There are few things better than dunking a perfectly cooked, plump and juicy shrimp into tangy and spicy cocktail sauce. Or grilled shrimp next to steak. Or sautéed shrimp in creamy pasta. There are so many great ways to cook shrimp!
When it comes to protein options, shrimp are one of the fastest cooking and most versatile choices. They’re also high in protein and low in fat and calories compared to other animal-based protein sources. From tacos to pasta to grits, there are countless ways to enjoy shrimp.
Let’s explore how to cook shrimp using five different (but all delicious!) methods in a way that brings out the best flavors and textures—and avoids the yucky ones.
If you’ve invested in high-quality seafood, it pays off to know a few simple culinary tips and tricks to ensure that your shrimp are the star of your plate, not a rubbery distraction. Whether you’re new to the world of seafood cookery or you just want to try a new way to prepare shellfish at home, this article will walk you through:
- Exactly how to cook shrimp using the most popular methods: boiling, grilling, oven-roasting, sauteing and frying
- How to prepare shrimp for cooking, including removing the shell and vein
- Whether frozen or fresh shrimp is best
By the end, you’ll be able to nail perfectly plump and tender shrimp every time, whether you’re stoking the grill for a cookout or preparing for a shrimp boil.
Fresh vs Frozen Shrimp: Which is Better?
Before we turn up the heat on your shrimp, let’s talk about purchasing.
When buying shrimp, you’ll need to choose between fresh or frozen. There are pros and cons to each, but the truth is that in most cases, even “fresh” shrimp have been previously frozen.
90% of the shrimp sold in the US are imported, with the largest importers being Southeast Asia and Central America. To travel safely from Thailand or Chile to your local grocery store, the delicate seafood must be frozen. Then, the people working at the fish counter may defrost the frozen shrimp to sell it as fresh.
This shrimp has the benefit of being ready to cook as soon as you bring it home, no thawing required. But at the same time, there’s no way to know how long the shrimp has been defrosted. The longer it sits thawed, the more it can dry out and lose flavor, texture and nutrients.
On the other hand, frozen shrimp is often higher quality and you don’t have to guess how long the seafood has been sitting out for. Plus, you can store frozen shrimp for months at a time. You never want to refreeze thawed seafood or meat, though.
Our Recommendation on What Shrimp to Buy
The best-tasting and highest quality shrimp you can buy is frozen as quickly as possible, as close to harvest as possible. IQF, or individually quick-frozen, shrimp is frozen at lightning speed as soon as it comes out of the ocean. This flash-freezing technique preserves the seafood’s nutritional value, its buttery and sweet flavor, and its springy texture better than any other freezing method.
The difference between our IQF shrimp and store-bought frozen shrimp is palpable!
How to Prepare Shrimp for Cooking
Depending on the kind of shrimp you buy, there can be a lot of inedible and excess material on each little crustacean. Shrimp have fan-like tails, hard and indigestible shells, and an interior digestive tract that runs the length of its body. All of these pieces need to be removed either before or after cooking. Of course, if you leave the shell on for cooking, you’ll have to do the dirty work at the dinner table to undress and eat your shrimp.
Our IQF shrimp have all been thoroughly peeled, deveined, and cleaned before freezing. This way, you can get right to the cooking without the painstaking process of shrimp prep.
If you do end up with whole head- or tail-on shrimp, here’s how to clean them up:
- First, defrost the shrimp if they’re frozen. You can do this in the refrigerator overnight or by running the shrimp under cold running water for several minutes.
- While you can go right ahead and bread the shell with your hands, the cleanest way to remove the shrimp shell is with kitchen shears or a paring knife. Make a small towards the thick end of the shell in the center. Then pry the two sides open and pull off the shell. It should release fairly easily after making the cut.
- To remove the vein, which is just a polite term for the shrimp’s digestive tract, run the tip of a paring knife along the length of the shrimp’s back and pull out the dark vein.
Now that you know how to prepare your shrimp for cooking, let’s dive into the most common methods for cooking shrimp.
How to Boil Shrimp
Boiling is perhaps the most straightforward and familiar method of cooking shrimp. If you’ve made pasta before, you are well equipped to pull off this culinary technique.
To boil shrimp, bring a large pot of water to a rolling boil on the stove. Make sure there’s enough water to completely cover your shrimp. Salting the water will help season the shrimp as they cook. When the water reaches a boil, gently place your shrimp into the pot and cook until the meat turns pink and the shape curls into a “C” shape.
As soon as the shrimp are cooked, drain them from the boiling water and submerge them in a bath of ice water. This helps stop the cooking process so nothing gets overcooked or rubbery.
How Long to Boil Shrimp?
If you’re cooking large peeled and deveined shrimp, boil them for about 2 minutes. Smaller shrimp will take about 1 minute. The largest colossal shrimp may take up to 3 minutes.
You can boil frozen shrimp as well. Just add about 2 minutes to the cooking time.
How to Grill Shrimp
Grilling shrimp is a great way to add smoky, charred flavor to your meal. If you have a charcoal or gas grill, start by firing it up. Preheat half of your grill to medium heat. You don’t want to cook the shrimp over direct heat because they may cook too quickly and dry out.
To prepare the shrimp for grilling:
- Thaw the shrimp if they’re frozen. Then peel and devein the shrimp if necessary. You can also grill shell-on shrimp if you prefer.
