Shrimp is a true delicacy and one of the most chosen seafood across the world in homes and restaurants. It’s simple to cook and takes little-to-no time for those on a tight schedule who want quick and easy meals, sometimes in as little as under 30 minutes.
Master chefs and home cookers find this type of seafood is versatile with any main course dish and even side dishes.
But what’s the best way to prepare it?
You can overcook shrimp, so the trick is not to overcook the shrimp and keep an eye on its cooking time, color, and texture. 2-3 minutes on high heat is typically the longest it can go, on stovetop or grill. Any longer and the juices will cook out, and the shrimp will become tough and chewy.
Along with watching the clock, you can use your five senses while cooking to keep everything in check. Below is what you should observe:
- Sight: Watch for the changes in color from the snowy white to the orange color;
- Smell: If you smell something burning, you know you went too far. There should be absolutely no hint of a burning smell. Keeping an eye on the time will eliminate this;
- Listening: If you do not hear the searing and sizzling, control your flame. You may cook the shrimp at a lower heat, but it will mess up the time limit for perfection;
- The Feel: Giving the shrimp a poke test with a dull item like the back end of a butter knife will determine the texture. It should be slightly firm to the touch but bounce back. If the shrimp falls apart, you went too far;
- Taste Test: Keep one shrimp off to the side, so you can taste test it when both sides turn orange and lose their whiteness. The shrimp should be juicy and not tough or chewy.
Though tricky at first—we recommend that you print this list out or put a bookmark on it so that you can come back to it and use it as a reference—you will only get better at telling when shrimp is done by cooking it.
At a certain point in time, you will develop what we at Home Cook World call a cook’s intuition. That’s when you’ve become so good at making this seafood, you can intuitively tell exactly when it’s done.
Signs the Shrimp Is Undercooked
Undercooked seafood can be dangerous to consume. In the best-case scenario, it can give you a stomach ache. In more extreme cases, you can end up with food poisoning. So always cook your shrimp thoroughly!
Raw shrimp has a snowy white color, and when cooking, all the white should be gone before eating. Consider it as a ratio because there will be some whiteness to the color.
If the shrimp has more white than orange or golden color, the shrimp is undercooked. The safest—and most accurate—way is to use a cooking thermometer and measure the temperature. Anything below 120 °F is undercooked.
Whether grilling or stovetop, cooking shrimp on high heat should have at least two minutes per side, no less. Stoves and grills may vary on the output of heat, so to be safe, no more than three minutes of searing on each side.
The last tip is to watch the shape of the shrimp. If the shrimp does not curl into a C shape, it is undercooked. As the juices cook out of the shrimp, it contracts to form a C.
The shrimp should hold the right amount of juices internally, and if it is too much, the shrimp will be squishy, which is another sign of being undercooked.
What Happens When Shrimp Is Overcooked?
Once the shrimp goes to make an O shape instead of a C, it is overcooked. As mentioned, overcooking the shrimp will remove the liquids inside it, causing it to contract. Other signs are the orange or golden color is darker than it should be.
The only way to salvage the shrimp at this point is to add water to keep the juices and lower the flame immediately to a simmer. Be careful not to add too much water because you will lose the flavor desired. If this does not work, and it is too far gone, the only option is to eat as is.
A tip to avoid overcooking is cooking them with the shells on them. This step will hold the moisture and keep the juices longer as you cook. It will have to get peeled before serving, in which most of the flavors will be on the shells.
How To Tell If Shrimp Is Cooked To Perfection?
There are several ways, as mentioned, but we can go into detail to further elaborate. Watch for the C shape of the shrimp while cooking. There is a loose C and a tight C, and you want the loose C.
Right at the moment when the shrimp starts to curl up, it is cooked to perfection. The pink or orange color will be noticeable, and the internal temperature will be at 120 °F, not a degree over or less. Use the five senses while you cook, and you will never go wrong.
Another note to keep in mind is telling if the shrimp you buy is suitable for cooking. Shrimp must have the salty water smell to it to be considered fresh. If it has a fishy smell or an ammonia smell, there is no hope because it is going bad or already spoiled.
How Do You Cook Shrimp?
With every dish comes a variety from the chef or cook. Shrimp can be in every dish imaginable, and these are a few ideas to get the wheels turning:
- Shrimp scampi
- Shrimp salad
- Shrimp stew
- Garlic Shrimp
- Side dishes with steak
There is so much more to mention, but we would be following Forest Gump’s long and famous list. The main thing to remember is to try to avoid thawing out the shrimp. If it needs thawing out, keep it cold in the fridge or on ice overnight.
Shrimp that goes bad or if consumed raw can cause food poisoning. This is not steak and should never be consumed if spoiled or undercooked. It will cause vomiting, diarrhea, and severe dehydration, possibly death.
Season the shrimp according to the dish you wish to make. Keep the flame high to sear the shrimp, cooking for two to three minutes on each side. Take off the shrimp once the C effect takes place and all the snowy white look is diminished.
A note to remember is if you are searing in the pan on the stovetop, the seasoning will burn before the shrimp. Do not panic when you see blackened colors in the pan. Watch the body of the shrimp only for cooking perfection, not the seasonings or sauce added. A total of six minutes will only enhance the flavor of the seasonings and sauce.
Enjoying the Artwork of Your Shrimp Dish
Now that you have the insights on cooking shrimp and telling the good ones from the not-so-good ones, you can use your imagination for the final art piece. Placing everything on the plate perfectly makes everything presentable. Do not be afraid to add a bit of chopped parsley and other herbs to enhance the color.
You have to experiment with it to show your guest or family, or perhaps fool them to make them think you are a professional chef. It is fun, and what better way to enjoy the smile on everyone’s faces when they take that first bite.
Do not forget to enjoy it yourself. You may have snuck in the taste test, but now it is time to enjoy the artwork and the full flavor. From your mouth to your belly, they will thank you, and so will your family and guests.