How to Cook Shrimp: Boil, Grill, Sauté, Bake, Steam, and Fry

Shrimp are the undisputed superheroes of the sea. Their sweet and succulent flavor makes them a canvas for big bold flavors while allowing them to simply shine on their own. Whether you’re tossing them in a pot to boil up the classic shrimp cocktail or sprinkling them with your favorite rub and baptizing them with fire this article will discuss the most popular ways to cook shrimp.

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!

How to Boil Shrimp

Bubba had it right. Shrimp truly are the fruit of the sea. You can dress them up and let them sit all pert and posed on a martini glass or allow them to be a weeknight champion in a quick and easy stir-fry. They’re equally as suited to date night as they are a family friendly and healthy meal.

How you cook your shrimp can take you on an international trip or transport you to another time. Boiled shrimp for a dip in tangy cocktail sauce will have you feeling all of the glamour of Las Vegas. Skewered shrimp being kissed by flames can introduce you to the art of kushiyaki and take you to Japan. Pop open a bottle of your favorite pinot grigio and heat up your skillet, Italy is only minutes away.

How long to cook shrimp

Let’s explore how to cook shrimp using six 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

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. 

Start with the Best Shrimp

Regardless of the method you decide to cook your shrimp, you want to start with the best shrimp possible. As self-confessed fresh shrimp snobs, you can always depend on both our Colossal Shrimp and Wild Caught Shrimp being sustainably sourced. In addition, they’re always Individually Quick-Frozen (IFC), handpicked flavor rich species, and free of additives.

Shrimp Cocktail Sauce Recipe

The Basics

Regardless of how you decide to cook your shrimp there are certain guidelines that universally apply. Giving your succulent crustacean friends the proper TLC at the start will set you up for a memorable meal every time.

How to Defrost Your Shrimp

  1. Plan ahead! The best way to defrost your shrimp is to allow them to gently defrost overnight in the refrigerator.
    1. Keep your shrimp in their own separate container in the coldest part of the refrigerator. This would be your bottom shelves.
    2. Store the shrimp in their own container. You can also place them in a colander placed in a bowl and covered so they can drain as they defrost.
    3. Cook your shrimp within one to two days of defrosting. Remember, our Colossal and Wild Caught Shrimp are Individually Quick-Frozen locking in their flavor and texture at their prime.
  2. Life happens! Even with the best laid plans, schedules are busy, things come up. We all have those nights where we need to get dinner on the table in a hurry and didn’t think ahead. Unlike many proteins shrimp can easily be defrosted without losing their integrity.
    • Place your frozen shrimp in a colander in a bowl of cold water, changing it out every ten minutes with fresh cold water until defrosted.
    • You can also place your shrimp in a bowl of cold water in the sink with the facet running on cold continuously at a low level. You don’t want any shrimp jumping overboard so keep it gentle.

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.  

If you do end up with whole head- or tail-on shrimp, here’s how to clean them up:

  1. 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. 
  2. 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.
  3. 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. 

Peeled, Cleaned & Deveined 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. There are just a couple of steps you need to follow before you start cooking.

  1. Always rinse your defrosted shrimp in cool water.
  2. Pat your shrimp dry. This will allow any seasoning to stick while also giving them a better texture and appearance.

Now that you know how to prepare your shrimp for cooking, let’s dive into the most common methods for cooking shrimp.

Awesome fresh beyond CLOSSAL Shrimp
Bought 2 pounds of Super Fresh Super large Shrimp. They were expertly deveined and pre peeled. They tasted “picked up at the Docked, as I’ve bought 500 pounds of boat docked Shrimp before. I can also Highly recommend the clam chowder. In Southern ocean Massachusetts i visited the restaurant that the Kennedy’s frequently visited and purchased clam chowder. Lobsteranywhere sells authentic clam chowder that has tons of super meaty clams pieces with fresh cream sauce. Highly recommended
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Order Colossal Shrimp

A Pot and a Plan

You have your defrosted shrimp and you have a stockpot. Now what? Before we jump into the how to boil shrimp, let’s talk about why.

Boiled shrimp in its purest form highlights the delicate sweet essence of shrimp while maintaining a bite with a little snap. Besides being the star of shrimp cocktail, the texture and neutral flavor of boiled shrimp makes it suited for a summery shrimp salad piled into a toasted brioche bun. Coctel de Camarones, or Mexican shrimp cocktail, puts boiled shrimp in a starring role. If you’re looking for a fresh and healthy dish boiled shrimp take center stage in many Vietnamese spring roll recipes.

How to Cook Shrimp by Boiling

  1. Bring a large pot of water to a boil over medium-high heat.
  2. Once boiling add a tablespoon of kosher salt, sea salt, or your favorite seafood seasoning to the water. Reduce the heat to medium.
    • Have fun with aromatics and additional flavors.
    • For a traditional addition add a couple lemon halves and a sprinkle of whole black peppercorns.
    • Garlic cloves, bay leaves, and halved onions will infuse flavor.
    • Feeling spicy? Toss in some crushed red pepper flakes or halved chili peppers.
  3. Add your defrosted shrimp into the boiling water once your seasonings are dissolved.
  4. Shrimp cooks fast. Look for the color to turn pink and their shape to start curving.
    • Medium shrimp take about 2 minutes to cook.
    • Colossal shrimp take about 3 minutes to cook.
  5. Immediately remove the shrimp from the pot and submerge them into a bowl of ice water. This will stop the cooking.
  6. Transfer your cooled shrimp to a paper towel lined tray.
  7. If serving for shrimp cocktail, allow the shrimp to chill for at least an hour.
Boil Shrimp
Boiling Shimp, photo by Nicole Stover

Grilling Shrimp

Is there anything more primal than cooking with fire? It’s a whole experience, from getting your fire going to watching the flames lapping at your food. Grilling is a fun, easy, and quick way to cook shrimp.

