Numerous scientific studies agree that this is the best method for cooking shrimp.

Our writer Ella Quittner desecrates her kitchen for the sake of science in Absolute Best Tests. She has ranked potatoes from "most forgettable" to "potatoes we'd like to marry," and she has seared more porterhouse steaks than she cares to remember. She's taking on shrimp today.

Around 163,000 B.C., people in a cave on South Africa's southern coast feasted on shellfish. Approximately two dozen edible creatures, such as mussels and at least one barnacle that had previously lived on the belly of a whale, were discovered by archaeologists many millennia later.

Around seven in the morning, humankind partaking in the most outlandish shellfish feast ever recorded. m on the previous Tuesday, I was at home in my apartment Only me, a pound of butter, and more shrimp than would fit in my fridge's crisper drawer made up the entire meal. Several hours later, I came out of the kitchen covered in grease, exhausted, and with some unexpected results. In other words, it was a typical day of testing for the Absolute Best Tests.

Let's be crustaceans and get right down to business:

Oil, butter, lemon, salt, red pepper flakes, cayenne, and garlic were left in the recipes, but I eliminated as many other ingredients as possible. I used shrimp of various sizes, with or without their shells and heads attached, as each technique called for. Diamond Crystal is the only salt I'll use.

As a side note, in her book What's the Difference? "Anyone who tries to tell you that shrimp and prawns taste different is wrong," Brette Warshaw says. While both shrimp and prawns have external skeletons and ten legs, these two shellfish are distinct in a number of ways, as Warshaw explains: Whereas prawns are exclusively found in fresh water, shrimp can be found in both. While the size difference between prawns and shrimp can vary greatly depending on the species, prawns are typically larger. All of the techniques detailed below work equally well with shrimp or prawns.


A Food52 recipe with a few minor changes

  • 1-pound large shrimp, deveined and shelled
  • Zest of half a lemon, finely grated
  • 1/2 tsp kosher salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon of red pepper flakes
  • Unsalted butter, about a quarter cup, cubed
  • Ingredients: 4 minced garlic cloves
  • Three tablespoons of squeezed lemon juice
  1. Mix the lemon zest, salt, and cayenne pepper with the shrimp in a bowl until the shrimp is evenly coated.
  2. Three tablespoons of butter should be heated over medium heat in a large skillet or wok. Throw in some garlic and lemon juice once the butter begins to foam. The garlic should be sautéed for about three minutes, or until it is pliable.
  3. Include the shrimp. Takes about 3 minutes of sautéing to reach a pink center. Turn off the stove and add the rest of the butter.

Both shelled and unshelled shrimp were put through this procedure. The latter turned out fine, though the shrimp were tougher than they would have been with a slower cooking method like roasting. However, the shrimp cooked with their shells on turned out buttery and juicy, making me look like a total rock star as I ate them barefoot first thing in the morning. With that extra coating, the shrimp probably didn't dry out as quickly when cooked rapidly. The meat had a heartier, more robust flavor than the peeled batch because the lemon, fat, and seasoning were all trapped in the shell.

Effective and only slightly unappealing
Pre-peeled shrimp have a lower likelihood of being tender.


To paraphrase Food52:

  • One pound of medium-sized shrimp, cleaned and deveined
  • half a teaspoon of kosher salt
  • Grate 4 garlic cloves
  • Two Tablespoons of Pure, Unrefined Olive Oil
  • Pepper flakes, red, 1/2 teaspoon
  • In a bowl, combine 1 tablespoon of sugar and the juice of 1 lemon.
  • 2-tablespoons of salted butter
  1. Pre-heat the oven to 450 degrees Fahrenheit.
  2. Combine the shrimp, half the garlic, olive oil, red pepper flakes, and lemon zest on a half sheet pan. Give it 10 minutes to rest.
  3. Cook in the oven for 7 to 9 minutes, or until the meat is no longer raw. Once done, toss the shrimp in the butter and remove from the oven. Splash on some pure lemon juice.

