Boiled Shrimp

Chef's notes:

To the average observer, boiling shrimp may seem quite straightforward. Boil water, toss the shrimp in, and take them out when they are done. That would work all right, I guess. You could also toss a sachet of herbs in the water to give the shrimp some flavor. Or don’t use water at all, and bring the shrimp to boil in beer and lemons. Down in Louisiana, they boil shrimp with corn and potatoes. Basically, you just boil some corn cobs and potatoes until they are done. Toss in your shrimp and turn off the heat. After 3 minutes, strain out the liquid, and hit it with some Cajun spices, butter, and lemon. Enjoy!


  • 1 pound shell-on shrimp
  • 2 cups lager beer
  • 2 cups water
  • Juice of ½ a lemon
  • Melted butter for dipping

Boiled Shrimp Recipe: Texas Brown Shrimp Boiled in Beer, Lemon, and Water and Served with Cajun Spices

  1. Pick up some shrimp to boil. The shrimp I used are wild-caught, Texas brown shrimp. They come 16–22 to a pound, and they’ll be labeled U16–22 in the butcher shop. For boiling shrimp, you will want shrimp with the shells still on. You will want them to be deveined, which is something you can do quite easily. Cut along the back and pull out the little “vein” you find inside. Cut from the inside-out, and then rinse.
  2. Prep the shrimp to be boiled. You can just boil your shrimp plain in plain boiling water. If for example you were going to make shrimp cocktail. Or you were going to add them to a sauce. But if you are just going to eat a “mess of shrimp” season them with some Cajun spices before you boil them.
  3. Boil the shrimp. Shrimp don’t really care what you boil them in, and some people find that boiling shrimp in beer is a waste of good beer. So don’t worry, I understand if you want to boil them in plain water, water and lemon, or 50/50 beer and water. Whatever you come up with, get it to a high, near rolling boil before you put the shrimp in.
  4. Turn off the heat on the boiled shrimp. Boiling shrimp larger than U16s (16 to a pound) would be a waste, and you run the risk of overcooking them. With this size, you can turn off the heat and let them sit for 3 minutes to finish cooking. Then it’s a matter of draining them, throwing on some more seasoning, and melting some butter for dipping. For larger shrimp like U12s and U6s, try broiling, pan-frying, or grilling them.

Tips & Tricks

  • Buy shrimp that have been caught in U.S. waters. In other words, don’t buy imported shrimp, with the exception of Canadian-caught spot prawns or Northern (Atlantic) shrimp.
  • For boiling, buy shrimp with the shells still on.
  • Use a thin, sharp knife to remove the vein. Insert the knife into the “neck” of the shrimp, pointing the sharp edge toward the back. Draw the knife to the tail, cutting through the shell. Then remove the “vein” found inside.
  • Once the shrimp are in the pot, you can turn the heat off on the stove. The heat in the water or beer is enough to finish cooking the shrimp. This is a sort of poaching technique that will help to keep the shrimp from falling apart.

Cajun Seasoning Recipe

  • ½ tsp dried oregano
  • ½ tsp dried thyme
  • ½ tsp paprika
  • ½ tsp cayenne
  • ½ tsp black pepper
  • ¼ tsp onion powder
  • ¼ tsp garlic powder
  • 1½ Tbsp salt