Tips, tricks, and secrets for perfectly cooked shrimp

Bayou Fried Shrimp
Credit: Photo: Beth Dreiling Hontzas

Notes From the Bayou
When Executive Editor Scott Jones and Test Kitchens Professional Pam Lolley traveled to Louisiana to cook with Timmy Cheramie, they brought home pages of handwritten notes filled with delicious details of the meals they shared. Pam re-created their culinary adventure for the Food staff to enjoy and passed along some of the things that make Timmy's recipes so special.

  • Walker & Sons "Slap Ya Mama" Cajun Seasoning delivers a peppery punch without the double dose of salt found in some brands.
  • When stirring up Shrimp-and-Sausage Stew, Timmy coaxes maximum flavor by layering his ingredients--first caramelizing the onions and then adding the tomato sauce and remaining veggies in stages.
  • Timmy's recipe for Boiled Shrimp is easy and flawless. Immediately after stirring in the shrimp, he pulls the pot from the stove and leaves it to stand until the shrimp turn pink and the shells begin to loosen. Icing down the water and adding salt after the shrimp are cooked keeps them tender and easy to peel.

Stylish Cuts
A simple technique known as butterflying gives Bayou Fried Shrimp a festive look. It's a quick step that's also used when preparing stuffed shrimp and other special dishes. Here's how we do it.

Peel shrimp, leaving the tails intact. Using a sharp paring knife, make a deep slit down the back of each shrimp, from the large end to the tail, cutting to but not through the inside curve of the shrimp. Open the shrimp to form a butterfly shape, and remove the dark vein.

Sizing Up the Selection
Shrimp come in a wide range of sizes―from tiny cooked salad shrimp barely bigger than a BB pellet to the super-large variety. Although larger shrimp cost more and are a better choice for some recipes, they don't necessarily taste better.

When buying shrimp, look closely at the label and you'll see a set of numbers divided by a slash, such as 16/20 or 51/60. These numbers refer to the count (the number of shrimp per pound). While there are no regulations governing the use of such terms as "large" or "jumbo," stores are required to display the number of shrimp per pound.

Almost all shrimp are frozen at sea or soon thereafter―even if they are sold as "fresh" in stores. Select firm shrimp with a mild scent, or buy frozen ones with the shells on. Peeled and deveined shrimp are less protected against freezer burn. Bacteria can migrate, so avoid fresh-cooked shrimp that are displayed alongside raw fish or shellfish.

What's Cooking?
We'd love to learn more about the creative ways you prepare shrimp. For each recipe we publish, we'll send you $20 plus a copy of the Southern Living Annual Recipes cookbook in January. Please e-mail recipes to

"Just-Right Shrimp" is from the June 2008 issue of Southern Living.