Instead of searing them quickly over high heat, trying roasting them for 8 minutes at a steady temperature; the resulting shrimp meat was sweeter and softer. The garlic, however, which caramelized into chewy, flavorful bits on top of each shrimp, was the show-stopper. Earlier than 8 a.m., I ate the entire contents of a half-batch by myself. m They could dethrone any other dish if served over rice with a splash of soy sauce and a splash of tart vinegar.

All the positives: It's just that good.
Cons: Cooking time was double that of searing and broiling.


Based on the book Grandbaby Cakes

  • 1/4 to 1/3 cup bread flour
  • One-third cup of yellow cornmeal
  • a couple of teaspoons of seasoned or kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon of dried mustard
  • 1/2 mug buttermilk
  • Singular Large Egg = 1
  • A dash of hot sauce (I used Tabasco) (two teaspoons)
  • 1-pound bag of medium shrimp, prepped by peeling and deveining
  • Oil with a neutral flavor (like vegetable oil)
  • Sliced lemons
  1. The flour, cornmeal, salt, and cayenne should be combined in a brown bag or a ziplock bag and shaken until combined.
  2. Mix the buttermilk, egg, and pepper sauce in a small bowl. Dip each shrimp piece in the liquid and then add it to the bag with the dry ingredients. Seal the bag and shake it vigorously to evenly coat the shrimp once you've added half of them. Coat the shrimp, then spread them out on a baking sheet.
  3. While the coating is hardening, heat 2 to 212 inches of oil in a deep pot over medium heat. The shrimp should be fried for a few minutes, or until they are golden and curled into a C shape. Take care not to overcook; if in doubt, you can always cut into a piece to see if it's done. Paper towel drains
  4. Squeeze fresh lemon over each serving before serving.

The fried shrimp in breading were a smashing success. Super-juicy meat was wrapped in a spicy blanket of breading that was both crisp and subtly sweet. I feel obligated to point out that this technique is applicable to shrimp of any size in case you'd like to invite me over and feed me a vat of popcorn bay shrimp.

Crispy, flavorful, and perfect
Negatives: There are more steps involved than with some of the more straightforward approaches, but what else do you have to do?

MJ Kroeger's Photographs Molly Fitzsimons, Set Dresser & Prop Stylist Lauren Lapenna, Food Stylist


Recipe modified from Food52

  • Olive oil that has been pressed less than twice
  • A single large yellow onion, diced
  • Diced 1 red bell pepper
  • Kojic salt
  • Two seeded and halved bird's-eye chiles
  • Two peeled cloves of garlic
  • Extract from one lemon's rind
  • One pound of large, deveined, head-on shrimp
  • One lemon's juice
  1. Start by heating a large skillet or wok over medium heat. Spread on some oil, just a little. Put in some onions and peppers. Add salt, and cook until the onion is translucent and the garlic is golden. Cook the chiles for 2 more minutes, or until fork-tender.
  2. Put everything from the pan into the blender. Put in some garlic and lemon peel. Three tablespoons of oil should be added, and the mixture should be blended until smooth, with occasional stops to scrape down the blender's sides. If the sauce seems too thick, you can thin it out by adding water, one tablespoon at a time.
  3. Heat the oil in a large skillet over high heat. Add the shrimp when the oil is shimmering and about to smoke. Toss the shrimp with salt and let them cook undisturbed for 1 minute, or until the undersides are pink and browned. Flip Cook until the opposite side is browned and crispy. Turn the stove down to a low heat and pour the sauce into the pan. Continue simmering for a few more minutes, or until the shrimp are opaque all the way through. Turn off the stove and squeeze in the lemon juice. Blend the sauce together and try it out. Depending on taste, add salt.

This braise recipe was perfect in every way. After taking a gulp of the sauce straight from the blender, I exclaimed, "Holy hell!" into thin air (or rather, my empty apartment) This process imparted a robust flavor to the shrimp. Although the original recipe calls for peeled (but head-on) shrimp, I found that the shrimp with the shell and head still on retained much more flavor and moisture.

