Learning how to properly poach raw shrimp is a kitchen skill that everyone should have in their toolbox. It’s simple to do and produces perfectly tender cooked shrimp, ready for cold applications like shrimp cocktail sauce or salads.
Once you are a pro at poaching shrimp, you may never go back to frozen pre cooked shrimp again. Pre cooked shrimp can be convenient, but there’s just something better and more flavorful about shrimp that you cook yourself. If you live close to the ocean you’ll be able to buy fresh, whole shrimp in season that may be even less expensive than the packaged frozen type, and they will taste so much better.
I like to use poached shrimp to make the classic Shrimp Cocktail, or add them to Caesar Salad or any fresh greens for a quick, high protein, healthy lunch. Chopped poached shrimp can be used in seafood dip, seafood soup, or seafood salad. The possibilities are really endless.
The Best Method for Poaching Shrimp
- The Right Way. I’m teaching you how to poach shrimp just like it’s done in restaurants all over the world. There’s nothing fussy about this recipe. It’s easy and it gets the job done right.
- Minimal Ingredients. Aside from the shrimp, you’ll need just a few basic ingredients to poach shrimp.
- Easy Clean Up. Since we’re cooking the shrimp on its own with no sauces or oil, dishes will be a breeze. You’ll need a large saucepan, a scoop to remove the shrimp from the saucepan, and a bowl. That’s it!
- Great for Meal Prep. Poached shrimp will last in the fridge for up to 4 days. Make a big batch on the weekend and use them for lunches or dinners throughout the week.
Types of Shrimp and How to Buy Shrimp
Shrimp come in a variety of sizes and also in different stages of preparation and storage. Here are the basics:
- Frozen Shrimp – Frozen shrimp generally come in a bag in the freezer section of the grocery store. They can be pre-cooked or raw, and can be whole or with the shell removed.
- Fresh Shrimp – Fresh shrimp are either sold already butchered with the shells and veins removed, or whole with heads and shells intact. Unless you leave very close to the coast, you’re likely going to have an easier time finding frozen shrimp.
Shrimp are sold in different sizes, and are labeled according to how many shrimp are in a pound.
- Jumbo Shrimp have about 21-25 pieces per pound, sometimes even less than that.
- Extra Large Shrimp have 26-30 pieces per pound.
- Large Shrimp have 31-35 pieces per pound.
There are smaller sizes available, but for most purposes you want one of the three shrimp sizes I’ve listed here. In this poached shrimp recipe I’m cooking Jumbo shrimp because those are my favorite for dipping into cocktail sauce and enjoying.
How to Thaw Shrimp
I strongly recommend that you always thaw shrimp before cooking to properly and evenly cook it. There are 2 ways to thaw shrimp:
- In the fridge: Place the bag of frozen shrimp in a bowl in the fridge overnight until it’s thawed completely.
- Submerged in water: Place the frozen shrimp in a bowl or a Ziploc bag, and cover with room temperature water so it’s submerged. Let it sit for 10-20 minutes or until it’s completely thawed. Dry with paper towels and cook.
Ingredients Needed for Poaching Shrimp
- Raw Jumbo Shrimp – This recipe calls for one pound of shrimp, but the method can be used to do any amount. You want Jumbo-sized shrimp with the shells intact for the best flavor.
- Water – Poached shrimp are sometimes called boiled shrimp. We’re basically cooking the shrimp in boiled water that has been removed from the heat.
- Salt – I use Diamond Crystal Salt. Salted water seasons the shrimp.
- Granulated Sugar – Also added to the poaching water, sugar brings out the natural sweetness of the shrimp.
- Lemons – Cut lemons add one more bright and acidic flavor note to the poaching liquid.
- Ice – We will use ice to quickly stop the cooking process to avoid overcooking the shrimp.
Complete list of ingredients and amounts can be found in the recipe card below.
