How to Cook Shrimp So They’re Juicy, Not Rubbery (2024)

In our arsenal of quick-cooking dinners, shrimp is a superhero. The little crustaceans cook in under five minutes, minimizing the amount of time that stands between you and sitting at the table. Lemon-oregano shrimp can be yours in 20 minutes or less. This shrimp and basil stir-fry is ready in just 15! But shrimp is more than a weeknight dinner staple; it’s one of our favorite proteins for making an impressive dinner that doesn’t require too much effort. Case in point: a little shrimp co*cktail will turn any occasion into a party. Learn how to cook shrimp perfectly no matter the method, and never wonder “what’s for dinner?” again (okay, that might be a little extreme—but you get the point).

How to shop for shrimp:

Raw shrimp have a brown “vein” running along their back. This is their digestive tract—a.k.a. their poop chute. While it’s technically safe to eat, leaving the matter in will give the shrimp a gritty texture and muddy their flavor; most prefer to remove it before cooking. Now for some good news: You can buy deveined shrimp, which have this unsavory bit already removed—or ask your fishmonger to devein the little buggers for you. Are you the DIY type? We’ve included instructions below on how to devein shrimp yourself.

Shrimp Sizes

Your grocery store is likely to carry a range of shrimp sizes: small, medium, large, jumbo, or colossal, usually categorized by how many shrimp you can expect per pound. The majority of BA’s shrimp recipes call for large shrimp unless otherwise specified (for example, our best shrimp co*cktail calls for jumbo shell-on shrimp). Here’s the trouble: Naming conventions differ based on where you live and shop, so one store's large shrimp might be another’s jumbo. To keep things simple, go by weight whenever available. You’ll typically get 36–40 small shrimp per pound, 31–35 medium shrimp per pound, 26–30 large shrimp per pound, 21–25 jumbo shrimp per pound, 16–20 super jumbo shrimp per pound, or 15 or fewer colossal shrimp per pound. I.e., the higher the number, the smaller the shellfish.

If you’re using a different size shrimp than the recipe calls for, that’s fine—just adjust the cook time accordingly. Smaller shrimp will cook faster than larger ones, while the total time for bigger boys will be a little longer. Here’s associate food editor Kendra Vaculin’s rule of thumb: Cook medium shrimp for approximately 3 minutes, large shrimp for 4–5 minutes, and jumbo shrimp for 6–7 minutes. As for small shrimp, blink and you could miss it, so don’t walk away.

Shell-On or Shell-Off

You can buy shrimp either in the shell or peeled. For the speediest dinners, we prefer peeled, deveined shrimp (less work on your end). But shrimp that’s still in the shell is often less expensive than peeled shrimp, so if you don’t mind doing the work yourself, this could be a good option.

You can also opt to cook shrimp with the shell on—not only do the shells add flavor, but they also keep the shrimp from overcooking and help them retain moisture when exposed to heat. Shrimp that’s in the shell will sometimes come with the head attached, which is where most of the fat is concentrated; some like to cook shrimp with the heads on, twist the head off and suck out the juices. If you do decide to peel your shrimp, save the shells for shrimp stock (the key ingredient in shrimp risotto) or to add fishy flavor to sauces.

How to Cook Shrimp So They’re Juicy, Not Rubbery (2024)


How to Cook Shrimp So They’re Juicy, Not Rubbery? ›

Cook without moving for 2 minutes for medium shrimp, 3 minutes for large shrimp, or 4 minutes for jumbo shrimp. Flip shrimp and continue to cook, tossing, until the shrimp are just cooked through—1 minute for medium shrimp, 1–2 minutes for large shrimp, or 2–3 minutes for jumbo shrimp.

How to cook shrimp without making it rubbery? ›

Cook without moving for 2 minutes for medium shrimp, 3 minutes for large shrimp, or 4 minutes for jumbo shrimp. Flip shrimp and continue to cook, tossing, until the shrimp are just cooked through—1 minute for medium shrimp, 1–2 minutes for large shrimp, or 2–3 minutes for jumbo shrimp.

