Field Notes

Taking the Boil to the Grill

Call us primitive, but one of favorite summer meals is a crab boil, complete with wooden mallets and a newspaper tablecloth.  There’s no room for manners: these group-friendly occasions are messy, raucous affairs, where juices run down your arms to your elbows and forks are forbidden.

This summer, we’ve taken this classic feast and rearranged it, ditching the stockpot for the grill. There are plenty of benefits to grilling your boil: it makes the crabs a little bit easier to crack, and in our opinion, enhances the sweet flavor of the meat.

For many, the key to a proper crab boil is Old Bay, an East Coast spice mixture that is a blend of chili powders, spices, and more. We’re huge fans of the stuff, but we recently tried making our own spice mix, complete with our Grilling Salt, paprika, celery seed and more. We used it to sprinkle over our crabs, corn on the cob, sausage and potatoes.

Crab Boil on the Grill
Serves 4

For the boiling spice:

  • 1 tablespoon celery salt
  • ¼  teaspoon paprika
  • ¼ teaspoon Chili Lab Grilling Salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1/8 teaspoon dry ground mustard
  • 1 small pinch ground cinnamon
  • 1 small pinch ground cloves
  • 1 small pinch ground allspice
  • 1 small pinch ground nutmeg
  • 1 small pinch ground ginger


For the boil:

  • 10 pounds live blue crabs, scrubbed
  • 4 pounds fresh sausage links
  • 4 ears of corn
  • 4 pounds baby red potatoes
  • 1 cup melted clarified butter


Make the boiling spice: mix all the spices together in a small bowl and set aside.

Make the boil: Prepare a medium hot charcoal or gas. When it’s hot, place ¼ of the crabs on the grates in a single layer, along with ¼ of the sausage, 1 ear of corn, and ¼ of the potatoes. Grill for 10 minutes on 1 side, then flip everything and cook for another 10 minutes. The crabs will have turned a bright pinkish red. Transfer everything to a newspaper-lined table. Cut the corn into 4 pieces and sprinkle everything generously with some of the spice mix. Serve with drawn butter. Repeat in batches with the remaining ingredients.