weather. After late spring, fall is the best time to get good, hard-shell lobster, and the prices tend to stay reasonable until Christmas time when they start to rise again due to the colder months. Shrimp have a very similar season to lobsters, and are at their best between April and October.

Taste and Cooking

Lobster and crawfish are both usually associated with a certain type of cooking. Lobsters are commonly considered to be a delicacy, whereas crawfish are typically thought of as used in “down-home” cooking.

Lobsters are traditionally boiled and steamed, though it’s usually just the tails that are cooked and often dipped in butter. Crawfish on the other hand are usually boiled whole in homemade spicy Cajun seasoning and served whole in a pile of potatoes and corn, or in other Cajun dishes such as etouffee and jambalaya. Many people consider the head to be one of the best parts of the crawfish, as it is typically where the fat is stored. Comparatively, shrimp can be cooked in a variety of ways with no particular way standing out.

Now you know the difference between lobsters, crawfish and shrimp, which one are you most eager to eat? These seafoods form many of the most popular dishes in the South, which you can enjoy at various good restaurants in Kemah.


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