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How do you keep shrimp from curling up?

It seems that whenever I see a shrimp cocktail served in a restaurant, the shrimp are always plump and gently curved, yet, whenever I cook up a batch of shrimp they always get tightly curled. I defrost them first, then put them into boiling water, let the water return to a boil and cook them a minute or two longer. Then, when they're finished cooking, I drain them into a collander and run cold water over them. Is there something I can do differently to have them retain more of their original shape? Thanks!

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  1. Do you leave the shells on? They generally curve less if the shells are left on.

    Also, whenever I boil shrimp, I don't really.... I bring salt water with a spritz of lemon to a boil, toss in the shrimp, and immediately take the pot off the burner. The shrimp stay in there maybe 2 minutes tops. Then off they go into an icy water bath.

    I think you may be overcooking them if you put em in boiling water AND letting the water return to a boil AND cooking them after that.

    5 Replies
    1. re: linguafood

      +1 on the overcooking and the shrimp boiling process. This is a great method! :)

      1. re: linguafood

        ditto, ditto, and ditto.

        Cindy, if you ever choose to grill, broil, or saute them instead, watch them as they cook. they're done *as soon* as the color changes to opaque/pink, and at that point they'll still be relatively open. if they curl up, they've gone too far. (for what it's worth, if you want to you can also run a skewer through them to help maintain the shape.)

        1. re: linguafood

          When I boil shrimp, I always leave the shells on.

          I like your suggestion, linguafood. But let me ask a question about your method. If I am cooking 2 pounds of shrimp, will there be enough heat in the water to cook the shrimp if I take the pot off the burner? I usually use an 8-quart pasta pot because it holds so much water, but even that amount of water will cool considerably once the shrimp are added.

          1. re: CindyJ

            While 2 lbs. of shrimp is a lot more than I have made at once, I think if the water is at a rolling boil when you toss them in, the remaining heat should be enough (especially if the shrimp are totally thawed). It's more of a poach than a boil, I guess.

            Also, since it really doesn't take long, you can check after a couple minutes and see what they look like. The C & O thing further down is a good indicator, as is the color.

            I also find I'd much rather have ever-so-slightly undercooked shrimp than overcooked. If you're worried about them being underdone, skip the ice bath, and they'll continue to cook.

            1. re: linguafood

              I break the group up, two batches cooked rather than one. I don't use that large of pot either.

        2. shell-on.

          add them to court bouillon. at medium heat, bring to a boil and then shrimp are done. drain and plunge shrimp in a bowl of ice water.

          1 Reply
          1. re: hotoynoodle

            Couldn't agree more that this is the way to go...court bouillon, shell-on, ice bath afterwards

          2. put a skewer through them lengthwise

            1. The last time I made shrimp cocktail I used Ina Garten's method of oven roasting them. Not only did they shrink less but they barely curled at all & were delicous. Much firmer as they weren't waterlogged. Basically just took peeled shrimp, tossed w/ evoo & salt & pepper & spread out on a sheet pan. It's the only way I do shrimp now.

              1 Reply
              1. Mainly, as everyone says, leave the shell on.

                3 Replies
                1. re: coll

                  but then she'd have to peel them after. roasting leaves minimal curling. or I agree with putting a skewer through them

                  1. re: sparkareno

                    I always peel them after. They have more flavor cooked shell on.

                    1. re: coll

                      Roasted with shells is the BEST, they have so much more flavor with the shells! I don't mind peeling them; it's easy as long as they are deveined ahead of time.