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Help, I am afraid to make shrimp cocktail.

I am seafood phobic but my husband is craving shrimp cocktail for the Super Bowl. I am at a complete loss here. Do I buy fresh or frozen? What size? What is the story with the vein thing? I need help. Can someone please walk me through the whole process (shopping, cleaning, cooking, chilling, storing, garnishing)?

Also, is there a way that I can "cheat" by not making it at home? I hate the smell of shrimp boiling. (Oh the things you do for love). Thank goodness for scented candles!

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  1. If you absolutely hate the whole idea of buying shrimp, cooking, peeling, deveining, you can buy it frozen, precooked and shelled from Costco. Buy the largest ones you can, the fewest number per pound. It's in a bag, not the one already in a round w/ the sauce. Trader Joe's has them, too. It's not too hard to buy them raw and prepare but peeling and deveining takes time, and if you're a seafood phobe, might not be worth it.

    If you do want to make it yourself, this is a good recipe for both:

    1. May I also suggest that you go above and beyond the call of duty and make your own cocktail sauce from scratch.
      Here is my recipe:
      1 cup ketchup
      1/2 cup prepared horseradish (or more to taste)
      2 tablespoons lemon juice
      2 tablespoons worchestershire sauce
      two splashes tabasco
      a grind or two fresh pepper
      Stir all together and chill.

      Have a great party!

      1 Reply
      1. re: OneJayneDoe

        My cocktail sauce is a bit simpler:

        Heinz chili sauce
        prepared horseradish
        lemon juice

        I play it by eye and taste as to the proportions.

      2. This really shouldn't be as difficult as you are making it out to be. Most supermarkets carry these "shrimp rings"...already prepared shrimp cocktail with a well in the middle for the sauce. You should be able to find this in the seafood section of the market.

        Now, if you want to make some, the easiest thing to do is buy deveined tiger shrimp. Some markets sell them already defrosted (most shrimp is frozen anyway) and you can buy them by the pound or sometimes they sell 2 pound bags still frozen. Just take it home, boil up a pot of water, put in the shrimp, shell and all, then remove from heat when the shrimp turn pink and either run cold water in the pot to stop the boil or have a cold water bath ready to put the shrimp in to stop the cooking process. Once the shrimp are cooled off enough, peel off most of the shell, just leaving the tail end on to use as a handle.

        If some of the shrimp still have that black vein running in the back, (they shouldn't but you never know), just run the shrimp under running cold water. You can drain all the water, place shrimp in a baggie and refrigerate until you need them. This whole process is done in no time and can be done a day ahead.

        Now the best part of the cocktail is the sauce. Rather than buying the premade stuff, get a jar of prepared horseradish and a bottle of catsup and mix some of each together to make your own. Tastes much fresher and you can control the spice of the horseradish by adding more or less.

        1. Many supermarkets will steam fresh raw shrimp for you. Ask at the seafood counter. You can also probably buy cooked shrimp that is deveined as well.

          Then, you don't have to worry about cooking it yourself.

          Also, follow the advice above of combining prepared horseradish and ketchup. Easy and you can adjust the spice to your hubby's taste.

          1. Don't forget to add chopped/minced celery to the shrimp and sauce.

            1. Since when does "Super Bowl" equate to "Gourmet Night"?

              ANY shrimp, buy 'em already cooked, maybe even already cooked and shelled, FORGET the vein.

              The "cocktail" - catsup and a bit of horseradish. TA-DAAAA !!

              1. If you hate handling and boiling shrimp, don't. Just buy cooked, tail-on frozen shrimp which most stores now sell in two pound bags. They may well be on sale for Super Bowl Sunday. A good snacking size is 31 - 40 which is the number in a pound. Or you can pay a bit more for 26 - 30s. See what's the best price as there's not that much difference. Defrost them in a colander overnight in the fridge. They will already be peeled and deveined.
                These are what you get in more places and catered parties than you'll ever believe. Most people are perfectly happy with them.
                You might get fancy and offer a choice of sauces. Most people expect plain old cocktail sauce which is just ketchup doctored up with horseradish. Try a white remoulade made with mayo, grainy mustard (maybe Creole), lemon juice, some finely chopped scallion, Worcestershire, and Tabasco.
                Serve the shrimp on a bed of crushed ice with the bowls of sauce inbedded in it. Garnish with a little parsley. Don't forget a small bowl for the tails that don't get eaten.
                Move away as quickly as you can so you don't have to smell them. Wash your hands with salt and lemon.

