Why this recipe works:
Shrimp Cocktail is a classic at parties, but it rarely does justice to the festive occasion: The shrimp are overcooked, rubbery, and flavorless, and they’re served with a sugary-sweet cocktail sauce. To ensure perfectly cooked shrimp, we start them in cool water, bring it up to a simmer, and… read more
Shrimp Cocktail is a classic at parties, but it rarely does justice to the festive occasion: The shrimp are overcooked, rubbery, and flavorless, and they’re served with a sugary-sweet cocktail sauce. To ensure perfectly cooked shrimp, we start them in cool water, bring it up to a simmer, and then immediately kill the heat and cover the pot. When the shrimp are pink and tender, we add ice to stop the cooking process. Finally, we developed a traditional cocktail sauce—ketchup and horseradish based—that’s balanced enough to complement the sweet shrimp instead of hiding their flavor.less
Serves 6 to 8
The shrimp and sauce may be made up to 24 hours in advance and refrigerated.
- 2 pounds shell-on jumbo shrimp (16 to 20 per pound)
- 2 1/2 tablespoons salt
- 10 sprigs fresh thyme
- 2 teaspoons peppercorns
- 3 bay leaves
- 1/2 teaspoon celery seeds
- 8 (2-inch) strips lemon zest plus 1/4 cup juice, spent halves reserved (2 lemons)
- 8 cups ice
- 1 cup ketchup
- 1/4 cup prepared horseradish
- 1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
- 1 teaspoon lemon juice
- 1/2 teaspoon Old Bay seasoning
- 1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1. FOR THE SHRIMP: Using kitchen shears, cut through top shell of shrimp along vein line. Leave shell on and remove and discard vein. Combine shrimp, 4 cups cold water, salt, thyme, peppercorns, bay leaves, and celery seeds in Dutch oven. Set pot over medium-high heat and cook, stirring occasionally, until water registers 170 degrees and shrimp are just beginning to turn pink, 5 to 7 minutes.
2. Remove from heat and add lemon zest and juice and spent halves. Cover and let sit until shrimp are completely pink and firm, 5 to 7 minutes. Stir ice into pot and let shrimp cool completely, about 5 minutes. Drain shrimp in colander and peel, leaving tails intact. Refrigerate shrimp until ready to use.
3. FOR THE COCKTAIL SAUCE: Whisk all ingredients together in bowl until combined. Serve cocktail sauce with shrimp.
Test Kitchen Technique: Shrimp Prep
We cook the shrimp in their shells to prevent the shrimp from curling and to add flavor to the poaching liquid. You still need to do a little advance prep, though.