How to Cook Shrimp: A Totally Serious Guide for the Hopeless Gourmet

How to Cook Shrimp

Shrimp. The little crustacean that could. Shrimp has graced our plates for centuries, impressing dinner guests and making chefs look like they actually know what they’re doing. But let’s be honest, cooking shrimp isn’t rocket science. Actually, if you’ve ever tried to launch a shrimp into space, you’d know it’s significantly easier. But hey, let’s not split hairs.

First off, choose your shrimp wisely. This isn’t a dating app, so no swiping left or right. You’re looking for the Goldilocks of shrimp: not too small, not too big, just right. But if they’re sporting a mini leather jacket and trying to pick a fight, they might be a little too “jumbo” for your taste.

Prepping Your Shrimp for Their Hot Date with the Pan

Before you dive into the epic adventure of shrimp-cooking, you might want to consider cleaning and deveining them. This sounds like a fancy chef term, but all you’re really doing is removing the digestive tract. Think of it as giving your shrimp a little spa day before their grand finale. Simply take a small knife and make a shallow cut along the back to remove that little black line. Or, if you’re feeling lazy (or just plain squeamish), buy them pre-cleaned. No judgment here.

Next, do your shrimps want a bubble bath? Of course, they do! By that, I mean you should brine them. Mix a tablespoon of salt with cold water in a large bowl and let your little sea bugs soak for about 20 minutes. It’ll make them oh-so-juicy and tender. Like a day spa, but for your dinner.

The Great Cooking Adventure Begins

Alright, aspiring chef, now that your shrimp are feeling refreshed and pampered, it’s showtime. Remember, these guys cook faster than you can say, “Did I leave the stove on?” – so keep an eye on them.

  1. The Pan Sear: Warm up a skillet or pan with some oil over medium-high heat. Once it’s hot (but not hotter than a summer in Arizona), place those shrimp in a single layer. Let them sizzle and sear for about 2 minutes on one side, then flip them over. Watch as they turn from gray to a glorious pink. It’s like a magic trick, but with seafood.
  2. The Boil: If you fancy boiling your shrimp, fill a pot with water and a hefty sprinkle of salt. Bring it to a boil, then slide your shrimp in. They’ll be ready in 2-3 minutes when they turn pink and opaque. It’s the perfect method if you’re aiming for shrimp cocktail or you’re just afraid of hot oil splatters.
  3. The Grill: Feeling adventurous? Throw those bad boys on a grill. But don’t actually throw them, place them gently. Unless you’re practicing for the Shrimp Olympics. Grill each side for 2-3 minutes. And voilà, grilled perfection!

Marinades and Fancy Extras: Making Your Shrimp Even Shrimper

Now, let’s be real. Plain shrimp is like a superhero without a cape — still great, but missing a little oomph. So why not jazz up those little crustaceans with a killer marinade? Here’s where you can truly flex your inner gourmet, even if your most used kitchen tool is the microwave.

1. Garlic Lemon Butter: The Classic Pan Sear or Grilling Champion

When to Apply: This one works best when added during the cooking process, especially if you’re pan-searing or grilling.


  • Start by melting some butter in a small saucepan over low heat.
  • Toss in your minced garlic and let it cook until fragrant but ensure it doesn’t brown.
  • Finish with a hearty squirt of fresh lemon juice.
  • If you’re pan-searing those little sea creatures, drench them with this concoction in the last minute of their sizzle.
  • Taking them to the grill? Generously brush this golden mixture onto the shrimp during the last 2 minutes of their grilling escapade on each side.

2. Chili Lime: A little zesty, a bit spicy. Perfect for those who like to live on the culinary edge.

When to Apply: As a marinade before cooking.


  • Whisk together chili flakes, the zest of a lime, and a generous squeeze of its juice in a mixing bowl.
  • Tumble the shrimp into this zesty wonder, ensuring each one is coated in spicy goodness.
  • Allow them to marinate and soak up all that flavor for about 15-20 minutes in the refrigerator’s chill, then proceed to cook as your heart desires.

3. Teriyaki Glaze: The Versatile Shine Enhancer

Buy teriyaki sauce. Pour. Done. Fancy enough for guests, but only you’ll know the sneaky shortcut.

When to Apply: This one’s a double agent – use it as a marinade before cooking or as a shimmering glaze towards the end.


  • For the marinade mission: Pour teriyaki sauce over your shrimp, making sure each one gets a fair share of the glaze. Allow them to marinate for roughly 15-20 minutes in the cool confines of your fridge.
  • If you’re in the mood for a last-minute shine: In the final 2 minutes of your cooking session, be it pan-searing or grilling, delicately brush or pour the teriyaki sauce over your shrimp. They’ll come out gleaming and irresistible.

Jazzing Up the Presentation

Let’s talk presentation. Because, apparently, we eat with our eyes first. (Which sounds unsanitary, but okay.)

