Great shrimp cocktail recipes are all about the little things. Namely, guidance on the right shrimp for the job, how to cook them perfectly, and how best to achieve the classic balanced but zingy sauce. This one from former BA staffer Molly Baz gets all of those details right. (Catch her making the recipe.)
You’re looking for big, fat, just-cooked shrimp for this classic appetizer, so size and precision matter—the size will be printed on the bag of frozen shrimp at the grocery store, or ask your fishmonger about fresh, raw shrimp. We think 16–20 per pound is best for this recipe. (Otherwise, follow these guidelines: For 26–30, poach 1½ minutes; for 21–25, poach 2 minutes; for 13–15, poach 4 minutes; for 8–12, poach 5 minutes.)
No matter the size, cooking the shrimp with their shells on is key to keeping them tender. Also crucial: getting the poached shrimp into an ice water bath fast; dropping ice into the cooking liquid makes that simple. While the shellfish cool, make the cocktail sauce with horseradish, Tabasco, lemon, and Heinz Chili Sauce, which has a lot more going on flavor-wise than ketchup. (For a completely different feel, serve the shrimp with aioli or alongside guacamole with lime juice, cilantro, and some tortilla chips.)
Leave the tail on each shrimp to serve, scattering the otherwise peeled shrimp on ice, and garnish with lemon wedges.
For more shrimp recipe inspiration, check out this riff on Panamanian ceviche that can be made with frozen, deveined shrimp.