If shrimp isn’t on your weeknight dinner rotation, it certainly should be! It cooks quickly, pairs well with practically everything and is extremely versatile. But the slew of positives associated with cooking shrimp are coupled with some negatives. Even though it’s super easy to overcook shrimp and preparing them can be a challenge, don’t let that stop you from cooking up a storm. Here are our best tips for avoiding any cooking mistakes:
- Cook ‘Em the Same Day They’re Purchased
If fresh shrimp is on the menu (which it totally should be), then make sure you saute, grill, fry or bake the shrimp within 24 hours. But if you do buy frozen, buy shrimp that have been harvested as close to your home as possible. But here’s a general rule for fresh and frozen – if the shrimp smell even the slightest bit like ammonia, toss them in the trash. They’ve gone bad.
- Seasoning is Your Friend
Shrimp can handle quite a bit of seasoning because of their sweet, mild, oceany flavor. They can be added to so many different styles of dishes from all over the world, so the type of seasoning you use completely depends on the entree you have in mind. But there’s one seasoning you should always use on shrimp, and that’s sea salt.
- Avoid Overcooking
This is a big deal and so easy to do! When shrimp are cooked too long, they lose all of their yummy flavor and become really rubbery. Yuck. To make it even more difficult? Shrimp continue to cook after they’re removed from the heat, so you have to factor that into the actual cooking time. Here’s a rule of thumb – shrimp are undercooked if they’re still straight, perfectly cooked once they slightly curl into a C-shape and drastically overcooked if they’ve formed an O-shape. O for overcooked, see what we did there?
- Take the Easy Route
When it comes to shrimp, the easy route is definitely buying them peeled and de-veined. If you’re new to this, the prep process is the most difficult, but easily avoidable. If you buy the shrimp pre-peeled and de-veined, you won’t run the risk of failing to remove the full vein or mangling the shrimp from overhandling. If you don’t plan on putting in the time and patience to properly prep the fragile shrimp, make it easy on yourself by purchasing them already prepped.
- Marinade Wisely
So, how long is too long when it comes to marinating shrimp? We wish it was a simple answer! If the marinade is acidic (lemon, orange, lime, etc.), plan on 30 minutes or less. But if it’s non-acidic (olive oil, herbs, garlic), 1-3 hours will do the job. But always let them sit in the fridge while marinating!
- Brine baby, brine
Most types of shrimp in almost all cooking situations will benefit from the simple, inexpensive process of brining. It’s like a marinade that’s sole purpose is to keep food tender and moist. Brining can be used with either raw shelled shrimp or raw peeled and deveined shrimp. Here’s how it’s done: Use either kosher or table salt, but the measurements won’t be equal. 1 cup of table salt (without iodine) is equal to 1.5 cups of kosher salt. Mix ¼ cup kosher salt with ¼ cup granulated sugar, 1 cup boiling water and 2 cups of ice. Add shrimp into bowl of brine and let sit for 20-30 minutes if peeled and 40-60 minutes if unpeeled. Rinse well with cold water and pat dry afterward.
There ya have it. These tips are absolutely necessary if tender, flavorful shrimp is your goal. It all comes down to finding a good recipe, being patient with the prep work and staying close to the stove during the cooking process. But if you discover that cooking shrimp isn’t your thing and you’d prefer to eat out, we’ll happily have a table ready for you at Julington Creek Fish Camp!