We are big shrimp lovers in our house, and these Old Bay shrimp are no exception. I remember being a kid, watching my mom pull the tiny legs off shrimp, mortified. Now — after years and years of practice, and pounds and pounds of shrimp — I am sharing our love for shrimp with our kids. Leg pulling, and all.
Old Bay and seafood were made for each other. (No, seriously, they were — read below.) Never steamed shrimp before? Let me be the first to tell you that steaming shrimp is incredibly simple and fast!
- Steaming, instead of boiling, is a more gentle method of cooking shrimp. You’re less likely to overcook them, and they will be much more flavorful. (Boiling shrimp leads to a watered down flavor and rubbery texture. No thank you!)
- Counterintuitive to what we thought, the shrimp were more tender and succulent without the shell on. I know — we couldn’t believe it, either! But in our side-by-side tests, the shrimp that were steamed without the shell (just the tail remained) were much more tender.
If you cook with the shell on, the shrimp shells are being seasoned with Old Bay. But if you steam them with the shells removed, the actual shrimp meat is being infused with all that delicious flavor. Yes, please!
Ingredients For Old Bay Shrimp
- Shrimp, tails left on, shells optional: we recommend large or medium shrimp, as they cook quickly!
- Extra virgin olive oil: To prevent the shrimp from sticking
- Kosher salt: To season the shrimp
- Old Bay seasoning: A classic combination with shellfish!
- Lemons, for serving: Always have lemons on standby to serve with seafood or shellfish. The acidity brings out the natural flavors of the shrimp.
- Parsley, for serving: A garnish to finish the dish with a lemony flavor and a pop of green!
- Beer, for steaming: Adds moisture and great flavor!
What’s in Old Bay seasoning anyway?
Old Bay is one of those well known spices, around for generations, that is ubiquitous with seafood, particularly crab and shrimp. Ever go to a crab or shrimp boil? The seafood was likely seasoned generously with Old Bay.
Here’s the thing about Old Bay seasoning: it’s salty. Not like too salty, just salty enough to make you want to drink. So… ya know… serve this with something cold to quench your thirst!
How To Make Old Bay Shrimp
Steaming shrimp is so easy. Here’s what you do:
- Place shrimp in a large mixing bowl. You can leave the shells on or remove them. We tried it both ways and actually preferred the shrimp with shells removed, both because of the texture and flavor (the Old Bay seasoning will adhere directly to the shrimp, not the shell!). Oh, and it’s easier to eat without peeling!
- Drizzle with olive oil, Kosher salt, and Old Bay seasoning, then toss to thoroughly coat.
- Place water and beer in a medium saucepan, then turn the heat to high and bring liquid to a rapid boil. Add shrimp to steamer basket, then place on top of skillet. Cover the pot with a lid and steam until fully cooked, about 4-5 minutes (for large shrimp, 16-20 count), tossing once halfway through to ensure even cooking. Drain and discard any remaining liquid. Serve with a squeeze of fresh lemon juice!
The most important thing: the shrimp should not touch the steaming liquid (beer, water, or a combination of both). Make sure they’re elevated, m’kay?
Also, note that cooking time will vary based on the size of the shrimp. Steamed shrimp can be served hot, warm, room temperature, or cold!
Is it possible to steam shrimp without a steamer?
Absolutely! Place a fine mesh strainer on top of a pot (just make sure it rests nicely without falling in) and voila! You’ve got a makeshift steamer basket!
What To Serve With This Old Bay Steamed Shrimp Recipe
We’re big believers in homemade cocktail sauce (made from ketchup, horseradish, chili sauce, lemon juice, and Worcestershire sauce) and a squeeze of fresh lemon!
Got leftovers? Chop up any extra Old Bay steamed shrimp, then toss with mayonnaise, a splash of apple cider vinegar, some diced shallot, a pinch of cayenne, and a little extra Old Bay seasoning. Season to taste, then dig in! A simple shrimp salad the whole family will love. Or toss it with boiled red potatoes for a quick shrimp and potato salad!
You can eat the leftover shrimp salad as is or put it in a wrap, piled into a split-top bun, on a salad, or scooped onto crackers. Perfect for an easy, light lunch!
Can I Turn This Into A Shrimp Boil?
Sure can! You just need to add some fresh corn and potatoes! The key difference between steamed shrimp and a boil, however, is that the former is steamed (yes, obviously) while the latter is thrown together in a large pot of water and boiled.
If you do a seafood boil, it definitely wouldn’t hurt to add in some other shellfish, such as crab or crawfish either. Feel free to use lots of additional Old Bay (it has such a great flavor), or spice things up with lots of paprika, black pepper, garlic, or even sausage!
Once cooked, pour contents of pot onto a table lined with newspaper. I’m pretty sure eating with your hands is mandatory!
P.S. If you can get your hands on fresh crawfish, I am so jealous!
Tips For The Best Steamed Shrimp
Do not overcrowd the steaming basket! While you might be tempted to throw a whole 2 lb bag of defrosted shrimp into the basket, you’re likely not going to be able to cook all the shrimp evenly.
If working with more than 1 lb of shrimp at a time, we recommend cooking the shrimp in batches. Don’t overcrowd the basket when steaming!
If using frozen shrimp, allow to defrost completely before using. Either defrost overnight in a refrigerator or place frozen shrimp in a bowl of cool water. Allow to sit for 30-60 minutes and shrimp should be fully thawed.
So that’s it — easy peasy lemon squeezy! At least that’s what our kids would say!
Make these today (along with our homemade spicy cocktail sauce!) and enjoy all week long!
If you make this Old Bay Shrimp recipe, please let us know by leaving a rating and review below.
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For more seafood recipes, check out the following:
- Pan seared salmon with lemon parmesan sauce
- Spicy crab pasta
- Grilled lobster tails and clams
- Thai scallop curry with string beans
- Ahi tuna poké bowls
15-Minute Old Bay Steamed Shrimp
- 1 lb large shrimp shell peeled, tail on
- 2 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
- 1 Tbsp Old Bay seasoning can use hot if you like!
- ½ tsp Kosher salt
- 1 cup beer
- ½ cup water
- 1 Tbsp parsley chopped, for serving
- Lemon wedges for serving
- In a large bowl, combine shrimp, olive oil, kosher salt, and Old Bay seasoning. Toss to combine.
- Place beer and water in a skillet or pot, then heat over high heat until rapidly boiling. Turn heat down to a simmer. Place seasoned shrimp in a steamer basket (see note below if you don't have a steaming basket), set on top of the simmering skillet or pot, then place a lid on top. Steam for 2 minutes, check and toss shrimp as needed, then cook 2-3 minutes more, or until just pink on both sides.
- Remove shrimp and place in a large serving bowl. Sprinkle with chopped parsley, then serve with lemon wedges on the side. Can be served hot, room temperature, or cold. Recipe for homemade cocktail sauce below.
- We have tested this recipe with shell on and shell off shrimp. We prefer it with the shell off, but you can absolutely leave the shells on, then peel just before eating. The shrimp will likely be less flavorful, so feel free to season again with a sprinkle of Old Bay just before serving.
- Check out our homemade cocktail sauce recipe!
- If using frozen shrimp, allow to defrost completely before using. Either defrost overnight in a refrigerator or place frozen shrimp in a bowl of cool water. Allow to sit for 30-60 minutes and shrimp should be fully thawed.