How to Poach Shrimp
Clean Shrimp. If your shrimp came whole, you’ll want to clean them by removing the heads and then deveining them. Using a small knife or kitchen shears, make a slit down the middle of the back to expose the meat, leaving the tail intact. Lift out the black vein using a paring knife and wipe it off with a paper towel. If necessary, rinse with water.
Make Poaching Liquid. In a large saucepan, combine water with salt and sugar. Bring to a boil and stir to dissolve the sugar and salt in the water.
Add Lemon and Remove from Heat. Squeeze lemon juice into the water and then toss the lemons in too. Remove from the heat.
Poach Shrimp. Add the shrimp to the pot and poach for 2 minutes.
Shock. After exactly two minutes, add ice cubes to the shrimp to stop the cooking process! Allow the shrimp to sit in the ice water for 15 minutes, then remove from water and dry with paper towels.
Serve. Peel the shrimp but leave the tails on. Chill until ready to serve.
How To Know When Shrimp Is Done
There are two basic ways to check your shrimp to be sure that they are done.
By Temperature: Shrimp should reach an internal temperature of 120°F/49°C when cooked. It’s not very convenient to use a food thermometer to check these tiny guys though, so I like the next method better.
By Color: Raw shrimp is gray, and cooked shrimp is white with some pink and red accents. The perfect time to pull the shrimp out of the water is exactly when there is no longer any translucent gray color to the shrimp anymore. I find that two minutes in the poaching liquid is the perfect amount of time to bring jumbo shrimp to this point.
Frequently Asked Questions
When Poaching shrimp, you should leave the shells on until after the shrimp are cooked. Leaving the shells on serves two purposes. One, much of the flavor of the shrimp is in the shells. Cooking the shrimp with shells on makes them taste better. Two, the shells protect the meat of the shrimp from being overcooked by the hot water, giving you a perfectly cooked final product.
We actually aren’t boiling the shrimp at all! For poaching, Bring your liquid to a boil, but then remove from the heat before adding the shrimp. The water will be at a temperature just below boiling, which is perfect for this method.
If you’re using frozen shrimp, I recommend that you thaw before poaching.
Use your poached shrimp for all of your favorite shrimp recipes, and pat yourself on the back for learning a super useful new kitchen skill! Make sure to pin this recipe so that others can enjoy it too.
- 1 lb (450g) raw jumbo shrimp shell on, deveined, I used 16-25 count
- 6 cups water
- ¼ cup salt I used Diamond Crystal
- ¼ cup granulated sugar
- 2 lemons cut in half
- 4 cups ice
- Remove the heads of the shrimp, and devein (with a small knife or kitchen shears, make a slit down the middle of the back to expose the back, leaving the tail intact. Lift out the black vein using a paring knife and wipe it off with a paper towel. If necessary, rinse with water.)
- In a large saucepan, combine water with salt and sugar. Bring to a boil, and give it a stir to dissolve the sugar and salt in the water.
- Squeeze lemon juice and toss the lemons in the saucepan. Remove from heat.
- Add in the shrimp, and poach for 2 minutes.
- After exactly two minutes, shock with ice to stop the poaching process. Allow the shrimp to sit in the cold water for 15 minutes, then remove from water and drain with paper towels. Peel the shrimp but leave the tails on. Chill until you’re ready to serve.
- Serve over ice with homemade cocktail sauce and lemon wedges.
- If you’re using frozen shrimp, I recommend that you thaw before poaching.
- To thaw frozen shrimp, either place the bag of frozen shrimp in a bowl in the fridge overnight or place shrimp in a bowl and cover with room temperature water until it’s submerged, thaw for 10-20 minutes, or until completely thawed.
- Feel free to add more flavor to your poaching liquid by adding fresh herbs like dill or parsley, or even peppercorns.
This website provides approximate nutrition information for convenience and as a courtesy only. Nutrition data is gathered primarily from the USDA Food Composition Database, whenever available, or otherwise other online calculators.
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