How to Keep Shrimp Tender While Cooking

Shrimp cooks quickly, and overcooked shrimp can be tough, rubbery and dry. As soon as the shrimp is pink, it's done. Jumbo shrimp takes about 7 minutes to cook, large shrimp about 5 minutes and medium shrimp cook in 3 to 4 minutes. Shrimp smaller than medium can take as little as 1 minute to cook. Typically, there are 21 to 25 jumbo shrimp per pound, 31 to 35 large shrimp per pound, and 51 to 50 medium shrimp per pound, according to the "What's Cooking America" website. Shrimp can be boiled, baked, steamed, grilled, sauteed or fried.

A man is cooking shrimp on the stove. (Image: Halfpoint/iStock/Getty Images)

Techniques

Step 1

Defrost shrimp in the refrigerator -- not at room temperature or in the microwave. Proper defrosting helps to retain the shrimp's tender texture.

Step 2

Don't let boiled shrimp cool in the cooking water, as they will continue to cook and won't be tender. When shrimp turn pink, remove them from the cooking water and drop them into an ice-water bath to stop the cooking immediately. Drain the shrimp and serve them immediately, or add them to your other ingredients if they are to be part of another dish.

Step 3

Serve grilled shrimp immediately, while they are still hot. To maintain tenderness, prepare all your other dishes first, and grill the shrimp at the last minute.

Brining

Step 1

Marinate shrimp in brine if they will be cooked with dry methods such as grilling or pan-frying. Brine adds flavor and keeps shrimp tender during cooking.

Step 2

Dissolve 1/4 cup each of sugar and salt in 1 cup of boiling water. Pour the hot brine into a large bowl filled with at 8 cups of ice. Stir the mixture until the brine is ice-cold.

Step 3

Put 1 or 2 pounds of shrimp in the cold brine and let them marinate for 30 minutes. Add more ice, if necessary, to keep the shrimp ice-cold. If the shrimp are unpeeled, marinate them in the brine for 40 minutes.

Step 4

Rinse the brine off the shrimp and pat them dry in a kitchen towel before baking, broiling, frying or grilling the shrimp.

Things You'll Need

  • 1/4 cup sugar

  • 1/4 cup salt

  • 1 cup boiling water

  • Large bowl

  • 8 or more cups ice

  • 1 or 2 pounds shrimp

  • Strainer

  • Kitchen towel

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