  1. Shrimp Cocktail: If you’ve boiled your shrimp, let them cool and then arrange them artistically around a fancy glass with cocktail sauce in the center. Pretend you’re at a 5-star restaurant and charge your friends for the experience.
  2. Skewers: If you’ve grilled them, slide those babies onto a skewer. It’s food on a stick, and who doesn’t love that?
  3. Garnish: A sprinkle of chopped parsley or a side of lemon wedges can make your dish pop. Remember, garnishes are like the accessories of the food world.

Common Mistakes (That You’re Too Smart to Make)

Just in case you’re questioning your shrimp skills, here’s a list of mistakes that other people (not you, of course) might make:

  1. Overcooking: Shrimp cook quickly. Blink, and they might turn into rubbery erasers. Trust your instincts (and maybe a timer).
  2. Crowding the Pan: Give each shrimp its personal space. They’ve had a rough day and need to breathe.
  3. Using Expired Shrimp: This should go without saying, but if your shrimp are starting to smell like a high school gym locker, it’s time to let them go. RIP.

In conclusion, dear shrimp enthusiast, armed with this sassy guide, you’re now ready to conquer the world of shrimp cuisine. Whether you’re serving them up for a fancy dinner party or a solo Netflix binge, remember that with great shrimp comes great responsibility.

Bon appétit, you hilarious chef, you!

Golden Shrimp Pro Tips

  1. Thawing Matters: If you’ve bought frozen shrimp, always thaw them in the refrigerator overnight. Avoid the microwave or hot water for thawing as this can mess with the shrimp’s texture. Remember: patience is a virtue, especially when it comes to seafood.
  2. Tail Talk: Keeping the tails on can make for a better presentation (especially for finger foods) and adds some extra flavor. However, for dishes like pastas, consider removing them for easier eating. It’s all about that balance between form and function.
  3. Dry ‘Em Out: Before cooking, pat the shrimp dry with a paper towel. Removing excess moisture ensures a better sear and less splatter when they hit the pan.
  4. Stay Seasonal: Fresh is best. If you live near the coast, take advantage of local shrimp when they’re in season. They’ll often taste sweeter and fresher than their frozen counterparts.
  5. Quick Marinate: Shrimp absorb flavors pretty quickly. A 15-30 minute marinade often does the trick. Marinating too long, especially in acidic mixtures, can start to ‘cook’ the shrimp, turning them mushy.
  6. Safety First: Shrimp should be cooked to an internal temperature of 120°F (49°C). They’ll turn pink, opaque, and have a slight curl to them. If they curl into a tight ‘O’ shape, they might be overcooked. Aim for a loose ‘C’ shape for perfect doneness.
  7. Leftovers (If You Have Any): Shrimp can be stored in the fridge for up to 3 days after cooking. But let’s be real, they’re so delicious they probably won’t last that long.

Armed with these pro tips, not only will you be the talk of the dinner table, but you’ll also be well on your way to earning the title of Shrimp Whisperer.

Frequently Asked Questions about Shrimp Shenanigans

1. How do I know if my shrimp is fresh?

Fresh shrimp should have a clean, salty scent. If it’s giving off an ammonia-like smell, that’s a clear sign it’s past its prime. Also, avoid shrimp with black spots on their shells or any that appear slimy.

2. Can I refreeze thawed shrimp?

It’s not recommended. Refreezing can affect the texture and flavor of the shrimp. If you’ve thawed more than you need, it’s best to cook them and store the cooked shrimp in the fridge.

3. How long should I marinate my shrimp?

Typically, 15-30 minutes is ample time for shrimp to soak up flavors. However, if your marinade is highly acidic (like with citrus or vinegar), limit it to 15 minutes to avoid the shrimp becoming too soft.

4. Can I eat the tails?

While shrimp tails are not harmful to eat and add flavor when cooking, they’re often left on for presentation and are usually not consumed. But if you’re feeling crunchy, go for it!

5. How do I store leftover cooked shrimp?

Place them in airtight containers and refrigerate. They’ll be good for up to 3 days, but their flavor is best enjoyed sooner rather than later.

6. Why are some shrimp labeled as “farm-raised” and others as “wild-caught”?

“Farm-raised” shrimp come from controlled aquaculture settings, while “wild-caught” shrimp are harvested directly from their natural habitats. There are pros and cons to each, ranging from taste and texture differences to environmental concerns.

7. Is there a difference between pink, white, and brown shrimp?

Yes! They’re different species and can vary in taste and texture. Pink shrimp tend to be sweet, white shrimp have a mild flavor with a medium texture, and brown shrimp offer a stronger, slightly iodine flavor.

8. Do shrimp have any health benefits?

Absolutely. Shrimp are low in calories, rich in protein, and a good source of essential nutrients like iodine, selenium, and vitamin B12. However, keep an eye on your cholesterol intake, as shrimp do contain cholesterol.