Perfect Boiled Shrimp

Arrogant? Me? Well, on the topic of cooking shellfish — in particular shrimp and lobster — why yes, I am. But not without good reason. I think I do a rather good job of it, mostly as a result of screwing it up often enough that I have a large sample on which to base my technique.

The recipe for boiled shrimp is obviously simple, perhaps too simple for most people to give it much thought. And that would be correct, if most people understood that shellfish overcooks very, very quickly. And, it is deceptive, because it doesn’t look any different when it is perfectly cooked compared to so overcooked that you could use it instead of super-balls.

So what’s my technique? Shell the shrimp ( I usually use large shrimp: about 20/lb.), boil them in plenty of lightly salted water for two minutes, then remove and plunge into an ice bath until they are cool. Remove, drain or blot dry, then serve. See? Easy! But that “two minutes” is vitally important, because the shrimp taste pretty good after five minutes, just not as good as they can be. And they were so good a few nights ago that we ate them with just a touch of fresh cocktail sauce, which I make mostly because the commercial stuff doesn’t have nearly enough horseradish or, for that matter, flavor.

13 Replies to “Perfect Boiled Shrimp”

  1. Happy New Year to you too. Boiled shrimp is too boring to discuss. However, I had some perfectly grilled shrimp last night with a tequila lime cocktail sauce and they were absolutely marvelous.

  2. i follow a similar procedure, making sure that i cook them much less than people would think.

    i also brine shrimp for a few hours. not sure if it has any real impact, but i’ve found that it doesn’t seem to hurt.

    can i assume your cocktail sauce has a ketchup base?

  3. I’ve never brined shrimp, but what the hell, brining helps most foods, so I’ll give it a shot.

    Of course! What else could it be? A bit of ketchup, a large amount of horseradish, and a few splashes of Worcestershire sauce.

  4. ever try poaching them? below a boil, shell on. rinse first, make a quick court-bouillon of water, aromatics and salt. simmer the broth for 15 min. drop the shrimp in, turn heat low. checkin 5-10 min. really depends on the size and thickness of the shell. check by eating one! if they are close, remove from heat and let sit 10 more min. remove peel and ; boy are they good.
    if you do peel before cooking, i hope you are saving the shells. exoskeleton, all the flavor in the shells. collect them in the freezer until you have enough for a broth for risotto, or bisque, or a sauce. youcan toast them in the oven first, then simmer with broth, tomato, whatever. mosol tov?

  5. Actually, what Alabama had were roasted, not grilled shrimp. Peeled, then mixed with some olive oil and salt and pepper, and the placed in the oven for about 10 minutes. They were wonderful. I will never boil again.

  6. listen, no less than 700, no more than 30 seconds! wait… weren’t we talking about boiled shrimp? for cocktail? and while I’m at it, na never mind.

  7. I made perfect shrimp for Caesar Salad last night. Fresh Shrimp from Fairway at $4.99 per pound. Tossed them in a bit of olive oil and salt and pepper and put them on a pan and roasted them at 400 degrees for 7 minutes.

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