Shrimp is one of the most popular forms of seafood on the planet and there’s definitely a reason for that. Prepared correctly, shrimp can be incredibly delicious, juicy, and good at absorbing flavors.
One of the most common ways people cook shrimp is to boil it as doing so seals in a lot of flavor and results in a tremendous texture. However, boiling shrimp is precarious process and if done incorrectly it can lead to shrimp that’s bland and rubbery.
If you’re in the mood for shrimp and aren’t sure how long you should boil it, I’ll tell you all you’ll need to know.
Before we talk about exactly how long shrimp should be cooked, there are quite a few things that need to be considered first.
In general, one of the biggest issues with cooking shrimp has to do with the shells. They’re not particularly pleasant to consume and removing them can be a huge hassle when cooked, since the shrimp should be “ready to eat” by that point.
You can always remove shrimp shells before boiling, but I personally wouldn’t recommend that. Shrimp shells actually play a very integral role in whether shrimp has a decent texture and flavor. When cooking, the juices inside the shrimp start to boil, which in the case of shell-less shrimp, ends up leaching out into the surrounding water.
If you want a really robust, impactful flavor profile, it’s important to keep the shell on when cooking since it will preserve most of the shrimp flavor.
A lot of shrimp you can get at the store already has the heads, and sometimes tails, removed. For a lot of reasons, these parts of the shrimp contain some of the most flavorful elements, which would be a real shame to miss out on.
If you do have any shrimp tails or heads on hand, be sure to boil them in the pot you’re using before you cook the core of the shrimp. This will create an incredibly flavorful broth that when combined with unshelled shrimp will give you the best shrimp taste possible.
Depending on what kind of shrimp dish you’re looking to make, it might be a good idea, or even crucial, to season the water you’re going to boil the shrimp in.
Some really good seasoning options include:
Regardless of which seasonings you use, it’s important to give them time to blend into the water before you toss the shrimp in. If you’re using powdered seasonings where the flavor is more concentrated, like onion powder, you only need to simmer it for around 15 minutes, but if you’re planning on using fresh, whole ingredients, you should consider increasing this time to 30 to 40 minutes.
Shrimp “veins” are essentially the intestinal tract of shrimp, which can be pretty gross if you think about it. It’s not necessary to remove them and I’ve never noticed much a flavor difference whenever I do, but if the idea grosses you out, you can remove them if you want.
Assuming you’re using shell-on shrimp, the easiest way to remove veins is to cut the spine of the shrimp with a knife or scissors and lightly tear them out using a toothpick.
So, how long does it take for shrimp to boil?
As it would turn out, there are quite a few different cooking times for shrimp depending on the shrimp size and whether shrimp is frozen or not. I’ll go over how long you should boil them depending on the kind you’re using.
If you’re using fresh shrimp, it’s recommended you use about half a gallon of water for every pound of shrimp you’re planning on cooking. Make sure the shrimp is well-chilled or else they will end up being overcooked.
Bring the water to a boil and toss the cold shrimp into the water for the following times in accordance with size:
After the cooking times have been reached, it’s super important to throw the cooked shrimp into a bowl of ice water to prevent any further cooking, otherwise they’ll end up all rubbery.
The process for frozen shrimp is pretty much the same as fresh shrimp, except there are differences when it comes to cook time. Toss in the frozen shrimp for the following times:
Be sure to toss the shrimp in ice water afterwards.
A key issue with cooking shrimp is that there’s a delicate balance between getting it cooked to a safe degree and not overcooking it. Shrimp should be cooked to an internal temperature of 145 degrees to be considered safe for consumption, so if you want to be extra careful, checking a shrimp or two with a food thermometer after they’re cooked might be a good idea.
The above cooking times are designed to achieve the best texture possible, but it’s possible to cook the shrimp slightly longer and still maintain a good result. If you want to put safety first, you can increase the cooking times for each by 25% and still be ok.
Shrimp is hands down one of my favorite foods, but it’s especially good when it’s boiled just right. When the texture is firm, but not chewy, there’s a lot of juices, and the flavor is concentrated, it makes for one unbeatable meal.
There are a lot of different ways you can utilize boiled shrimp in dishes to get a premium result. Whether it’s for shrimp cocktails, pasta, or grilling, boiled shrimp can pack an extra punch that a lot of other seafood can’t hope to compete with.