Any of various freshwater crustaceans that resemble tiny lobsters, complete with claws. Other coastal crustaceans (such as spiny or rock lobster) are sometimes mistakenly called saltwater crayfish. They are not, however, of the same species. Crayfish range from three to six inches long and weigh from 2 to 8 ounces. They're very popular in France (where they're called écrevisses), Australia (yabbys or yabbies), Scandinavia and parts of the United States — particularly Louisiana, where they're known as crawfish and crawdads. The great majority of the U.S. harvest comes from the waters of the Mississippi basin, and many Louisianans call their state the "crawfish capital of the world." Crayfish can be prepared in most manners appropriate for lobster and, like lobster, turn red when cooked. They're usually eaten with the fingers, and the sweet, succulent meat must be picked or sucked out of the tiny shells.
From The Food Lover's Companion, Fourth edition by Sharon Tyler Herbst and Ron Herbst. Copyright © 2007, 2001, 1995, 1990 by Barron's Educational Series, Inc.