Perfectly Cooked Shrimp

Preparation info

  • Difficulty


  • for about

    2 pounds

Appears in

Cooking One on One

Cooking One on One

By John Ash

Published 2004

  • About

The major problem in cooking shrimp is that we generally end up overcooking them, and as a result, they become tough. Restaurants are especially famous for this—even if the cook or chef prepares them perfectly, a few minutes under the hot lamp waiting for pick-up puts them over the top. The objective is to cook shrimp so that they still are a little bit translucent in the center when cooking is finished. The following method, using a version of classic court-bouillon, is a good one that pretty much ensures that the shrimp will be cooked perfectly. Couple this with the brining process laid out above and you’ll be in great shape!


  • 2 pounds large (16-20 size) shrimp
  • cups crisp, light-bodied white wine
  • 1 cup coarsely chopped carrot
  • 1 cup coarsely chopped yellow or white onions
  • ½ cup chopped celery
  • 3 large bay leaves
  • 8 whole black peppercorns
  • 1 whole clove
  • 1 tablespoon salt


Peel and devein the shrimp and brine them if you like. In a deep saucepan, combine 4 cups of water, the wine, carrot, onions, celery, bay leaves, peppercorns, clove, and salt, bring to a boil over high heat, then lower the heat, cover, and simmer for a few minutes. Add the shrimp, cover, and simmer for 1 minute. Immediately turn off the heat and keep covered. After about 3 minutes, check on the shrimp: if they’re nearly opaque but still a little translucent in the center, they’re ready. If not, re-cover the pan and wait another minute or two. It should take no longer than 5 minutes off the heat.

Drain, reserving the cooking liquid, and refrigerate the shrimp. Serve cold with your favorite cocktail sauce, or mine—Green and Red Salsa. In fact, any of the salsas make great cocktail sauces. The shrimp can also be used in any recipe that calls for cooked shrimp. The cooking liquid can be used again: store it in the refrigerator for up to a week or in the freezer indefinitely. You can also strain it, which will then give you the base for a nice stock or sauce. Make it richer in flavor by simmering some shrimp shells in it, as discussed above.