No Labor Day party plan? What could be easier than putting everything in one pot to cook and serve? No labor for this Labor Day party! And it is the absolute easiest way to serve a big crowd. You can even dump the boil onto a table lined with brown paper and let everyone simply dig in.

A good boil starts with the freshest seafood. I think you can put just about any kind of shellfish in your pot---- so go to the market and get what is the freshest but in the Lowcountry of South Carolina, a boil is traditionally made with shrimp and clams. Or crab. And here in that part of the South- Old Bay Seasoning is a must. You can usually find it at the grocery or ask the guy at the fish counter. You can cook your boil on the stove, on the grill or over a fire.



5 pounds whole fresh shrimp (in the shell)

3 dozen small clams in shell-optional (make sure the shells are closed when you purchase!)

3 pounds smoked sausage

3 pounds small red potatoes, skin on-- cut them in half if they are large

3 large white onions, cut in quarters

5 pounds of fresh corn-on-the-cob cut into 4 inch pieces

1/2 stick butter

2 lemons, sliced

6 cloves garlic, finely minced

Old Bay seasoning to taste (add a little at a time)

1 bottle of your favorite beer (optional)

Salt & Pepper to taste


Put the potatoes and onion along with all of the seasonings (garlic, butter, lemon, too)  in a huge stockpot with enough water to cover and add  the beer. Put the lid on and simmer until almost done. Add corn and sausage and simmer until the corn is almost done. Add the shrimp and clams. Cook until the clams just open and  the shrimp turns pink. Don't keep cooking once your seafood is done--- it will get tough. I will often drain and transfer the boil to a large cooler to keep it hot for serving if I have a huge crowd.

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You can put just about anything in a boil. It is one of the easiest and most fun dishes you can serve for a big party but the key is to use the best quality (fresh or frozen) shrimp you can find and not to overcook it. Serve with crusty bread and cold beer and you’ve got a party! Some people add mushrooms, oysters, fish, crab, and peppers but I prefer this classic recipe.

That one time, when I auditioned for Food Network Star, I had to make a dish to take to the call back the next day. I was in a hotel so I did not have a kitchen. It is a long story but after trying everything I could think of, I went to a fire station and they let me use their kitchen. I made them this same dish (without the beer since they were on duty) and they loved it- they had never had it before.

Gulf Shrimp, onions, corn, and potatoes and a huge pot are the standards for a shrimp boil

Gulf Shrimp, onions, corn, and potatoes and a huge pot are the standards for a shrimp boil


Skill level: Easy

Prep Time: 15   Cook Time: 25 minutes


6 lemons, halved, squeezed

1 cup Old Bay seasoning

1 ½ cups New Orleans style crab boil seasoning like Zatarain’s (use liquid or powder)

2 bottles of your favorite beer

4 large white onions, cut in quarters

3 pounds red potatoes, skin on. Cut in half if they are large

10 ears fresh corn cut into 3-4”pieces

3 pounds smoked sausage (I always use Conecuh sausage but use your favorite)

5 pounds whole fresh shrimp 21-26 count/ in the shell

¼ cup kosher salt

1 stick unsalted butter

½ cup hot sauce-optional


Rinse fresh shrimp well with cold water. Set aside. Fill a large stockpot ½ full with water-about 3-4 gallons. Fit the pot with a strainer if you have one. Bring to a boil. Add the first 6 ingredients. And bring back to a full rolling boil. Add potatoes and onion. Put the lid on and cook 10 minutes; bringing the pot back to a full boil and the potatoes are not quite fork tender. Add corn and sausage. Cover and cook 5 minutes until the corn is almost done. Make sure the pot is again at a boil and add the shrimp. Cook 5-7 minutes, stirring the pot frequently to keep the shrimp moving around until they turn pink and curl. Lift the strainer from the liquid or strain the contents from the liquid. Add the butter. Check the seasoning and add the salt and hot sauce to taste.

Don't keep cooking once the shrimp are done--- they will get tough. Once they are done, remove them immediately, drain well and serve.

 *You can double or triple this recipe but if I do, I cook in stages, adding each to a large, sanitary cooler. Keep the lid shut to keep the steam in. The corn will keep cooking so cook it just slightly underdone. Next cook the potatoes and onion and put in the cooler. Again, keep the cooler shut to keep the steam in. Since they will continue to steam, also cook the potatoes slightly underdone. Lastly, cook the shrimp and add it to the cooler. Put the butter in at the end and stir everything together carefully so you don't break up the potatoes. If it is a bit dry, add another stick of butter and toss.

Some people dump their boil out onto a table covered with newspaper or brown craft paper. I prefer to leave it in the cooler and use a large scoop to serve into paper bowls or plates. That way, it stays hot longer.


When my friends Scott and Cam's son Jeremy got married, I helped Cam implement her party plan for the after rehearsal dinner--- a casual shrimp boil on the lake.  The party was touching tribute complete with speeches and sentimental moments--- a perfect kick-off for a busy wedding weekend. The theme for the party was black and white and all of the guests dressed in black and white attire.

ideas for a rehearsal dinner Martie Duncan

We created a casual yet elegant setting which allowed the perfect opportunity for everyone to relax and catch up. All of the out-of-town family and friends were included in the after rehearsal dinner festivities.  

party at the lake Martie Duncan

We were able to borrow tables and chairs from the family's church to avoid having to rent them. White tablecloths were not actually tablecloths but twin sheets Cam found for a few dollars each. They were topped with a black and white topper or runner. Lanterns with an antique feel were used along with vases of white flowers and photos of the couple throughout their relationship.

We greeted guests at poolside with cold glasses of iced tea and traditional Southern favorites like Black-Eye Pea dip, cheese straws, bacon and cheese muffins, and fresh fruit.

Family and friends all pitched in to help with the food. The Shrimp Boil was cooked on the dock and served in a huge wooden boat. Tables were set with cocktail sauce and melted butter for dipping. Homemade bread with sweet butter rounded out the menu.

black and white rehearsal dinner plan Martie Duncan