How best to cook shrimp to use chilled in a composed salad?

I love salad with chilled shrimp, but every time I make once, the shrimp ends up mushy. I've chilled shrimp that's been grilled, sautéed, and boiled. What am I doing wrong? Would like to get "shrimp cocktail texture." I use frozen shrimp...could that be the problem?

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pierino
pierino April 22, 2016

You could cook them shell on (heads on too if possible) in a shrimp or crab boil such as Old Bay or Zatarains. Just don't cook them at a rolling boil. Peel them before adding to the salad. Alternatively you could grill them shell on over a wood charcoal fire---not briquettes! But frozen shrimp are definitely part of your problem. Also they probably come from Thailand where they are harvested by slave labor. Always buy fresh if you can, or substitute another crustacean.

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HalfPint
HalfPint April 22, 2016

Start with a brine of salt and baking soda. It improves the texture of shrimp. SeriousEats found this trick to greatly improve shrimp no matter how you cook it; http://www.seriouseats...

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LE BEC FIN
LE BEC FIN April 23, 2016

i usually differ greatly from pierino; same thing here. fwiw i always buy shell-on 26-30 count frozen shrimp from Mexico, not Maine (not enough flavor) or Indonesia (mucky). No fancy seasoning needed and some of those can really over-power seafood's delicate favor, incl. shimp, imo(Old Bay be damned). In a small pot of 1-2 qts.water, place shrimp shells(i hope you started w/ shell-on shrimp), some peppercorns , allspice berries, chunks of onion and lemon, 1-2 bay leaves. simmer 10 -30 minutes. remove solids; add defrosted shell-off shrimp, stir, simmer a few minutes til shrimp become opaque. remove shrimp from water and place in bowl of ice water. stir well to cool; remove from water.chill in frig.reduce poaching water to a volume easily stored in your freezer; cool; freeze. Defrost and use for next batch of poached shrimp or as seafood stock for soups and chowders.

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LE BEC FIN
LE BEC FIN April 23, 2016

p.s. YOU did not cause mushiness in shrimp; it's like they either are or are not mushy due to various factors, but not due to you. Don't buy SEAsian shrimp.

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pierino
pierino April 23, 2016

The biggest purveyors of shrimp in the US are Costco and Walmart (no surprise there). Shrimp harvested from Thailand have been tracked to those outlets. There are a lot of middlemen involved. You should think of frozen shrimp as a commodity like corn or oranges.

puttakka
puttakka April 23, 2016

Thanks for the tips. I'm gonna try the tips and report back. For what it's worth I buy something called wild American shrimp. I assume it's from Florida. Don't have access to fresh shrimp sadly

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Exbruxelles
Exbruxelles April 23, 2016

I steam them. Shell on or off--it doesn't seem to matter.

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cookbookchick
cookbookchick April 23, 2016

I also steam them. My first MIL taught me to rinse them, shells on, and then place them in a pot with just the water clinging to them from the rinse. Cover and cook just until they turn pink. That's it! Of course, a few peppercorns and some bay leaves or other seasonings mixed in wont hurt.

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Greenstuff
Greenstuff April 23, 2016

Good advice here, starting with the basic "buy good shrimp." The Serious Eats trick with the salt and baking soda brine is interesting too, but I've never felt any need for it. For me, the important part is not over cooking. I watch like a hawk, and take them out of the water, off the grill, or out of the pan the instant they go from translucent to a solid pinkish color.

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