An easy guide on how to cook shrimp to perfection every time. We’ll show you how to cook shrimp on the stove in a pan, along with 6 other cooking methods.
Cooking shrimp can seem daunting, but it’s really quite simple. In this guide, we’ll teach you the basics of how to cook shrimp, as well as some ways to season and serve shrimp. So whether you’re a beginner or an expert, keep reading for everything you need to know!
What to Know When Buying Shrimp
Shrimp is a delicious and versatile seafood enjoyed by many worldwide. The options you have to buy shrimp will depend heavily on where you live. In Montana, we have limited options for buying fresh seafood, but we do have many options for the way we buy frozen shrimp. Here are the options you’ll have when shopping for shrimp.
- Fresh or frozen: options at the local market include 1) frozen shrimp or 2) ‘fresh’ thawed shrimp. Certain areas have freshly caught shrimp available as well.
- Raw or pre-cooked: when it comes to ‘fresh’ thawed shrimp or frozen shrimp, you can also choose from raw or pre-cooked.
- Shell on or off: shrimp can be bought with the shell on or off.
- Tail on or off: leaving the tail on can add to a dish’s aesthetics and can also provide a ‘handle’ for eating the shrimp.
- Deveined or not: deveining simply means removing the black vein that runs along the shrimp’s back. Removing is purely aesthetic and is up to personal preference.
- Size: the count per pound on the package will indicate the size of the shrimp. For example, 31 to 40 per pound is considered medium to large.
🍤 What do we personally use? we look for frozen raw, peeled, and deveined (or easy peel) with the tail on or off, 31-40 count per pound.
How to Thaw Out Frozen Shrimp
If you find yourself with a bag of frozen shrimp and no time to defrost them, don’t worry. There are a few quick and easy ways to thaw them out.
- Running cold water: one method is to simply place the shrimp in a colander and run cold water over them for 5 to 10 minutes (longer if the shrimp are frozen together). The water will thaw the shrimp while also rinsing away any ice.
- Place in a bowl of cold water: another option is to place the shrimp in a bowl of cold water and let them soak for 15-20 minutes (longer if the shrimp are frozen together). This method will take a bit longer, but it’s perfect if you’re thawing a large quantity of shrimp.
Whatever method you choose, just be sure to cook the shrimp immediately after thawing to preserve their freshness.
Can you cook frozen shrimp?
Yes, technically, you can safely cook shrimp from frozen. However, it is best practice to thaw shrimp before cooking because shrimp can be overcooked so easily and become tough and chewy. Plus, thawing is quick and easy – just follow the steps above.
How to Cook Shrimp on the Stovetop
We’re going to focus on our favorite method—in a pan on the stovetop. It’s quick and easy, with limited cleanup for dishes.
Here’s what you need to make perfectly cooked shrimp on the stove.
Oil – we use olive oil, but you can use your preferred type of cooking oil, like grapeseed or avocado oil.
Minced garlic – freshly minced garlic pairs so well with shrimp. You can also use dried minced garlic or jarred minced garlic if you’re out of fresh garlic cloves.
Shrimp – raw shrimp, peeled with the tail on is what we prefer to use.
Salt and black pepper – we love to use basic salt and pepper but feel free to use your favorites or see our seasoning ideas for more options.
Lemon wedges – we highly recommend a splash of lemon or lime juice. Citrus is a complimentary flavor.
Fresh parsley – adding finely chopped parsley as a garnish is the perfect finish for this dish. But you can also swap out for other fresh herbs like cilantro, depending on the type of flavor you are going for.
- Cutting board/knife and/or food chopper
- Measuring spoons
- Medium to large skillet or frying pan
- Kitchen tongs
1. Start by preheating a frying pan or skillet on medium-high heat.
2. Next, add 1 to 2 tablespoons of olive oil to help prevent sticking and transfer heat effectively to the food.
3. Once your oil is hot, add the minced garlic and cook until aromatic.
4. Then, add the shrimp to the pan, making sure to place it in one layer for even cooking.
5. Season the shrimp with salt and pepper or your preferred seasoning.
6. Add a splash of lemon juice on each side using fresh wedges or bottled lemon juice.
7. Cook each side for 2 minutes (flip each piece for even cooking) or until the shrimp are done (meat is pink in color and opaque). Larger shrimp may need more time.
8. Enjoy all on its own, or serve over rice or pasta for a complete meal.
How to Cook Pre-cooked Shrimp
Pre-cooked shrimp is a quick and easy way to add seafood to any meal. While the shrimp is already cooked, it may benefit from a quick sauté or grilling before being added to your dish.
Here are a few tips on how to cook pre-cooked shrimp.
- First, make sure that the shrimp is properly thawed. If it is still frozen, it will not cook evenly and could end up rubbery.
- Second, preheat your pan with olive oil or butter before adding the shrimp. This will help to prevent sticking and ensure that the shrimp cooks evenly.
- Finally, do not overcook the shrimp. Pre-cooked shrimp only needs to be heated through, so cook for just a few minutes until heated all the way through.
