HOW DO I KNOW WHEN SHRIMP ARE PERFECTLY COOKED & READY TO EAT?
There are many ways to cook and serve shrimp. Do you remember Pvt. Benjamin Buford’s line in Forest Gump?
Anyway, like I was sayin’, shrimp is the fruit of the sea. You can barbecue it, boil it, broil it, bake it, sauté it. Dey’s uh, shrimp-kabobs, shrimp creole, shrimp gumbo. Pan fried, deep fried, stir-fried. There’s pineapple shrimp, lemon shrimp, coconut shrimp, pepper shrimp, shrimp soup, shrimp stew, shrimp salad, shrimp and potatoes, shrimp burger, shrimp sandwich. That- that’s about it.
What Pvt. Buford doesn’t tell you is how to know when shrimp are done cooking and need to be removed from the heat so they don’t overcook. Shrimp are one of those versatile ingredients that are easy to feature in a meal because of their simple sweet flavor, speed of cooking and compatibility with so many other ingredients.
Whether you are creating a shrimp Creole, stir-fry, seafood pasta dish, simple “shrimp on the barbie”, or one of the other hundreds of ways to serve shrimp, the most important thing to remember is not to overcook them. We’ve all done it and end up with a hard, rubbery texture that is OK to eat, just not that OK.
You really notice overcooked shrimp in a shrimp cocktail. You can bury over-cooked shrimp in a spicy tomato sauce or cream based French sauce but when it’s just a shrimp and some cocktail sauce, you know immediately something’s not right.
That’s why it is so important to know when shrimp are done cooking and ready to serve.
HOW DO YOU KNOW WHEN SHRIMP ARE DONE?
There are several methods for judging when shrimp are properly cooked. Is one method better than another? I’ll let you test them all and decide for yourself.
From SeaPak Shrimp & Seafood Company – These guys have been around and selling shrimp for over 60 years so I’m taking their word they know what they’re talking about.
They say, “Shrimp should be cooked to an internal temperature of 165 ºF. They will become an opaque whitish color when fully cooked.”
I’m not sure many of us are going to pull out our instant thermometers when grilling or pan frying shrimp but it’s an option. The change in color is how I learned from a cookbook early on and how I’ve been testing for shrimp doneness for years.
Raw shrimp start out with gray shells and translucent flesh which according to Webster’s Dictionary means, “permitting the passage of light: a) clear, transparent; b) transmitting and diffusing light so that objects beyond cannot be seen clearly.”
When properly cooked, the exterior should be pink with red tails and the flesh is slightly opaque and a little “white” in color. Here’s where it gets confusing because a “little white” may vary from cook to cook. If it is bright white in color, there’s a good chance the shrimp are overcooked.
I have been cooking shrimp this way for as long as I can remember and still find it difficult to nail it just right especially when you have to take into consideration the shrimp will continue to cook after removing from the heat unless you cool them off in an ice bath. While researching for this article I learned another way to tell when the shrimp are done that looks promising.
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