How to Boil Shrimp

Cooking How-To,Featured Article,How-To,In Season,Summer
June 21, 2011

Succulent summer shrimp is brought to its boiling point in this seafood step-by-step.

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

Beer-Boiled Shrimp Cocktail

Beer-Boiled Shrimp Cocktail

Beer for the shrimp and chili-flavored cocktail sauce amp up this version of the classic appetizer.


Tropical Sesame Shrimp Martinis

Simple and chic, this shrimp, served in martini glasses, is a fast and easy recipe for an appetizer or light meal.


Shrimp Cocktail Cucumber Bites

A fresh, modern twist on the classic shrimp cocktail, served on top of thick cucumber slices.

Easy Shrimp Remoulade

A pantry-friendly version of a classic French sauce to serve with shrimp on a bed of lettuce for a light lunch or fabulous first course.


Fettuccine Alfredo with Shrimp, Asparagus and Mushrooms

Rich and creamy, this fettuccine boasts shrimp, asparagus and mushrooms.

arugula salad

Shrimp and Arugula Salad

Grapefruit and avocado dress up this sweet shrimp salad with tart grapefruit.


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