                1. ewwww .... the shrimp ring is disgusting and so are the precooked shrimp you get at Costco. it tastes likes waterlogged shrimp mush.

                  if you are just making for your husband and it's a treat i would head to the fish market and get 6 colossal (u-8) shrimp...probably $20 for a lb. ask them to clean and devein for you.

                  once home, boil shrimp with Old Bay and lemon and serve chilled with the recipe for cocktail sauce above.

                  6 Replies
                  1. re: jenniebnyc

                    I wouldn't go with U 8 for shrimp cocktail, even 16/20 are almost too big. I always use 21/25 myself, perfect bitesize. I think it's more impressive to see a maximum amount on the platter, rather than a few big ones, and if you have company coming it'll work out a lot better
                    Any good fish store will have them ready to go, cleaned and cooked, and if you're not experienced at boiling them, it's probably worth the money. On a day like this, I'm sure they'll have a bus tub or two done already in the most popular size! If you're going to buy them frozen, PLEASE try to get from Mexico or South America, not China or Thailand or that area. The exception for me is Black Tigers, they're not that bad for the price, don't think I've ever seen them in a retail store though.

                    1. re: coll

                      it sounds like OP is only making a portion for hubby. If this is so, I would definitely go with the largest shrimp possible. I served u8's on NYE and the guests were so excited to get a shrimp that you could get three big bites out of. Reminds me of a little lobster tail. any good restaurant you go to should serve u8 for their shrimp cocktail. the best i have found on LI, NY is Tellers in Islip.

                      1. re: jenniebnyc

                        I guess I'm prejudiced because my husband prefers lots of little shrimp rather than chomping on a big one. We had prawns like that once at that great little steakhouse in Bayshore by the RR station, long gone and I don't remember the name, I thought they were great but I defer to him because he seems to have a more "common" feel for what would be popular. I believe they were even U5s or some such thing. But when I bought some for home, he would have rather had a bunch of little ones.
                        I can imagine what they charged at Tellers!! Let me guess $25 for 3 or 4 shrimp?

                        1. re: coll

                          trying to think of the steak place you are referring to in Bay Shore..Schillers or Bay Shore Inn. Hmmm, it must be gone a while.

                          Anyway, I am embarrassed to say I don't know how much the shrimp cost at Tellers b/c I never pay the bill. I think it's more like $15 for 3 or 4 shrimp though. BTW their burgers by the bar are fabulous and a good way to enjoy the place w/o breaking the bank.

                          I go to Cor-J for my shimp and no matter what size I am never disappointed. They have peconic bay scallops right now which have been hard to come by this year. Got them last weekend. Delish.

                          1. re: jenniebnyc

                            No, I had to google it and it was Candles
                            Notice they had to mention the shrimp cocktail! Too bad the place didn't last too long, it had great food.
                            Tellers we go about once a year, and we go all the way!!!!

                    2. re: jenniebnyc

                      I love the shrimp rings at Costco. I don't find them to be "waterlogged shrimp mush" at all. On the contrary they are very crisp, at least at my Costco in So Cal.

                      When I make them at home I use the recipe on the back of the can of Old Bay seasoning. It uses a minimal amount of water and white vinegar and makes the best shrimp I've made. I think the key is to not boil them in a quantity of water, that's what makes them "waterlogged shrimp mush".


                      AND, shrimp cooking shouldn't smell like "ewwwww" unless the shrimp isn't fresh.

                      most shrimp sold in the u.s. has been frozen at some point. i suggest buying not frozen (if you can get it). it should smell *fresh*. not fishy nor iodine-y. it should not be mushy. shrimp are sold by how many pieces are in the pound. dunno how many people you are feeding or what else you are making, but for easy eating buy shrimp at least 16-20. bigger is better for this.

                      in a pot combine equal parts white vinegar (or white wine) and water. bay leaf, garlic cloves, peppercorns and salt. put shrimp in pot. make sure there is enough liquid to cover shrimp. cover. at medium heat, bring to a boil. once boiling turn off heat. steam about 2 or 3 minutes, till pink. drain. toss in ice bath.

                      chill. peel before serving with cocktail sauce. lawdy, one of the planet's easiest foods.

