Beaufort Stew – Cooking in South Carolina

No culinary tour of Beaufort South Carolina would be complete without an introduction to Beaufort Stew, one of the most popular and delicious dishes this friendly southern state has to offer. It’s easy to make, gloriously messy to eat, and unfailingly delicious. If you’re like most visitors who try our Beaufort Stew, you are going to want to make it at home.

We’ve included a recipe so you can cook up this feast yourself. It won’t be quite the same unless you live here in Beaufort SC and can get yourself some fresh caught shrimp, but hey, you can try.

This meal is a winner and best served piled onto a wad of newspaper – and outside on a picnic table. It’s messy!

As with most traditional recipes, there are variations – gourmet style, country style, mom’s home-cooking style – but any way you make it, this stew has some essential, must-have ingredients. Here is the simplest version.

Beaufort Stew Recipe

For each person, you’ll need:

  • A big pot of water or beer and water, boiling.
  • 1 teaspoon of Old Bay Seasoning. It is a vital ingredient here. There are recipes for making your own, but if you want easy peasy and guaranteed good, grab a can of this. A big can if you’re feeding a crowd.
  • 2-5 oz. of sausage – spicy (more or less) and smoked – kielbasa or Andouille works well. Cut your sausage into chunks about half a thumb-length thick. 
  • 1 and ½ ears of freshly shucked corn. Cut or break the ears into three pieces.
  • 2 whole, unpeeled, small red potatoes. Or more if you love potatoes. Cut up white or yellow skinned potatoes are fine too, but the little red ones boil up quickly, taste great, keep their shape, and look really pretty in the dish. 
  • 12 oz. of shrimp, big ones, freshly caught and raw with the shell on.

How to prepare the stew:

  • Put on a big pot half full of water to boil. You can mix half beer and half water or any combination of beer and water or even just water is fine. 
  • Toss in the Old Bay Seasoning and the sausage. Boil that for about ten minutes and
  • Add the corn and potatoes. Cook another ten minutes.
  • Add the shrimp and let it boil until the shrimp shells turn red. This won’t take long, just a few minutes. Don’t overcook the shrimp.

Strain the liquid off the stew right away, discard it and dump the whole mess of corn, shrimp, potatoes and sausage onto the newspapers in the middle of the table. If you’re all formal-like, you can ladle the stew into big bowls, but it’s more fun the other way.

Put out lots of condiments: shrimp cocktail sauce, mustard, pickles, heck, even ketchup, and make sure there is a big pan of fresh hot cornbread on the side.

You’ll need plates for the food, bowls for the cobs and shrimp shells and LOTS of napkins.

Beaufort Stew is a Lowcountry dish with a history – and many other names!

Before you dive into cooking, let’s first learn a little more about this popular and versatile dish.  

Beaufort Stew originated in a small Lowcountry fishing community on St. Helena Island named Frogmore near Beaufort and Hilton Head. As with many regional dishes, home cooks adopted, modified, and sometimes renamed the stew, but the basic ingredients remained the same – fresh caught shrimp, home grown sweet corn, southern smoked sausage, new red potatoes, and Old Bay – or your preferred seafood seasoning. 

Beaufort Stew is sometimes called Beaufort boil, Lowcountry boil, seafood boil, tidewater boil or Frogmore stew. Whatever you call it, this savory dish is the perfect choice for a relaxed meal for a large crowd.

Beaufort Stew is full of textures and sweet, smoky flavors. The earthy taste of new potatoes, the crunch of sweet corn, the heat of spicy smoked sausage and, best of all, those succulent shrimp with their delicately salty ocean tang.

Speaking of the salty ocean, it’s good to know that Beaufort and the surrounding areas are dedicated to harvesting sustainable locally caught seafood. We are invested in keeping our oceans and seaways healthy and productive.

The Atlantic east coast waters are rich with a variety of shrimp, crawfish, crab, oysters and finned fish of every kind and folks down here have been finding delightful ways of preparing nature’s gifts for centuries. 

People often have questions about Frogmore, and Frogmore stew. The most common ones are answered here:

Why do they call it Frogmore stew?

They call this dish Frogmore stew because it originated in a small community named Frogmore located halfway between Beaufort and Hunting Island State Park in SC.  Although there are many versions of this dish available, the name Frogmore Stew was first used by Richard Gay in the 1960s. Mr. Gay was one of the owners of Gay Fish Company on St. Helena Island in 1968. Richard Gay was tasked with feeding 100 of his fellow National Guardsmen in one sitting and so adapted an old family seafood recipe. Seafood “boils” could be cooked in one pot quickly and with delicious results. Everyone was fed and history was made. Frogmore Stew became widely known after it was featured on the cover of Gourmet Magazine in the 1980s. 

What do you serve with Frogmore stew?

Frogmore stew is usually served with bottles of hot sauce, seafood cocktail sauce, lemon wedges, melted butter, and even ketchup. 

Iced (sweet) tea, and cold beer, or any of your favorite beverages are good. 

Some tasty side dishes are always welcome. This is the crowd-pleasing meal where you can serve up your potato salad, coleslaw, green salad, crusty sourdough bread, cornbread, and garlic bread. The more variety, the better the feast!

How is Frogmore stew different from Beaufort stew?

The difference between Frogmore stew and Beaufort stew depends on who is doing the cooking. They are essentially the same dish, right along with seafood boil and tidewater boil. Some cooks add crab, crawfish, or scallops, but there is always corn, smoked sausage and potatoes. Again, the more variety, the better the feast.

Don’t forget dessert. There has to be dessert.

We love peaches – and there is nothing quite like a big juicy peach straight from the tree.

Contrary to what most people believe, South Carolina produces more peaches than any other Southern state.

If it’s peach season in Beaufort, serve up a bowl of fresh picked juicy sweet peaches just as they are.

Or you could make peach cobbler. Your guests will love peach cobbler, so it’s worth the effort. 

Little ice cream on the side? Whipped cream?

Or pecan pie? Or chocolate silk pie? Or apple pie? 

We love pie!

Whatever you choose to add to your “boil,” be prepared to have a happy crowd of diners and big ‘ole mess that’s easy to serve, and to clean up.

When you’re down Beaufort way, try our version of this seafood boil. Just remember, once you’ve tasted it, you’ll surely be back for more.

We’ll be happy to see you!