More Easy Ways to Cook Shrimp
If you are looking for a specific method for cooking shrimp, we’ve got you covered. Here are 6 more options for making shrimp. Most ingredients will be the same as the pan-fried method above, including raw shrimp and seasonings.
How to Steam Shrimp
Steaming shrimp is a great way gently cook shrimp and preserve flavor (especially compared to boiling, where flavor can leach into the water). It’s quick and easy, and if you don’t have a steamer – no problem, you can make one with the equipment you already have in your kitchen.
- Prepare a steamer or make your own with a large pot and add a colander or mesh strainer on top.
- Add one cup of water or liquid of choice (1/2 water, 1/2 vinegar, for example).
- Add your preferred seasonings and lemon juice.
- Cover the pot with a lid and bring it to a rolling boil.
- Add the shrimp to the steam basket.
- Cook for 3 to 5 minutes.
- Keep a close eye on the shrimp; when they turn pink and opaque and start to curl, they are done.
Variation: add Old Bay seasoning to the water and vinegar mixture.
How to Boil Shrimp
Would you believe that one of the easiest (and healthiest) ways to cook shrimp is to boil them? It’s true. All you need is a pot of boiling water, some shrimp, and seasonings. In just a few minutes, you’ll have perfectly cooked shrimp that are ready to eat.
- Fill a large pot with 4 cups of water and season with salt and pepper.
- Add freshly squeezed lemon juice, and then add the wedges or slices.
- Bring the water to a rolling boil.
- Add the shrimp to the boiling water.
- Cook for about 2 minutes (depending on the size of your shrimp, you may need more) or until the shrimp is pink, opaque, and forms a ‘C’ shape.
- Remove and enjoy immediately or add to an ice bath to stop cooking for serving cold.
Variations: instead of water, you can use broth (chicken or vegetable broth) or make a homemade broth with water, chopped veggies, and seasonings. This is similar to how we make shrimp fondue. (Recipe coming soon!)
🍤 Make shrimp fondue – check out our recipe – coming soon!
How to Grill Shrimp
If you’re anything like us, you love grilled shrimp. It’s such a quick and easy way to cook seafood, and the end result is always delicious. Here are tips for grilling shrimp.
- Begin by preheating your grill or smoker to about 400 degrees Fahrenheit.
- Prepare the shrimp by adding to skewers (optional, but makes flipping easy!), brushing with olive oil, and seasoning with salt, pepper, and any other seasonings you prefer.
- Place the shrimp on the grill, and grill or smoke each side for 2 to 3 minutes (may need to cook longer for bigger shrimp).
- Brush with barbecue sauce or other preferred sauce right before you take off the grill.
- Serve hot off the grill with your favorite dipping sauces and sides.
Variation: try our recipe for bacon-wrapped grilled shrimp.
How to Air Fry Shrimp
Have you ever used an air fryer to cook shrimp? If not, you’re missing out. The air fryer produces perfectly cooked shrimp every time, with minimal effort on your part.
- Start by lightly oiling the air fryer basket.
- Then arrange the shrimp in a single layer in the basket.
- Brush the shrimp with olive oil and season with salt, pepper, and any other seasonings you choose.
- Air fry for 4 to 6 minutes at 400 degrees Fahrenheit.
- Serve immediately with your favorite sauces and sides.
Variation: try breaded shrimp in the air fryer, which will require a longer cook time.
How to Bake Shrimp
Baking is a quick and easy way to cook shrimp, and it results in perfectly cooked shrimp every time.
- Begin by preheating the oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit.
- Next, prepare a baking sheet with parchment paper for easy cleanup.
- Arrange raw shrimp in a single layer on the sheet pan.
- Brush with olive oil and add salt, pepper, and preferred seasonings.
- Bake for 6 to 8 minutes at 400 degrees Fahrenheit.
- Enjoy with your favorite sauces and side dishes.
Variation: add a butter garlic lemon sauce to the shrimp before cooking.
How to Broil Shrimp
Broiling is a great way to cook shrimp if you’re looking for a quick method with a roasted flavor.
- Start by preheating the oven broiler.
- Prepare a broiler-safe baking sheet, adding nonstick aluminum foil for easy cleanup (do not use parchment paper with the broiler).
- Arrange raw shrimp in a single layer on the baking pan or dish.
- Brush with olive oil and add salt, pepper, and preferred seasonings.
- Broil for 3 to 6 minutes or until the shrimp is pink and opaque.
Variation: make it cajun style with cayenne pepper and paprika.
How to Tell if Shrimp is Cooked
Cooked shrimp should be pink with red tails and opaque in color (not transparent). You can also make sure that the shrimp you’re eating is cooked all the way through by checking for an internal temperature of 145 degrees Fahrenheit.
- Raw, uncooked: grey and semi-transparent or translucent. The shape is not as curled as cooked shrimp which makes a ‘C’ shape.
- Perfectly cooked: it’s pink with red tails, opaque in color, and makes a ‘C’ shape.
- Overcooked: the color will become a matte white, and they will make an ‘O’ shape instead of a ‘C’ shape. The texture becomes tough and harder to chew when overdone.