Pluses: It's a complete meal on its own, and it tastes fantastic. To what extent do people still use the word "killer" These shrimp are the only friends I have.
Disadvantages: If you cook in a small New York City apartment like mine, you know the dreadful routine of pulling out your blender or food processor.


Taken from the pages of The New York Times

  • 1/4 cup butter, unsalted
  • 2-tablespoons of pure olive oil
  • 4 minced garlic cloves
  • A third of a cup of dry white wine
  • 1/4 teaspoon (or to taste) kosher salt
  • Red pepper flakes, to taste (1/8 teaspoon)
  • 3/4 pound large shrimp, peeled and deveined
  • Juice from half a fresh lemon
  1. The butter and olive oil should be melted together in a large skillet. Put in some garlic Stir-fry for around a minute, or until the aroma is released.
  2. To a simmering pot, add the wine, salt, and crushed red pepper. Wait about 2 minutes for the wine to reduce by half.
  3. Sauté the shrimp for 2–4 minutes (depending on their size) until they turn pink. Blend in some fresh lemon juice

Except for the braise, the most tender preparation of the shrimp we tried on the stovetop was the scampied variety. The buttery, acidic broth was so abundant in each mouthful that I lost track of what I was tasting and began groping around the kitchen for some crusty bread. When my hand touched a boiling kettle, I knew it was time to stop. Could you please tell me if that's a good thing or a bad thing? A scampi

Benefits: Scampi
Cons: Not as tender as the braise batch with the shells on.


This version is based on an article originally published in The New York Times.

  • one clove of garlic
  • A pinch of kosher salt
  • 1/2 tsp. of dried cayenne pepper
  • Lemon juice, 1 tablespoon
  • 1 ounce of olive oil
  • Peeled and deveined medium shrimp weighing one pound
  1. Fire up the broiler and position the rack directly under the element.
  2. Reduce the garlic and salt to a paste.
  3. Mix in some cayenne, lemon juice, and olive oil. Put the paste all over the shrimp and rub it in.
  4. Spread the shrimp out in a single layer on a hot skillet or half sheet pan. Broil for about 2–3 minutes on each side.

Shrimp cooked in the broiler tend to become compacted. Hot out of the oven, they were delicious, but once they cooled, they weren't as good as the batches that had been roasted and seared at room temperature. The broil method yielded less flavorful shrimp because of the short cooking time and omission of the marinade step found in the roast method. I might use this technique again in a pinch because the garlic paste was flavorful and crispy (i.e., when I don't have much time). e I'd microwave shrimp if I needed to eat them quickly before leaving the house, but I prefer to roast them if I have time to spare.

Pros: Extremely quick and requires little to no cleanup
Shrimp lose some of their flavor and tenderness as a result.


Changed from the original "Add a Pinch"

  • salt, kosher, 1 tablespoon
  • 1 pound of large, deveined shrimp with shells and tails.
  • Sliced lemons
  1. Put the salt and 1 quart of water in a large pot and bring it to a boil over high heat. Obtain a rolling boil
  2. The shrimp should be mixed in, the pot covered, and taken off the heat. Reserve for 5–8 minutes, or until shrimp turn pink all the way through.
  3. Pour into a colander and drain. Place the shrimp in a serving dish. Garnish with wedges of lemon.

The shrimp cooked using the boil method were extremely tender and almost plush, despite initially appearing overcooked (they were curled into little Os, not loose Cs). They needed more seasoning than I was able to provide because I only used salt in the cooking water, but I can only imagine how delicious they would have been with the addition of corn and other shellfish. The shrimp with their shells on were significantly more juicy than the peeled shrimp in the experiment.

