Sous vide is a cooking technique that involves sealing food in a vacuum-sealed bag then cooking it to an exact temperature in a water bath. This results in food that is cooked evenly all the way through and retains moisture and juices exceptionally well. Sous vide cooking has become popular for cooking many foods, including shrimp.
Shrimp cooked sous vide turns out incredibly tender and juicy. The sous vide technique allows you to achieve different levels of doneness, from rare to well-done, by adjusting the temperature and cooking time. Sous vide shrimp also holds its temperature very well, so you can cook a large batch ahead of time for ease of serving.
Here is a guide to the best practices for sous vide shrimp including temperatures, times, recipes, and tips for maximizing flavor and texture.
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What Temperature Should You Sous Vide Shrimp?
There is a wide range of temperatures that can be used when cooking shrimp sous vide, depending on the texture and doneness you prefer.
Rare shrimp has just a hint of opacity and the flesh is still somewhat translucent. Sous vide rare shrimp at 130°F (54°C) for 15 minutes. This very gently warms the shrimp while still retaining the delicacy of the flesh. Rare shrimp is ideal for delicate dishes like sous vide shrimp cocktail or shrimp ceviche.
For medium-rare shrimp, cook at 135°F (57°C) for 15-20 minutes. At this stage, the flesh is mostly opaque but still moist with a bit of translucent glossiness in the center when cut. Medium-rare shrimp works well for shrimp tacos, pasta, and salads.
The most commonly recommended temperature for sous vide shrimp is 140°F (60°C). Cook for at least 15-25 minutes for medium doneness. The flesh will be fully opaque and firmer but still incredibly moist. This is the ideal doneness for versatile shrimp recipes like garlic butter shrimp or shrimp scampi.
For medium-well doneness, cook the shrimp at 145°F (63°C) for at least 25-30 minutes. At this stage, the flesh is fully opaque and firm with a texture similar to traditionally grilled or pan-seared shrimp. Medium-well shrimp works for heartier dishes and those desiring more “bite.”
For fully well-done shrimp, cook at 150°F (65°C) for 30-40 minutes. The flesh will be completely opaque and firm throughout. This is the best temperature for shrimp that will be going into a hot dish or sauce after cooking, like shrimp jambalaya or etouffee.
How Long Should You Sous Vide Shrimp?
The cooking time for sous vide shrimp depends on the size of the shrimp as well as your desired level of doneness:
Cooking Time for Small Shrimp
For smaller shrimp (16-20 count), cook for 15-20 minutes at your desired temperature. Small shrimp cook quickly.
Cooking Time for Medium Shrimp
The typical cooking time for average-sized (21-25 count) shrimp is 15-25 minutes. This will result in medium doneness for most recipes.
Cooking Time for Large Shrimp
For larger shrimp (16-20 count), cook for 25-30 minutes to ensure even cooking throughout. Large shrimp may need a little extra time in the sous vide water bath.
Cooking Time for Jumbo Shrimp
Jumbo shrimp or prawns (10-15 count) will need 30-40 minutes due to their thicker flesh and body size. Check for your desired level of doneness and texture.
Keep in mind you can always cook shrimp sous vide longer than the minimum time, but never shorter. It’s also good practice to remove one shrimp and cut into it to check for doneness when trying a new recipe or size of shrimp.
What Are Some Sous Vide Shrimp Recipes?
Many classic shrimp dishes translate perfectly to sous vide cooking. Here are just some of the possibilities:
Sous Vide Shrimp Cocktail
For an elegant appetizer, cook shrimp sous vide at 130°F (54°C) for 15 minutes for tender, rare texture. Chill the cooked shrimp, then serve with cocktail sauce and lemon.
Sous Vide Garlic Butter Shrimp
Cook shrimp at 140°F (60°C) for 20 minutes until medium. Toss the shrimp in melted, seasoned butter for rich flavor. Serve over pasta or rice.
Sous Vide Shrimp Scampi
For scampi, cook the shrimp sous vide at 140°F (60°C), then sauté briefly in butter, white wine, and garlic. Season and serve over linguine.
Sous Vide Shrimp Tacos
Shrimp for tacos can go directly from the water bath onto warm corn tortillas. Cook at 135°F (57°C) for medium-rare texture.
Sous Vide Shrimp and Grits
For Southern-inspired shrimp and grits, cook the shrimp sous vide with cajun spices at 140°F (60°C). Serve over cheesy grits.
Tips for Sous Vide Shrimp Cooking
Follow these tips to achieve tender, juicy sous vide shrimp every time:
Use Fresh or Thawed Shrimp
For best results, use fresh or fully thawed shrimp. Frozen or partially frozen shrimp will take longer to come up to temperature.
Season the Shrimp Before Cooking
Season shrimp with salt, spices, herbs, etc. before sealing and cook sous vide so the flavors infuse into the flesh.
Use a Vacuum Sealer or Ziplock Bags
A vacuum sealer ensures perfect seals, but ziplock bags work too. Double bag if concerned about water getting in.
Chill the Shrimp After Cooking (Optional)
For cold applications, chill the cooked shrimp quickly in an ice bath then refrigerate until ready to use.
Sear the Shrimp for Added Flavor (Optional)
For an extra layer of flavor, you can sear or grill the shrimp briefly just before serving.
Sous vide shrimp is an easy, hands-off cooking method that produces consistently tender and juicy results. Proper temperature and cooking times are key for your desired level of doneness. Feel free to experiment with different shrimp recipes cooked using the sous vide technique.