                      2 Replies
                      1. re: hotoynoodle

                        Hotoynoodle, I see you're in Boston. Can you actually get fresh shrimp there? It has always been my understanding, (and I may be wrong), that in most parts of the country the shrimp in stores are all frozen. They are generally frozen right on the boat and the shrimp that is not frozen when you buy them at a fishmonger or in a supermarket seafood section have just already been defrosted.

                        If you know something I don't, please tell.

                        1. re: laylag

                          we do actually have a very brief season of fresh local shrimp from maine. they are awesome. small little guys. wow. sigh (season is over, lol.)

                          but what i meant here is to buy shrimp in a thawed state. yes, they've already been frozen, but probably just once, and you get a much better indication of the quality and the state. if they're frozen it's impossible to tell, and you also can't smell if they're less than fresh.

                          same when you buy them already cooked. you can't tell what kind of condition they were in until you get them home and try them. then it's too late.

                      2. This could be a lot simpler. Just hand the hubby a to do list. Put 1. Shrimp cocktail on the top. If he likes it enough, he'll deal with it. If he doesn't, then why are you bothering?

                        1. I make this all the time, and I use the "Gold" frozen brand at S&S. I buy two 2lb bags of extra large shrimp. Two jars of Ken's cocktail sauce, and a jar of horseradish, both found in the refrigerator section.

                          On the morning that I am going to serve them, I put them in a large bowl, with cold water and a tablespoon of kosher salt. They defrost in about 1/2 hr. Then drain them in a colander, and let sit for another 1/2 hr.
                          I pat dry with paper towels and make my own ring. I serve the sauce in the center, and add a tablespoon of horseradish, and a squeeze of lemon to the sauce. I serve with sliced lemon wedges.
                          I never have leftovers, they are yummy and no fuss!

                          1. If it were me, I'd go for the frozen precooked shrimp and make my own cocktail sauce. If you get some nice really big shrimp, most guys will think you you are great. Honestly, I don't know of any place where you can buy shrimp that has never been frozen and shrimp handle freezing better than most other foods.

                            And make your own cocktail sauce. I have never had a bottled cocktail sauce that was worth a damn. OneJayneDoe's recipe is about the same as mine. Lots of good horseradish will made it right.

                            1. If your husband really loves shrimp cocktail - don't buy that ring or pre cooked. Majority of the people here are right, it's pretty simple to do it and makes a huge difference. I call those rings and pre cooked "colorful shrimp looking sponges". I can do a blind taste test any day.

                              1. Don't know where you're located, but for me, there's nothing better than Maine shrimp.

                                I buy them cleaned, put them in a pot with just enough cold water to cover, add some fresh ground pepper & a squirt of lemon juice. Bring to a boil, remove from heat & let sit for a minute. Drain & rinse in cold water.

                                1. ...and light that lemon scented candle and you're good to go.

                                  Secret ingredient to our cocktail sauce was a splash of vodka and old bay seasoning.

                                  1. Had a shrimp coctail once at a Mex. restaurant, used their salsa in place of coctail sauce. Really tasty.

                                    1. http://www.foodnetwork.com/food/recip...

                                      This is the recipe/method I use. It's so easy and tastes great as well

                                      1. Go to Sam's Club and get the Jumbo Cooked Cocktail Shrimp with tails on for around $14 and get the Bookbinder's Shrimp Cocktail sauce for around $3.50. I can do fresh, but it is so much easier to let thaw and serve. I have tried other brands and markets , but I think Sam's Club Members Mark has been the best.

                                        1. I use Alton Brown's recipe as well, and it always turns out well. As for cocktail sauce, personally I hate ketchup, so I use Schirachi and a bit of tomato paste instead, it adds a bit more heat, but you can cut back on the horseradish a bit.

                                          If you want a project to keep you busy all day, you can try the Per Se shrimp cocktail


                                          If yo want to simplify it a bit, I'd just use Kellers court boullion for poaching the shrimp, and then make some quick cocktail sauce.