Shrimp-filled pillows have a lot going for them.
Negatives: Slightly too simple


Inspired by the book "The Suburban Soapbox"

  • Medium shrimp, 1 pound, deveined but with shell and tail on
  • Apple cider vinegar, 1/4 cup
  • Cut two lemons in half
  • To use Kosher salt
  1. Place shrimp in a steamer basket and set aside.
  2. To a large stockpot (with a lid that will fit over the steamer basket), add 2 quarts of water, the vinegar, and the lemons. On high heat, bring the water to a boil.
  3. Make sure the bottom of the steamer basket doesn't touch the water when placing it in the pot. Salt the shrimp lightly and toss them to evenly distribute the salt. Cover
  4. The cooking time will vary from 4 to 6 minutes of steaming at medium heat. Take off the lid and use tongs to toss the shrimp around so they cook evenly. The shrimp are done when they've turned pink and are opaque. The shrimp should curve into the letter "C."
  5. Place the shrimp on a serving platter and enjoy.

Shrimp cooked via steaming were incredibly tender and surprisingly flavorful. The vinegar in the water wasn't overpowering, but it and the lemon gave the meat a welcome tang. Chopped up and mixed with some mayonnaise and fresh herbs, then piled onto buttered bread, these shrimp sound delicious.

Benefits: Juicy, tender, and incredibly smooth
Disadvantage: There are fewer supplemental flavors.

Food Stylist: Lauren Lapenna Prop Stylist: Molly Fitzsimons


New York Times Article Adaptation

  • 1 pound shelled and deveined small or bay shrimp
  • Lime juice from two limes
  • 1/2 orange juice and zest
  • Tomatoes, chopped (with seeds removed), quantity 2 ripe ones
  • 12 cup of chopped sweet onion
  • Red chile, fresh, seeded, and finely chopped (one medium-hot chile, or to taste)
  • Red pepper flakes and kosher salt, to taste
  1. Toss the shrimp with the citrus juices and the zest of one orange and one lime. Soak for at least 2 hours, or until the shrimp turn opaque.
  2. Mix in the rest of the ingredients and store in the fridge.

The acid-cured seafood is my absolute favorite type. However, I did not find this to be the best method for cooking shrimp, which both require more time to "cook" than a soft-fleshed white fish and have so much inherent flavor that they do not require as much of a citrus boost as something milder might.

Pros: It tastes great on a saltine or tortilla chip, and there's no need to use any kind of heat.
Downside: It'll take you a while


Made with inspiration from All Recipes

  • An equivalent of one large garlic clove
  • Salt, kosher or otherwise, 1 teaspoon's worth, plus
  • Half a teaspoon of cayenne pepper
  • Extra-virgin olive oil, 2 tablespoons
  • Fresh lemon juice, 2 teaspoons
  • Large shrimp, 1 pound, deveined and shell on
  • Grilling oil with no flavor added.
  • Thin slices of lemon
  1. Set the grill to medium heat.
  2. Smash the garlic with the salt using a fork or pestle in a mini bowl or mortar. To make a paste, combine the cayenne with the oil and lemon juice. Toss the shrimp with the garlic paste in a large bowl until the shrimp are evenly coated.
  3. Lightly oil the grill grates with a neutral oil. To achieve an opaque center, cook the shrimp for 2–3 minutes per side. Put onto a serving platter. Add freshly squeezed lemon juice and salt for an authentic taste.

Shrimp, like any other protein, takes on a smoky flavor when grilled. Both shell-on and peeled shrimp were tried, but the former yielded the juiciest, most tender results. When I grilled peeled shrimp, I got drier pieces with less uniform texture on the inside.

The smokier taste is better suited to "surf and turf" than the other cooking methods.
Disadvantages: Without a grill basket, small items can easily fall through the cracks.

  • Roasting shrimp quickly brings out their best flavor and texture.
  • Cooking shrimp in butter until they're tender and calling for a baguette.
  • Steaming creates almost silky shrimp with a mild flavor.
  • Prepare a large quantity of shrimp by boiling them, and then serve them with a flavorful sauce and/or a variety of interesting condiments.
  • Braise the shrimp in a spicy sauce to ensure they don't dry out.
  • Fry up those boys to get them nice and crispy and juicy.
What should Ella try for an upcoming article? Leave your requests in the comments!
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