- Arrange the shrimp on wooden or metal skewers. If you’re using wooden skewers, soak them in water for at least 30 minutes.
- Brush the shrimp with olive oil and season with salt, pepper and any other seasonings you like.
- Grill the shrimp over indirect heat until the center is light pink and firm. It’s best to keep an eye on the shrimp on the grill to prevent over cooking, so leave the grill cover open.
How long to Grill Shrimp
Grill skewers of peeled and deveined large shrimp for about 2 minutes per side. Smaller shrimp need a minute to 90 seconds per side, and colossal shrimp may take 3 minutes per side. Remember that the shrimp will continue to cook for 5 or so minutes off of the grill, so it’s better to pull them earlier than risk overcooking.
You cannot grill frozen shrimp because you won’t be able to thread them onto skewers.
How to Bake Shrimp
Baking or roasting is a great technique when you want to add more flavor and seasoning to your meal. You can marinate or coat the shrimp in any sauce or seasoning blend you like before roasting.
Here’s how to roast shrimp:
- Preheat the oven to 400°F. For easy clean-up, line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a silicone baking mat.
- Place the shrimp on the baking sheet and drizzle with enough olive oil to lightly coat the shrimp. Add salt, pepper, and any other seasonings or sauces you like and toss to coat thoroughly.
- Roast the shrimp in the oven for 6 to 8 minutes. The shrimp are done when they’re pink, firm and curd into a C-shape.
How Long to Roast Shrimp?
Roast large, peeled and deveined shrimp for 6 to 8 minutes. It’s best to check on the shrimp after 6 minutes to avoid overcooking. If your oven has hot and cold spots, stir the shrimp halfway through. Larger shrimp will need 8 to 10 minutes at 400°F and smaller shrimp will need about 5 minutes.
How to Sauté Shrimp
One of the fastest ways to cook shrimp is simply by sautéing them on the stove. All you need is a skillet and a drizzle of cooking oil. Start by heating the oil in the skillet over medium heat. When the oil is hot, add the shrimp and cook, stirring constantly, until they are pink and firm. Immediately remove the shrimp from the heat and serve.
How Long to Sauté Shrimp?
Over medium heat, it takes about 2 minutes per side to saute large peeled and deveined shrimp.
How to Fry Shrimp
Deep-frying shrimp turns these succulent and sweet crustaceans into crispy, crunchy and dunkable appetizers. These bad boys go well with a variety of meals and can be served both as finger foods and as upscale shareables.
Here’s the easy way to make perfect fried shrimp:
- In a large bowl, place a cup of all-purpose flour. Add a pinch of salt and pepper and stir to combine.
- In a separate large bowl, beat two eggs with ¼ cup of milk or buttermilk. Add a pinch of salt and whisk well.
- Add the shrimp to the bowl with the eggs and toss to coat. Remove the shrimp, let any excess egg wash drain off, then place them in the bowl of flour and toss to coat again.
- Heat ½ inch of canola oil in a large pot to 375°F.
- When the oil is at temperature (test it by flicking some flour inside, it should turn golden, not burn), add the shrimp to the pot in batches. Cook until golden brown all over, then transfer the cooked shrimp to a paper towel-lined plate.
How Long to Fry Shrimp?
Fry breaded shrimp for 2 to 4 minutes. The outside should be golden and crunchy. Frying frozen shrimp doesn’t work very well because of the excess water and moisture on the shrimp. It can prevent the crust from crisping up nicely. Also, since the shrimp are covered by breading, it’s difficult to tell whether the shrimp are cooked through or not.
FAQs About Cooking Shrimp
What is the Safe Cooking Temperature for Shrimp?
According to FoodSaftey.Gov, the safe internal temperature for shrimp is 145°F.
How to store cooked shrimp in the fridge?
Store leftover cooked shrimp in an airtight container in the fridge for three to four days. Make sure to cool the shrimp before storing. Leftover boiled, grilled or roasted shrimp makes a great topping to a salad or sandwich the next day.
Note that if you’re planning to store deep-fried shrimp, they will lose much of their crispiness. Fried shrimp are best enjoyed soon after they’re cooked. However, you can try to re-crisp them in a 400°F oven on a baking sheet for 5 to 10 minutes, though you risk overcooking the shrimp.
Can you freeze cooked shrimp?
You can also freeze fully cooked shrimp for longer storage. Simply let the shrimp cool, then pat them dry to prevent ice crystals from forming. To freeze the shrimp separately, arrange them in a single layer on a baking sheet and place them in the freeser for 20 minutes to firm up. Then transfer the shrimp to an airtight container or bag and freeze for up to three months.
When you’re ready to eat your frozen shrimp, place them in the fridge overnight to thaw. You can reheat them on the stove, in the oven or in the microwave. Just be sure to serve the thawed shrimp within a day of thawing and never refreeze previously frozen shrimp (cooked or raw).
Try Our Fresh, Sustainably-Caught Shrimp
Now that you’re a pro at all of the best ways to cook shrimp, all that’s missing is the shrimp itself! Our premium sustainably-caught shrimp is frozen at the peak of freshness using the IQF method and delivered safely to your door, ready to cook.
The only question left is what’s for dinner?