Seafood Chef Reveals The Biggest Mistake You're Making When Cooking Shrimp

Like asking out your crush for a date or taking a half-court shot, cooking shrimp at home is one of those things that just never pans out the way it does in your fantasies. You're drooling as you drive home from the grocery store, imagining the dinner you're about to prepare. You'll open a bottle of red to let it breathe as those tender, blushingly pink prawns dance about a glimmering skillet like they do in the Red Lobster commercials. But once you're actually home, you get cork in your wine and the shrimp end up looking like toes shriveled from too much time in the bathtub. What went wrong?

Oh, let us count the ways. In an exclusive interview with Mashed, Michael Mina, managing chef and partner of his eponymous restaurant at Bellagio, talked about the pitfalls non-chefs like the rest of us are most likely to encounter when cooking shrimp.

Here's the recipe for really bad shrimp. Make sure you don't follow it

Mina said the first mistake we tend to make is not in the kitchen, but in the supermarket. "Grocery stores often carry a few different varieties of shrimp and it's almost impossible to know what is what without speaking to the people at the counter," he explained. But you do need to get some intel from those folks so you can avoid shrimp from outside the country. "It's important to try and find domestic U.S. shrimp from sustainable fisheries," Mina explained — an opinion echoed by consumer groups like "We love Kauai shrimp, and it's available all year round," Mina recommends. When it's in season, Mina also is a big fan of gulf shrimp. 

Once you've got the right shrimp in your possession, Mina said, the key is to not overcook them. "Overcooking ruins the texture, and the delicate sweet taste yields to a more ammoniated fishy flavor. Many recipes build too much cooking time into the shrimp, so it's key to read them beforehand," he said. "Use your instinct."

What if that instinct is what got you Googling "how to not mess up cooking shrimp" in the first place? Mina offered an easy tip: "Add the shrimp when they will be just cooked to the point of firm and translucent right before you serve them."