Shrimp are exceedingly popular for good reason. Delicately flavored, slightly sweet, a bit salty, with an appealing firm-crisp texture. They cook up quickly in a skillet or pan, and can star in many dishes and many cuisines. Plus, if you get your hands on the big ones (yes, often a splurge, but what a splurge) those are not only a treat but a showstopper.
Simple sautéed shrimp, perhaps with a splash of lemon juice, some zest, maybe some red pepper flakes, possibly some parsley or another fresh herb, can be a main course on their own, perhaps served over rice, pasta, grits, or polenta. Sautéed shrimp are also wonderful added into grain salads, stirred into risottos, and as part of stir fries. Or, think about finishing these with a drizzle of Easy Lemon Butter Sauce.
A bag of frozen shrimp is one of the money-in-the-bank ingredients that I always have on hand. Don’t think for a minute frozen shrimp are of lesser quality; almost all shrimp has been frozen and defrosted before it hits our kitchens. Sure, if you’re lucky and live by a coast you might get your hands on some fresh-never-frozen shrimp, and by all means you should grab them. But otherwise, even most of the shrimp you buy at a good fish store has been frozen.
Make sure you defrost shrimp in your refrigerator, not on the counter, for safety. You can also defrost them by running cold water over them in a colander.
Shrimp range widely in size. They are sold by the quantity per pound, and then given corresponding names like medium or jumbo. However, the name attached to the quantity per pound varies from brand to brand, market to market.
Here’s a good scale to use, with the two numbers representing a range of how many shrimp per pound that size will yield. If a recipe provides a count per pound, that’s usually a more reliable measure to go by than a name.
- Small: 51/60 per pound
- Medium: 41/40 per pound
- Large: 31/35 per pound
- Extra Large: 26/30 per pound
- Jumbo: 16/20 per pound
- Colossal: 13/15 per pound
- Super Colossal: U-12 (meaning under 12 per pound)
- Extra Colossal: U-10 (meaning under 10 per pound . . . also meaning invite me over for dinner)
For some recipes, smaller are just fine, possibly even more desirable. For instance, if you are cutting them into pieces, as in for a shrimp stir fried rice, you shouldn’t spend extra money to buy larger shrimp and cut them up. But if you are making a shrimp cocktail, or perhaps shrimp scampi, and you can spare the extra dollars, the big shrimp make quite an impression, and usually are juicier but still retain a snappy texture. They are also harder to overcook.
How to Saute Shrimp on the Stove: Simple sautéed shrimp can be a main course on their own. They are also wonderful added into grain salads, stir fries, and more.Tweet This
It’s up to you whether you want to leave the tails on or off. It depends on how you plan to serve and eat the shrimp. Leaving the tails on makes the shrimp appear a big bigger, and makes them easier to eat with your hands if that’s the goal. But do remember to put out a small dish for people to discard the tails afterwards. No tails means the shrimp are easier to eat as part of a dish, a pasta for instance.
How to Saute Shrimp
I like to use a combo of butter and olive oil to cook shrimp in most cases, but you are welcome to use all oil (as in when you are making a stir fry, and in that case usually vegetable or peanut oil) or all butter (possibly for a French dish). Either/or, or a combo works perfectly.
Heat the butter and/or oil in very large skillet over medium heat. Sauté the garlic for 1 minute, then add the shrimp and season with salt and pepper. Space out the shrimp so they are in a single layer. Let cook for a couple of minutes, then stir or flip and redistribute the shrimp so that the raw sides of the shrimp are against the pan.
Tongs are a great tool for this; move quickly, turn them in the order they hit the pan (noting if there are any hot spots in the pan and if some of the shrimp are cooking more quickly than others; flip those first). This will allow the whole batch of shrimp to cook more evenly. For smaller shrimp you may want to use a spatula since flipping each small shrimp individually is a bit time consuming.
Don’t crowd the pan — you want only a single layer of shrimp. Cook them in batches if necessary.
Large shrimp will take about 2 minutes per side, extra-large 2 or 3 minutes per side, and jumbo 3 or 4 minutes per side.
How to Know When Shrimp Are Cooked
When the shrimp have turned an opaque pinkish-white, and the inside is just barely white all the way thorough, perhaps with a slightly barely pink center they are ready to be removed from the heat. They will continue to cook slightly after you take them off the heat and even after you removed them from the pan, so the middle will cook through.
Serve sauteed shrimp over white rice, brown rice, couscous, quinoa, or millet. Any kind of potatoes would also go well, from mashed to roasted. You may also be interested in Perfect Pan Seared Scallops!
Also try Air Fryer Shrimp.
What to Serve with Sauteed Shrimp
- Salad with Avocado Ranch Dressing
- Winter Salad
- Kimchi Fried Rice
- Remoulade Sauce
- Roasted Honey Mustard Brussels Sprouts
Other Shrimp Recipes:
- Summer Shrimp and Avocado Salad
- Shrimp Tacos
- Shrimp Ceviche
- Asian Stir Fried Shrimp and Rice Noodles
- Pineapple Shrimp Fried Rice
- Air Fryer Shrimp
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How to Sauté Shrimp on the Stove
- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 4 teaspoons finely minced garlic
- 2 pounds large (31/35), extra-large (21/25 count), or jumbo (16 to 20) shrimp , peeled and deveined
- Big pinch red pepper flakes (optional)
- Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
- Finely grated zest and juice of 1 lemon (optional)
- 2 tablespoons minced fresh parsley
- Heat the butter and oil in very large skillet over medium heat. Sauté the garlic for 1 minute, until softened (do not allow it to brown). Turn the heat to medium high, add the shrimp and pepper flakes, if using, season with salt and pepper. Space out the shrimp so they are in a single layer. Let cook for a couple of minutes, then stir and redistribute the shrimp so that the raw sides of the shrimp are against the pan. Tongs are a great tool for this – it’s a bit labor intensive to flip smaller shrimp, but you will end up with the whole batch of shrimp cooked more evenly. Don’t crowd the pan – you want only a single layer of shrimp. Large shrimp will take about 2 minutes per side, extra-large 2 or 3 minutes per side, and jumbo 3 or 4 minutes per side. Just remove one and cut it open; when it is opaque, meaning not translucent in the middle, they are done – take them from the heat and from the pan as soon as they are cooked, as shrimp tend to go from cooked to overcooked quickly.
- Stir in the lemon zest and juice and/or the parsley if using, and adjust the seasonings.
Nutrition information is automatically calculated, so should only be used as an approximation.