How to Grill Shrimp

Grilling shrimp is a great option to not only add a smoky flavor but also develop additional texture from the charred crust. Whether you’re serving them as an appetizer, the main course, or as part of a surf and turf duo grilled shrimp are always a crowd pleaser. Plus, food on a stick is just so much fun!

How to Cook Shrimp by Grilling

  1. Prepare your grill for two-zone grilling.
    • If using a charcoal grill, bank your coals to one side creating a hot zone and a cool zone.
    • If using a gas grill don’t ignite all of your burners, leaving a cool zone.
    • Make sure your grates are fully heated. You want to create a crust, not steam your shrimp.
  2. To marinate, or not to marinate? It depends on what flavor profile you’re going for and the options are endless. However, when using any marinade that contains acid never leave your shrimp in the marinade for more than 30 minutes to an hour. The acid will begin cooking your shrimp and create a rubbery texture.
  3. Both metal and wood skewers work equally as well.
    • When using wooden skewers pour boiling water over them and allow them to soak for 15 minutes. The steam will help slow down the process of charring the wood.
  4. Pat your shrimp dry whether you’re simply seasoning them or removing them from a marinade. This will help them develop that crust.
  5. Skewer your shrimp.
    • If adding any additional items to your skewers or kabobs, keep in mind that shrimp cook extremely fast. Those chicken cubes might look pretty on the skewer, but no one wants to eat raw chicken or over cooked shrimp.
    • Only add food with similar cook times. Precooked sausage, citrus slices, and thinly sliced vegetables like peppers and onions are good options.
  6. Place the shrimp over the direct heat source. Just like with boiled shrimp the color and shape will let you know when they’re done. Give the first side approximately 2 minutes on the first side before flipping. You want them to be pink, opaque, and slightly curled.
  7. Remove from the heat and enjoy!

Please see our complete guide for grilling the best shrimp.

All That Sizzles

With one skillet and 15 minutes or less, sautéing shrimp is an easy and versatile way to cook shrimp. You can create the beautiful seared crust like grilling but with the ability to add layers of flavor with sauces.

BBQ Grilled Shrimp
BBQ Grilled Shrimp by Chris Sussman

Why sauté shrimp? Sauteed shrimp are delicious on their own but also make a great base for pastas, paella, or even just building an irresistible wine sauce to dip crusty bread into.

How to Cook Shrimp by Sautéing

  1. Pick your skillet.
    • A cast iron skillet will maintain a high, even heat.
    • Nonstick skillets will allow you to have an easy cleanup but won’t give you the same color of crust. They are great though if you are going to make a pasta in the same pan.
    • Craving shrimp fried rice or lo mein? A wok is the answer.
  2. Pat your defrosted shrimp dry and season them with a sprinkle of salt. Go light if you’re adding any additional flavors through sauces later on.
  3. Heat your skillet of choice over medium heat. While you do want to cook these fast, you don’t want to burn your shrimp.
  4. Add a splash of oil and/or butter.
    • Oils such as olive oil, grapeseed oil, and avocado oil have a higher smoke point than butter. Adding a tablespoon of butter to the oil will give you the rich flavor while the oil helps prevent it from burning.
  5. Arrange your shrimp in your skillet but be careful not to crowd them. Remember that shrimp cook fast so it’s okay to cook them in batches.
    • When too many shrimps are added to a pan at once you risk steaming them which will draw out liquid and affect the texture and presentation.
  6. As with the previous methods use the color and shape of the shrimp as your guide. You will see them begin to turn opaque on the side. Flip them around the 2-minute mark and cook another 1-2 minutes. They should be pink and curled into a C shape.
  7. You can finish them simply with a squeeze of citrus or continue on with your favorite recipes.

FAQs About Cooking 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). 

What is the safe cooking temperature for shrimp?

According to FoodSaftey.Gov, the safe internal temperature for shrimp is 145°F. However, we do not like rubbery shrimp and shoot for 120°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). 

Can you cook shrimp from frozen?

Surprizingly, yes! Since shrimp cook quickly you can certainly boil shrimp from a frozen state. Stick with a large shrimp and be sure they are already peeled and deveined.

What wine pairs with shrimp?

Think pink! Yes, a dry rosé pairs beautifully with shrimp. Be sure to see our wine pairing with Maine lobster!

Diving In

While these guidelines are just the basics, they’re a great starting point. Have fun playing with flavors and experimenting with different ingredients. When you start with the freshest shrimp, it doesn’t take much to let them shine.

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. 

🍤 Explore our premium fresh shrimp here.

The only question left is what’s for dinner?

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