How to Boil Shrimp

Cooking How-To, Featured Article, How-To, In Season, Summer
on June 21, 2011
Beer-Boiled Shrimp Cocktail
Mark Boughton Photography / styling by Teresa Blackburn

Mention shrimp and the first thing that comes to my mind is Forrest Gump’s Bubba Blue rattling off countless ways to prepare this “fruit of the sea.” Out of the 16 variations he offers in the memorable rambling scene, boiling shrimp is number two on his list—and with good reason.

Boiled shrimp is one the easiest seafood dishes to prepare and can be tossed in pasta, dipped in sauces, mixed in salad, served in sandwiches, stirred in gumbo—and…well, you get the picture.

Here’s how to bring these tasty crustaceans to a boil:

  • Prepare fresh shrimp for boiling by either leaving the shells and legs on and only pinching off the heads, or by removing the heads, shells and legs entirely. We prefer leaving the shells and legs on to keep the shrimp moist and tender, but if you choose the latter, devein the shrimp by taking a small knife and cutting slits about 1/4 inch deep on the outer edges of the backs. You should be able to see the veins and remove them with the tip of your knife.
  • Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add salt to the water, a store bought shrimp seasoning mix for added flavor, and if you like, a splash of beer (as in our Beer-Boiled Shrimp Cocktail) or champagne.
  • Bring the water down to a simmer, add the shrimp and allow to cook uncovered. Cooking times will vary depending on the size and variety of shrimp. But should take no longer than 3 to 5 minutes—a good rule of thumb is to check the color. The shrimp should be a healthy pink.
  • Remove shrimp from the boil and serve hot or chilled for a shrimptastic meal.

Need a visual? Watch this video on how to make shrimp cocktail by boiling (or shall we say “simmering”) shrimp then cook up some of our best shrimp recipes below:

—By Emily Arno, Relish Multimedia Editor