Beer Braised Shrimp is a quick and easy recipe that everyone will devour so plan on making more! Spicy Old Bay and Tabasco sauce braised with your favorite beer and tangy pickle juice bring another layer of flavor that boring steamed shrimp just don’t have.
I’m sure this will be a highly contested subject. There are a lot of different opinions on this topic and you’re all right and all wrong at the same time. My diplomatic answer is use a beer you enjoy and would drink. I often hear people say that you should just use a cheap light beer because it’s a waist to cook with. Others will argue that using a good craft beer is the way to go. For me I chose my beer on a seasonal basis. When I make this recipe in the spring and summer I choose a lighter beer like a crisp IPA or even a hefeweizen. In the fall and winter I like a more full body flavor like a stout or a pilsner. I feel the beer sets the tone for the shrimp not overpowering but definitely does affect the overall flavor.
There are two main factors I think about when I chose my shrimp, the size and the location of the shrimp. When it comes to the size I don’t want to choose a Shimp too small because they are easy to overcook.
21/25 count shrimp are the smallest size I use for steamed shrimp. Smaller shrimp are best for quick sautéed recipes and shrimp or shrimp salad. 16/20 or U-15 are a little larger and my personal favorite because they are meaty, tender and impressive on the plate.
The count size of shrimp refers to the amount of shrimp in a pound. For example, 21/25 ct. will contain between 21 and 25 shrimp per pound. When you see terms like large, jumbo and medium it can be very deceiving because there is no regulation of those size terms. Always try to buy shrimp based on a count so you know what you’re getting.
The second factor is where the shrimp come from. Personally wild caught gulf shrimp are as good as money can buy. Texas brown shrimp are my personal favorite when available. Farm raised shrimp are fine but I try to buy domestic because I trust the regulations more. Buying shrimp from Thailand and South America is a little more risky in my opinion so I avoid it whenever possible. Personally I’m not a fan of red shrimp like rock shrimp or Argentinian varieties. The flavor just doesn’t appeal to me but if you enjoy them then go for it.
Unless you're within 50 miles of an ocean or large body of water chances are the shrimp you’re buying are previously frozen. That’s not necessarily a bad thing. I would much rather buy shrimp that were harvested and frozen immediately than fresh shrimp that have been sitting in a seafood case rotting for 3-4 days. When you see shrimp in a seafood case it was most likely thawed out within 12-24 hours. The shrimp should smell like the ocean and not have any scent of ammonia or overly fishy scent. The shrimp should be displayed and packed with ice and not sitting in a pool of water. Look for any discoloration or off colors. The shrimp shells should be moist but not slimy, avoid shrimp that have dried out shells as well because that’s a sign they have not been properly stored.
The other biggest factor when buying shrimp is the seller. If you’re buying shrimp from a reputable seafood market or a large chain grocery store then I feel pretty good that you will find quality shrimp. On the hand if you see a guy or gal on the side of the road with a cardboard sign that says “fresh seafood here” then it’s up to you to make the decision. Now I have bought roadside seafood and had some fantastic results. However, I also know what to look for and what questions to ask. If you’re not comfortable purchasing from a roadside stand then stick to fresh markets and grocery stores.
The dark colored “vein” running along the top of the shrimp isn’t a vein but rather the digestive tract of the shrimp. It really comes down to personal preference whether you devein shrimp. It is not harmful to eat and in many cultures shrimp are not deveined at all. If you want to devein the shrimp after they are steamed you can just peel back the digestive tract which will turn a bright orange color.
Another option is to Purchase what’s often called E-Z Peel shrimp. E-Z peel shrimp have been run through a machine that splits the shell and removes the digestive tract. The disadvantage to these shrimp is I feel like the shrimp are easier to overcook. The meat has been exposed causing the shrimp to absorb too much liquid overcooking the shrimp. If you purchase E-Z peel shrimp I recommend steaming the Shrimp instead of braising. You can use a pot with a colander insert or a steamer insert.
This dish comes together quickly so have all your ingredients prepared and ready. This isn’t the type of recipe where you set a timer and walk away. Slice the onions, prepare the cocktail sauce and have your serving dish ready. That’s also part of the reason I love this recipe. From start to finish I can prepare beer braised Shrimp in about 15-20 minutes.
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