You will be amazed at how easy it is to make Poached Shrimp! This recipe gives you perfectly tender, plump shrimp. Serve it along with your favorite cocktail sauce for a simple, yet sophisticated appetizer or light dinner.
Why You Will Love This Recipe
Simple Recipe - It doesn't take much work to make the most delicious cocktail shrimp! It's easy enough for beginner cooks to master!
Flavorful, Tender Shrimp - Boiled shrimp can end up rubbery and the stuff you buy from the grocery store sometimes tastes like chlorine. But poaching results in the best shrimp cocktail that is delicate and delicious!
Can Be Made Ahead - Most shrimp cocktail is served chilled and they can be stored in the refrigerator for up to 2 days. It is perfect for a dinner party because you can prepare and plate it ahead of time, and it is in the fridge ready to serve.
What is Poaching?
Poaching is the process of slowly cooking food in hot water. It is a very gentle way to cook, which makes it perfect for cooking shrimp! The end result is shrimp that is tender, juicy, and not at all rubbery.
For the most flavorful shrimp, the water is infused with aromatics. This recipe uses lemon halves, garlic cloves, black peppercorns, and a bay leaf. If you do not have bay leaves then you can substitute a few sprigs of thyme or rosemary.
This infused water does not give the shrimp a strong flavor, but it enhances its natural flavor.
- Unless you have access to shrimp sold off the ship, it is best to buy it frozen. The fresh shrimp at the butcher counter was actually flash-frozen and thawed. So frozen is the best way to get shrimp that is as fresh as possible.
- Shell-on shrimp will have more flavor than already-peeled. EZ Peel is a good compromise because it has been deveined but still has the shell.
- Double-check to make sure you buy raw shrimp! If it has already been cooked cannot be poached. It will be tough and chewy.
- Colossal shrimp (16-21 pieces per pound) are perfect for shrimp cocktail. This is sometimes also called Extra Jumbo. Jumbo shrimp and Super Colossal will work too.
How to Thaw
In order to cook your shrimp properly and with a great texture it must be thawed. You can do this in two ways:
In the Refrigerator - This method allows the shrimp to thaw slowly and maintain its optimal texture. Place the bag in a bowl in case it leaks. Refrigerate for 12 hours. Once thawed, it needs to be cooked within 48 hours.
In the Sink - Place the shrimp in a colander and run cold water over it for 10 minutes. You could also place it in a bowl and fill it with cold water. Let the shrimp sit in the water for 10 minutes.
Note: The direct water thawing method works well for shrimp that still has the peel. If you have pre-peeled then directly running water over the shrimp could cause it to fall apart. In that case, thaw it in the refrigerator or water bath instead.
1) Peel Shrimp
- EZ-peel shrimp have a slice through the shell down the center, so they are really easy to peel!
- Just hold the shrimp in one hand, and with your other hand, slip your finger underneath the shell, and peel it back.
- Sometimes the shell will naturally break off at the tail, but if the tail is still secure to the shell, carefully tear the shell away.
- If it has not already been deveined, use a paring knife, make a cut along the back of the shrimp, and remove the vein.
- Some shrimp also have a vein along the belly. There is no food safety risk in leaving this vein, but I find it more appetizing to remove. Just follow the same process as removing the other vein.
If you are a visual learner, check out this video to watch instructions on how to peel. Just remember that when peeling for shrimp cocktail, you want to leave the tail on, so just skip that step of the video.
2) Boil Aromatics
- Add 3 quarts of water to a large pot over high heat.
- Bring the water to a rapid boil, then add the aromatics.
- Reduce to low heat and keep at a gentle simmer for 15 minutes.
3) Add Shrimp
- Turn off the stove and remove the pot from the heat.
- Add the shrimp to the water, then place the lid back onto the pan.
- Set a timer for 5 minutes, then drain the poaching water.
4) Place in Ice Bath
- Fill a large bowl with ice, then water. As soon as the shrimp is done cooking, transfer them to the ice water for one minute.
- This is an optional step. You could simply drain the water and transfer the shrimp to the refrigerator. However, an ice bath quickly cools them and stops the cooking process.
- This helps create the most succulent shrimp!
- This shrimp cocktail recipe is a great appetizer for any party or special dinner.
- Serve with a homemade spicy cocktail sauce and some fresh lemon wedges.
- Add as protein on a salad, like Spinach Caprese Salad or Kale Salad.
- It is delicious with steak or smoked prime rib.
- Make it a night of seafood with oven-baked crab cakes!
Shrimp does need to be stored under 41°F (5°C) in order to avoid bacteria growth. If you are serving immediately then it does not need ice. However, if it will be out of the refrigerator for 2 hours or longer then serve the shrimp on ice or on a chill platter.
It comes down to personal preference. But peeled shrimp absorb the flavor of the poaching liquid better than with the peel on so that's why I like to peel it first.
The internal temperature of a fully cooked shrimp should reach 120°F (49°C). However, the best way to tell if it is cooked is by sight. When cooked, the color changes from grey to an opaque white with dark pink and orange on the sides.
Poached shrimp can last in the refrigerator for up to 2 days if stored properly. To store, place the cooked shrimp in an airtight container and keep it in the coldest part of the refrigerator.
Let me know how you like this recipe by leaving a review! And follow along on Instagram @stateofdinner for behind-the-scenes and to be among the first to know when new recipes post!
Poached Shrimp Cocktail RecipeRecipe by:
- 2 pounds jumbo easy-peel shrimp (16-20 count per pound)
- 3 quarts water
- ½ teaspoon salt
- 8 whole peppercorns
- ½ lemon
- 2 garlic cloves
- 1 bay leaf
- 1 cup ketchup
- ¼ cup creamy horseradish sauce
- 1 teaspoon Worcestershire
- 1 ½ tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
- 2-3 dashes hot sauce
Poaching the Shrimp
- Thaw the frozen shrimp in the refrigerator, or under running water for 5 minutes.2 pounds jumbo easy-peel shrimp (16-20 count per pound)
- Remove the peel, leaving the tail on.
- Bring water to a boil in a large stock pan.3 quarts water
- Add salt, peppercorns, lemon and bay leaf. Reduce heat to low and simmer for 15 minutes.½ teaspoon salt, 8 whole peppercorns, ½ lemon, 2 garlic cloves, 1 bay leaf
- Add the shrimp. Turn off the heat and cover the pan with a lid for 5 minutes, or until the shrimp is opaque.
- Drain the water and refrigerate shrimp until ready to serve.
Preparing the Cocktail Sauce
- In a small bowl, mix ketchup, horseradish, Worcestershire, lemon juice, and hot sauce.1 cup ketchup, ¼ cup creamy horseradish sauce, 1 teaspoon Worcestershire, 1 ½ tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice, 2-3 dashes hot sauce
- Taste and adjust seasonings to your preference.
- Refrigerate until ready to serve.