Shrimp is a tasty and healthy treat that can be the centerpiece of a flavorful and filling meal. Three ounces of shrimp contains only 85 calories, 1.5 grams of fat and 18 grams of protein. Unfortunately shrimp is easy to overcook and, if you're not careful, it will turn out chewy. With a few simple tips, you can enjoy shrimp that is succulent, flavorful and tender.
A brine is similar to a marinade. It is a salty, flavorful liquid that partially cooks and tenderizes the outer parts of meat. You can use brines for pork loins, a Thanksgiving turkey and to ensure tender shrimp. Make a brining liquid from a mixture of water, an acid such as vinegar, sugar, and salt. In the case of shrimp you will want to avoid anything acidic in your brine. Instead dissolve 1/4 cup of salt and ¼ cup of sugar into two cups of water and let your shrimp soak in this liquid for 30 minutes before you cook it.
Acids found in vinegars, lemons, limes, and many other liquids can "cook" delicate seafood and meats without using heat. Because of this, you should avoid using these acidic liquids to marinate your shrimp. When you add heat to shrimp that is already partially cooked you will probably overcook it and make the meat tough. However, ceviche is a raw cooking method that lets acidic liquids cook shrimp and other food. To make shrimp ceviche, combine your acid, shrimp and other flavoring agents for at least an hour. This gives them time to cook. Do not actually cook the shrimp afterwards unless you want tough, "overcooked" shrimp.
Proper cooking time is the key to tender shrimp. Overcooked shrimp are tough while properly cooked shrimp are tender and moist. In general, shrimp are finished cooking as soon as they change color. Shrimp take between three and eight minutes to boil, depending on size. It takes about three to four minutes to grill shrimp. Pan fried shrimp are generally cooked in three to five minutes. Deep frying shrimp takes two to three minutes.
Shrimp, like most seafood and meat, taste best when the center is cooked through without being overcooked and the outside has a nice crust. In order to achieve this you need to start with defrosted shrimp. If you cook shrimp straight from the freezer the outside will cook far too long to be tender by the time the center is finished. If you need to quickly defrost your shrimp, seal them in a zip top bag, and place it in room temperature water until the shrimp are defrosted. Never defrost seafood or meat on the counter since it can attract bacteria.
Stacy Zogheib's writing has been published in various online publications. She is a teacher and developmental specialist with experience teaching first grade, special education and working with children ages 0 to 3. She has a Bachelor of Arts in elementary and special education from Wittenberg University in Springfield, Ohio and a Master's degree in Early Childhood Education from Northern Arizona University.