Shrimp is one of my favorite foods. I love it grilled, fried, in pasta, and many other ways. But I’ve learned that you should never microwave raw shrimp. Why? Microwaving shrimp ruins the texture, leaving them unpleasantly chewy and rubbery. As someone who loves the delicate taste and texture of properly cooked shrimp, I now avoid microwaving them at all costs.
In this article, I’ll explain why microwaving shrimp can ruin them, whether reheating cooked shrimp in the microwave is okay, and give you better cooking methods to enjoy shrimp with fantastic flavor and texture every time.
Don’t Microwave Raw Shrimp – Here’s Why
I once made the mistake of taking a bag of raw peeled shrimp from the freezer and tossing it straight into the microwave to defrost and cook all at once. Big mistake! When I bit into those shrimp, it was like chewing little rubber balls. The texture was unpalatable.
Here’s why microwaving raw shrimp should be avoided:
- Microwaves use radiation to cook food from the inside out instead of using conduction from a hot pan. This causes moisture and heat distribution issues.
- With shrimp, the moisture inside heats unevenly and makes the proteins tighten and squeeze out liquid.
- This radically changes the texture from delicately tender to unpleasantly chewy and rubbery. Not appetizing!
I learned this the hard way by ruining a whole bag of shrimp. But I’m not alone. An expert chef from Princess Cruises strongly advised against microwaving raw shrimp for the same reasons. He said cooking shrimp with radiation instead of proper heat transfer from a pan or grill ruins the delicate taste and texture. I wished I had known sooner!
So if you want tender shrimp with a soft bite, never microwave raw shrimp. The cooking method makes a big difference.
Is It Ok to Reheat Cooked Shrimp in the Microwave?
After my raw shrimp microwave disaster, I wondered if microwaving already cooked shrimp would be okay for leftovers. Turns out, reheating cooked shrimp comes with risks too.
Here’s why you should avoid microwaving cooked shrimp:
- Unlike other leftovers, reheating cooked shrimp can very easily lead to overcooking. The proteins have already denatured from the first cooking, so they will get tough and rubbery very quickly.
- Just a few seconds too long in the microwave can make reheated shrimp chewy and unpleasant. It’s hard to prevent overcooking.
- Seafood sometimes gets a fishy odor when reheated in the microwave that you don’t get with other reheating methods. This smell can linger and make your kitchen unpleasant.
- The best flavor and texture results come from enjoying leftover cooked shrimp cold in salads, sandwiches, pasta dishes and the like rather than trying to reheat.
The risks of ending up with tough, smelly shrimp are just too high for me to want to microwave cooked shrimp. I’ll stick to enjoying any leftovers cold or finding another cooking method for fresh shrimp.
3 Better Ways to Cook Shrimp Perfectly
Now that I know microwaving shrimp both raw and cooked is a bad idea for getting the best texture and flavor, I use other cooking methods that never let me down. Here are my top 3 favorites:
1. Make Shrimp Ceviche
Ceviche is a fresh, easy shrimp dish that requires no cooking at all!
The lime juice in ceviche actually “cooks” the shrimp by denaturing the proteins. Here’s how to make great shrimp ceviche every time:
- Use fresh raw shrimp, peeled, cleaned and deveined – this lets the lime juice fully penetrate.
- Cut shrimp into bite-sized pieces and place in a glass baking dish – smaller pieces marinate faster.
- Pour fresh lime juice over the top to cover – let it marinate for 20 minutes or more to fully “cook”.
- Once shrimp is opaque, add diced veggies like cucumber, red onion, tomatoes, jalapeno, etc.
- More citrus juices like orange or grapefruit add flavor. Season with cilantro, parsley, olives, etc.
- Chill the ceviche before serving. Such a fresh, flavorful appetizer or light meal!
The citrus juice tenderizes the proteins instead of making them rubbery like the microwave does. Super easy, no cooking required!
2. Air Fry Crispy Coconut Shrimp
My air fryer lets me enjoy all the crispy flavor of fried coconut shrimp without the mess and excess grease of deep frying. Here’s how to make perfect air fryer coconut shrimp:
- Use raw shrimp with tails on for presentation and easy eating.
- Toss shrimp in shredded coconut mixed with panko breadcrumbs to fully coat.
- Lightly spray air fryer basket with oil then add breaded shrimp in single layer.
- Air fry at 380°F for 8-10 minutes, flipping halfway, until golden brown.
The results are so crispy outside with tender, juicy shrimp inside! Way less oil than frying makes these a healthier option without sacrificing texture and flavor.
3. Do a Sheet Pan Shrimp Boil
For easy summer meals, shrimp boils are one of my go-to’s. This sheet pan method lets you skip the pot of boiling water for a fast, low-mess meal.
- Spread baby potatoes, corn, andouille sausage on a sheet pan. Toss in oil, Old Bay, garlic powder, lemon.
- Add raw peeled shrimp and toss everything to coat well.
- Roast at 400°F for 20-25 minutes, stirring halfway through.
- Once shrimp is opaque and potatoes and corn are tender, it’s ready to enjoy!
The shrimp cooks gently surrounded by its flavorful co-stars. Sheet pan shrimp boils are my new fast favorite summer meal.
Never Microwave Shrimp Again!
I learned the hard way that microwaving shrimp, whether raw or previously cooked, just doesn’t work well. The proteins get tough and rubbery, ruining the delicate texture I love.
Instead, I use no-cook methods like ceviche or gentle cooking with my air fryer or sheet pans. These techniques keep shrimp tender and deliciously flavorful every time, which makes me and my family much happier!
Now that you know microwaving ruins the texture of shrimp, I hope these tips help you enjoy perfectly cooked shrimp 10/10 times. Never settle for chewy, rubbery shrimp again! Let me know how these cooking methods work for you.