8 Mistakes to Avoid When Steaming Shrimp

Steaming shrimp is a quick and easy way to cook this amazing seafood, but it’s important to avoid common missteps in order to achieve the best results. Here are eight mistakes to avoid when steaming shrimp to help you achieve perfectly cooked, flavorful shrimp every time.

Mistakes to avoid for perfectly steamed shrimp

Overcrowding the steamer.

If the shrimp are packed too closely together, they will not cook evenly and may become mushy or rubbery. To avoid overcrowding, use a steamer that is large enough to hold all of the shrimp within 2 -3 layers. If you don’t have a large steamer pot, break up your steaming into multiple batches.

Using too high of a heat setting.

Shrimp cook quickly, so it is important to use a moderate heat setting to avoid overcooking. A good rule of thumb is to steam the shrimp for about 4 to 6 minutes, or until they are pink.

Not using enough water.

The steamer needs enough water to generate steam and cook the shrimp properly. If the water level is too low, the proper amount of steam will be generated to cook the shrimp thoroughly. This could lead to being undercooked or even raw.

When steaming shrimp, you should use enough water to create steam and cook the shrimp. A general rule of thumb is to use about 1 quart of water for every pound of shrimp. However, the exact amount of water you use will depend on the size and type of pot you are using, as well as the quantity and size of the shrimp.

Not seasoning the shrimp.

Shrimp have a delicate flavor and can benefit from a light seasoning before steaming to enhance their taste. Some common spice blend options include lemon juice, garlic, Old Bay seasoning, or a combination of herbs and spices. You can also add some chopped fresh herbs, such as parsley or dill, for extra flavor.

The key is to season the shrimp lightly, as too much spice can overpower the muted flavor of the shrimp.

Using the wrong size of shrimp.

When steaming shrimp, it’s important to choose the proper size. See this shrimp size chart. I suggest choosing a medium to extra-large-sized shrimp. Small shrimp can easily overcook, plus they are difficult to clean once cooked.

Keep in mind that the cooking time for shrimp will vary depending on their size, so you may need to adjust the cooking time accordingly.

As a general rule, medium-sized shrimp (21-30 per pound) will take about 5-6 minutes to cook, while large shrimp (16-20 per pound) will take about 8-9 minutes.

Not using a steamer basket.

A steamer basket is essential for steaming shrimp. It allows the shrimp to stay elevated and prevents them from coming into direct contact with the hot water. This helps to prevent the shrimp from overcooking and becoming mushy.

Not preheating the water.

Whether you use beer, water, vinegar, or a combination of each, the liquid in the bottom of the pot needs to boil in order to generate steam and cook the shrimp properly. If the water is not hot enough, the shrimp will not cook evenly and extend your cooking times.

Not removing the shrimp from steam when done

If shrimp are not removed from the steamer as soon as they are done cooking, they will continue to cook. Overcooked shrimp can become tough, which affects the overall texture and flavor.

Additionally, shrimp left in the steamer for too long could come into direct contact with the hot water, causing them to become mushy and fall apart. So remove the shrimp from the steamer as soon as they are done to guarantee they are tender and flavorful.


Using these proper steaming methods will ensure that your shrimp are cooked evenly and remain tender and flavorful. It is important to avoid common mistakes such as overcrowding the steamer, using too high of a heat setting, and not using enough water. Seasoning the shrimp and selecting the right size are also key factors in achieving perfectly cooked shrimp. By following these tips and techniques, your shrimp will be cooked to perfection every time.

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