If you’re unsure if your shrimp is cooked, it’s always better to err on the side of caution and cook it for a minute or two longer. However, overcooked shrimp can become tough and rubbery, so try to avoid overcooking if possible.
What is the recommended internal temperature for shrimp?
The USDA recommends cooking fish and shellfish to a minimum internal temperature of 145 degrees Fahrenheit.
How Long Does it Take to Cook Shrimp?
Just how long does it take to cook shrimp? It depends on many factors, including cooking method, temperature, and size of the shrimp.
Here are general guidelines for raw, medium to large shrimp (adjust slightly for smaller or larger shrimp) you can follow for each method:
- Stovetop in skillet: 2 to 3 minutes on each side, on medium-high heat.
- Steaming: 3 to 5 minutes.
- Boiling: about 2 minutes at a rolling boil.
- Grilling: 2 to 3 minutes on each side, at 400 degrees Fahrenheit.
- Air fryer: 4 to 6 minutes total at 400 degrees Fahrenheit.
- Oven-baked: bake at 400 degrees Fahrenheit for 6 to 8 minutes.
- Broiling: 3 to 6 minutes total, broiling on high.
2 to 3 minutes on each side, on medium-high heat
3 to 5 minutes
about 2 minutes at a rolling boil
2 to 3 minutes on each side, at 400 degrees Fahrenheit
4 to 6 minutes total at 400 degrees Fahrenheit
6 to 8 minutes at 400 degrees Fahrenheit
3 to 6 minutes total on high
recommended internal temperature for shrimp
Remember: the best way to tell if shrimp is done is to use a meat thermometer and follow the internal temperature guidelines provided by the USDA – Food Safety and Inspection Service.
Ways to Season Shrimp
In this post, we kept it simple and seasoned shrimp with fresh minced garlic, salt, pepper, and lemon juice—but there are so many seasonings and flavor combinations you can try. Here are a few ideas.
Seasonings and powders
- Black pepper
- Dried minced garlic
- Red pepper flakes
- Italian seasoning
- Old Bay’s seasoning
- Cajun seasoning
- Lemon pepper
- Garlic powder
- Onion powder
- Chili powder
Fresh herbs and onions
- Fresh minced garlic
- Fresh ginger
- Fresh parsley
- Green onions
- Lemon juice
- Lime juice
- Garlic butter
- Herbed butter
Flavor combinations to try
- Lemon butter garlic: add minced garlic, a splash of lemon juice, and butter.
- Cilantro lime: season with chili powder, a splash of lime juice, and fresh cilantro.
- Ginger garlic: fresh ginger, minced garlic, soy sauce, and green onions.
- Lemon garlic shrimp with pasta
- Shrimp fried rice
- Garlic butter shrimp and baked potatoes
- Cilantro lime shrimp and rice
- Shrimp tacos
- Bacon-wrapped shrimp
- Shrimp cocktail
- Shrimp pico de gallo
- Coconut shrimp
Delicious Shrimp Recipes
- Bacon-wrapped shrimp skewers
- More to come!
Tips for Storing Leftovers
Shrimp, like all other seafood, should never be left out for over two hours. Be sure to store leftovers in an airtight container in the refrigerator or freezer. Cooked shrimp can be stored in the fridge for up to 4 days and frozen for up 12 months.
- can be refrigerated for 1 to 2 days before cooking or freezing.
- can be kept in the freezer for up to 18 months (frozen when purchased).
- if refrigerated, it’s best to eat it within 3 to 4 days.
- can be kept in the freezer for up to 12 months.
When frozen, shrimp is safe to eat indefinitely, but the quality will change over time. FoodSafety.govPrint
- 1-2 tbsp olive oil
- 6 garlic cloves – freshly minced
- 1 1lb raw shrimp – peeled and deveined with the tail on
- Black pepper
- Lemon wedges
- Fresh parsley – finely chopped
- Begin by preheating a frying pan on medium-high heat.
- Next, add 1 to 2 tablespoons of olive oil to the pan.
- Once the oil is hot, add the minced garlic and cook until aromatic.
- Then, add the shrimp to the pan, making sure to place it in one layer for even cooking.
- Season the shrimp with salt and pepper (or your preferred seasoning).
- Add a splash of lemon juice to each side using fresh wedges or bottled lemon juice.
- Cook each side for 2 minutes (flipping each piece separately for even cooking) or until the shrimp are done (meat is pink in color and opaque). Larger shrimp may need more time.
- Enjoy as is, or serve over rice or pasta for a complete meal.
- Prep Time: 5
- Cook Time: 5
- Category: Main Dish
- Method: Pan Fry
- Cuisine: American
- Serving Size:
- Calories: 167
- Sugar: 0.2 g
- Sodium: 718.2 mg
- Fat: 7.6 g
- Saturated Fat: 1.1 g
- Carbohydrates: 2.4 g
- Protein: 23.2 g
- Cholesterol: 182.5 mg
Keywords: shrimp, pan fry
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Now that you know some tips and methods for cooking shrimp, you can cook up delicious meals and appetizers, experimenting with different seasonings and methods to find what you like best. Let us know your favorites in the comments.
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