Food, Wine and other Beverages

Lowcountry Boil or Frogmore Stew (no, frog isn’t one of the ingredients)

The exact history of Frogmore Stew has long been a topic of debate in the South Carolina Lowcountry. Most recently credit is given to Richard Gay, owner of the Gay Seafood Company on St. Helena Island, SC, for inventing the recipe in the 1960s.

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The story goes that one weekend while on duty with the National Guard he made the stew to serve over 100 of his fellow guardsmen. The stew was given the name of “Frogmore” because that is the name of the small town on St. Helena that Gay was from. The tradition of combining the improbable ingredients of shrimp, smoked sausage and corn on the cob, most likely had already been going on for many years, and could be traced back to the sea island’s rich Gullah heritage.

These days Frogmore Stew is something like the coastal version of barbeque, the go-to warm weather dish of choice when entertaining a crowd. Enough Frogmore Stew to feed 2400 people is prepared for 10-day Beaufort Water Festival that is held each July (this year’s dates are July 16 – 25.) That recipe calls for over 1200 pounds of shrimp, 2400 ears of corn and 600 pounds of sausage!

The recipe is straightforward, and except for the possibility of overcooking the shrimp, practically impossible to mess up. The major ingredients are tossed in stages in a large steam pot generously spiced with Old Bay Seasoning.  For best results shrimp are left unpeeled. I’ve heard of people cooking it in beer, and seen it eaten with cocktail sauce and melted butter (I couldn’t bring myself to dip the sausage in). Frogmore stew is usually served on tables covered with newspaper, which makes clean up a breeze. And prepare ye-self if you are attached to cutlery  – best eaten with your hands.

Homemade peach or strawberry ice cream is the perfect dessert to follow this South Carolina classic.

Frogmore Stew (12 servings)

  • 6 quarts water
  • 3/4 cup Old Bay Seasoning TM
  • 2 lbs. new red potatoes
  • 2 lbs. hot smoked or kielbasa sausage links, depending on taste
  • 12 ears corn, shucked and cut into quarters
  • 4 lbs. large fresh shrimp, unpeeled

In a large steam or stock pot bring water and Old Bay Seasoning to a boil. Add potatoes and cook for fifteen minutes. Add sausage and cook for five minutes, then add corn and cook for another five minutes. Stir in the shrimp and cook until shrimp are pink, around five minutes. Drain immediately and serve on newspaper with lots of cocktail sauce and paper towels.

Margo Millure lives in Richmond, Virginia. She is a portrait photographer, writer and founder of Travel Belles. Learn more about her at

This article has 15 comments

  1. Leslie

    The first summer I lived in the South — years ago — I read about Low Country Boil in the Golden Islander newspaper…while we were staying on Jekyll Island. I thought “low boil”! Fantastic! I bought all the ingredients down the street, put them all in a big pot I had for crabbing — put it on simmer (low boil) and went down to the beach for the afternoon. I came back to a foul-smelling oatmeal-consistency grossness which had corn cobs and sausages afloat…the shrimp and potatoes had totally disintegrated. Ugh. I learned later that about the “Low Country” thing when I read Pat Conroy. Stupid Yankee girl: me. 🙂

  2. Wanderluster

    Fascinating post – it’s so interesting to learn about regional specialties in this enormous country of ours. Great photo, too!

  3. jessiev

    YUM. i love this kind of boil. we’ve had fantastic ones along the shores of lake michigan, with fish in it.

  4. Margo

    Leslie- that’s isn’t the first time I’ve heard that story. Come to think of it, maybe it was you who told it to me the first time!

    Wanderluster – thank you… I love learning these things too. thanks for hosting!

    jessiev -that’s so interesting! and delicious!

  5. Nancie (Ladyexpat)

    Food combination’s never cease to amaze me. I’m sure this is delicious. Maybe I’ll get to St. Helena one day to sample it.

  6. Gourmantic

    Such an unusual name for a dish! The combination of ingredients sounds like it would work together.

  7. Pam McAlpine

    Lowcountry Boil was the main course for my daughter’s wedding reception, and it was a hit! All of our visitors could find something they enjoyed amongst the ingredients. We were outdoors at sunset on beautiful Murrells Inlet, SC. T-Bone Terry catered and did a masterful job.

  8. Margo

    I must experience T-Bone Terry’s version someday.

  9. Kathe Stanley

    Pam, could you share your menu for your daughters wedding…we want to do the same for my daughters wedding in July…but not sure what else to serve? thanks

  10. Margo

    Hi Kathe, I’m supposed to see Pam this Thursday night, but in any case, I’ll be sure to hook you up with her. If you would like you can email me with your email address or phone number, and I’ll pass it along. Thanks! Margo

  11. Kathe Stanley

    That would be great.
    email removed

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  15. Grace Hauver

    Thanks for the info. Enjoyed reading this!

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