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What is the secret to the firm dense shrimp for shrimp cocktail served in the best steakhouses and restaurants?

The best steakhouses and restaurants serve dense firm shrimp for shrimp cocktail. They are not light and airy like what is commonly served. Is this a different species or is the cooking technique different?

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  1. good shrimp. i don't like farmed or shrimp from thailand. i go with frozen, unpeeled, wild gulf shrimp. and bigguns, too.

    1 Reply
    1. re: eLizard

      i like to boil mine is salted water with some lemon, a few peppercorns, a bay leaf, and sometimes some old bay. just until the tail starts to curl. really about 60 seconds. then plunge in iced water.

      i'm in boston, and if i want the big shrimp, it's always been frozen at some point. i prefer to buy the frozen so i can defrost it myself. usually they're iqf on the boat iirc.

    2. Go to a shop that sells wild shrimp in the U15 size (or 16-20, at a minimum). A place like Point Lobster in Point Pleasant sells them thawed and in great shape. Steam them for just a couple minutes, in the shell. Overcooking will add to the mushiness you seek to avoid and the shells will help give you a cushion.

      Don't be afraid to ask the guys at the counter just how long they suggest the cook should take given the size they're selling you. But, as noted, avoid long frozen Asian farmed shrimp, especially those that are already shelled.

      2 Replies
      1. re: MGZ

        wild, yes. shelled and deveined, emphatically no.

        1. You can also perk up shrimp that aren't the highest quality by brining them briefly - just put them in some cold water in which you've dissolved a good bit of salt and a little sugar. Let them soak for maybe 15 minutes - you'll be surprised at how much the texture improves.

          6 Replies
          1. re: biondanonima

            Wow. I’ve been cooking shrimp for thirty-some years and have never heard of brining them. I’m fascinated and somewhat confused. I find that brining generally is detrimental to the texture of chicken and pork, making them spongier. Is it the opposite with a smaller creature that has, effectively, been being brined it’s entire life?

            1. re: MGZ

              Well, I think the principle is the same - the meat absorbs some water, just as it does with pork or chicken. However, with shrimp (and maybe this is because they are an aquatic creature, I don't really know), I find that the effect is more that they seem plumper, firmer and have a good snap when you bite into them, rather than getting a waterlogged, spongy texture the way chicken does.

              1. re: MGZ

                That sponginess only happens if you brine too long, it gets a horrible texture, like cheap deli chicken roll.

                1. re: mcf

                  I used to notice it regardless of brining time, just to different degrees. Plus, too short a brine doesn't really accomplish anything. Nonetheless, I stopped brining years ago, so I suppose it's not something I'm too concerned with anymore. I can usually identify brined meats when others prepare them.

                  1. re: MGZ

                    our experiences with brining differ by a lot... have never had that result with anything in years of brining, but did, once, with a pre brined (to the point of pinkness and rubber) Murray's chicken... so I know exactly what you speak of.

                2. re: MGZ

                  Brined chicken and pork that are spongy have been mishandled. That's not how properly brined protein turns out

              2. large size and not over cooked.

                1. Not all the shrimp you buy from your best fish monger will be equal. As you shell and devein them, don't be afraid to set some aside if they are less than wonderful because some of them just aren't up to snuff.