Shrimp cocktail is a classic appetizer that looks attractive on a buffet table and is usually a crowd pleaser. While preparing shrimp cocktail is simple, keeping large quantities of it cold for a big group can be a bit more challenging. However, there are a few techniques that will keep shrimp cocktail cold, depending on the presentation and amount of space you have allotted on your buffet line.
Place the shrimp cocktail in small individual bowls or cocktail glasses filled with ice cubes or crushed ice, leaving just enough room in the glass for a ring of shrimp around the edge of the cocktail glass. For added flavor and ease, place a lemon wedge in the center of the cocktail glass on top of the ice. Using individual cocktail glasses will allow you to keep small amounts of shrimp cold and easily replace the shrimp as necessary, ensuring it is as fresh as possible.
Put ice over the surface of a large serving platter, covering as much area as possible in a single layer. Place the fresh shrimp on top of the ice cubes, replacing the ice cubes every hour as they melt and begin to defrost. For best results, try to put a little less than the amount of shrimp you think you will need over ice at once so no pieces of shrimp sit around in the open air for too long.
Fill a punchbowl halfway with crushed ice or ice cubes. Place a medium serving bowl or serving platter that will easily fit in the punchbowl directly in the center of the ice. Push down gently on the edges of the bowl with the shrimp cocktail in it so the ice moves up the side of the bowl and cools the shrimp.
Place a layer of ice on the bottom of a deep serving tray and place shredded lettuce or cabbage over the ice to conceal it and to add to the presentation. Once the lettuce or cabbage has been put down in a single layer, simply put the shrimp directly on top in a single layer or pattern as desired. The thin layer of lettuce or cabbage will also prevent the shrimp from getting soggy.
Always start with cold shrimp before putting them on ice and serving. Place shrimp in the refrigerator for at least 90 minutes before serving.
Cold foods should be held at 40°F or below to prevent bacterial growth.
Christopher Godwin is a freelance writer from Los Angeles. He spent his formative years as a chef and bartender crafting signature dishes and cocktails as the head of an upscale catering firm. He has since ventured into sharing original creations and expertise with the public. Godwin has published poetry, fiction and nonfiction in publications like "Spork Magazine," "Cold Mountain Review" and "From Abalone To Zest."