How to keep shrimp from getting rubbery? ›

Overcooked shrimp has a rubbery texture, so keep your shrimp succulent by allowing it to reach room temperature first, then reheat it on a low heat using the same cooking method as you used originally. If you are reheating in a pan, add a little water to avoid it drying out.

How do you make shrimp soft and not chewy? ›

"But by using the cold water-start method, you can restrict that upper bound." The sweet spot for perfectly cooked edge-to-edge tender shrimp, just stop heating your water once it hits 170°F (77°C). It's that simple (and at roughly seven minutes, still pretty darn quick).

What is the secret to juicy shrimp? ›

To make it easier, brine raw shrimp in a slushy solution of sea salt and baking soda. Alkaline baking soda slightly alters the pH of the shrimp, making them as plump and succulent as lobster and resistant to overcooking.

What makes shrimp tough and chewy? ›

Mistake #4: Overcooking

Since shrimp are notorious for cooking very quickly, ending up with tough, rubbery shrimp is arguably the most common mistake.

Does shrimp get more tender the longer you cook it? ›

Prepping & Cooking Shrimp:

Add in shrimp and cook for about 2-3 minutes per side until they turn pink and opaque. Remember to avoid overcooking to maintain a tender and succulent texture in your sautéed shrimp.

How to cook shrimp like a restaurant? ›

  1. Heat the oven to 450°F.
  2. On a half sheet pan, toss the shrimp, salt, garlic, olive oil, red pepper flakes, and lemon zest. Let sit for 10 minutes.
  3. Roast for 7 to 9 minutes, until pink and just cooked through. Remove from the oven, add the butter, and toss the shrimp until coated. Spritz with fresh lemon juice.
Dec 10, 2021

What makes shrimp soft and mushy? ›

The heads contain an enzyme that can quickly turn the flesh mushy if not separated from the body immediately after harvesting.

How to keep shrimp moist? ›

Soak shrimp in brine

Soak quickly in brine to keep lean seafood moist as it cooks and season it throughout. A solution of 1 tablespoon kosher salt and 1 quart water works to season 1 pound of seafood.

How do Chinese tenderize shrimp? ›

Velveting shrimp is a cooking technique commonly used in Chinese cuisine to achieve a tender, succulent texture. It involves marinating the shrimp in a mixture of cornstarch, and other seasonings like soy sauce, rice wine, or sesame oil.

Why do you soak shrimp before cooking? ›

Most types of shrimp will benefit from the simple, inexpensive process of brining, no matter how you plan on cooking them. Brining is like a marinade but instead of flavoring, it's sole purpose is to keep food tender and moist.

What does soaking shrimp in milk do? ›

Some prefer to soak seafood in milk before cooking to keep it from tasting too fishy. If you choose to soak your shrimp, you should do so with whole milk for at least 10 minutes.

How to fix tough shrimp? ›

For each pound of shrimp, combine 2 quarts water, 1/4 cup salt and 1/4 cup sugar in a large mixing bowl. Whisk together until the salt and sugar dissolve. STEP TWO: Soak the shrimp. Place the peeled and deveined shrimp in the brine solution, and allow them to sit untouched for 30 minutes at room temperature.

Why do you put vinegar in shrimp? ›

Into your water pot, squeeze the juice of 2-3 lemons, then drop what's left of the lemons in too. Add your bag of shrimp/crab boil, salt and vinegar. (The vinegar is the secret ingredient. It makes the shrimp easier to peel.)

Is it better to steam or saute shrimp? ›

Steaming shrimp is one of the best ways to cook the shellfish. The gentle cooking technique helps elevate shrimp's flavor and tender snap.

How do you make cooked shrimp easier to peel? ›

Don't forget the secret ingredient in the boil: apple cider vinegar. It makes the shrimp easier to peel.

Why cook shrimp with shell on? ›

Shrimp shells are made of an elastic substance called chitin, which does not break down when heated. That means the shells do a great job of protecting lean, delicate shrimp flesh during cooking, helping to keep it juicy and tender.

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