Cooking School 101: Preparing Juicy Shrimp Every Time

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Want to strike fear into the hearts of most cooks? Ask them to prepare shrimp. It's reportedly one of the most unnerving foods to make, according to Global Seafood Magazine. That perception seems odd, considering shrimp are - in actuality - one of the easiest of all entrees to make.

Part of the aversion to shrimp is a fear of food poisoning. Cooking school graduates and professional chefs will attest, however, that undercooking shrimp is difficult simply because they cook so quickly. Still, most people have a tendency to overcompensate, thus ruining the texture and flavor.

Fresh and Flavorful

A great shrimp meal starts at the grocery store or fish market. You want to buy shrimp that smell like the ocean. You do not want shrimp that even have the slightest scent of ammonia. Depending on your cooking method, you can choose shrimp that are already shelled and deveined. This works well for soups, stews, frying, sautéing or grilling.

Don't Overcook

The biggest and most common mistake cooks make with shrimp is overcooking. When shrimp are overcooked, they become tough and rubbery. They also lose their naturally sweet flavor. That's not a meal anyone would want to eat.

It is important to remember that shrimp cook lightening fast whether tossed into a bisque or grilled on skewers. In fact, they cook so fast that some culinary school instructors advise having your side dishes almost completed before beginning to cook your shrimp.

Size plays a big role in cooking time with larger shrimp, requiring a minute or two longer than smaller ones. Tiny salad-sized shrimp (100 per pound) can take less than a minute to cook while extra large (10-12 per pound) can take several minutes. Generally speaking, medium-sized broiled shrimp can be done in about two minutes. Sautéed shrimp are normally ready to eat in under four minutes.

The More Liquid, The Lower the Heat

How do you determine the right temperature for various shrimp recipes? One Las Vegas culinary school instructs its students to use the guideline of "the more liquid, the lower the heat." For instance, when cooking a seafood gumbo, there is obviously a lot of liquid. You would use lower heat and cook the shrimp for a longer period of time because the liquid of the gumbo would keep them from drying out.

If adding medium-sized shrimp to a finished, simmering gumbo, you might expect a cook time of about eight to 10 minutes. If, however, you are grilling shrimp that have been sprinkled with dry seasonings, you'll want to use medium-high to high heat. The shrimp will cook within just two or three minutes.

Regardless of the recipe, remember that overcooking can ruin your shrimp. Start with fresh shrimp then cook them until their color turns a solid white or light pink. When you do, you'll have juicy, flavorful shrimp your family and friends will love.

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About The Author, Mike C.
Mike Churchill provides online marketing support for Le Cordon Bleu College of Culinary Arts in Las Vegas. Cooking school applications are currently being accepted. If you love cooking and are in Las Vegas, Nevada, culinary school could be your next step. Visit us at