Order shrimp cocktail at a nice restaurant, and they'll most likely serve you large, plump, firm-textured crustaceans. On Chowhound, chowhounder411 wondered how to get that texture at home, cooking shrimp yourself.
The first step is buying high-quality shrimp—wild-caught shrimp in the shell will have the best texture and flavor. But if your only option is less-than-great farmed shrimp, give them a brief brining. They'll become firmer, with a good snap when you bite into them, biondanonima says.
You should always cook shrimp for cocktails in the shell. You can boil them (add aromatics like lemon slices and peppercorns to the water if you like), or steam them. They'll take only a couple of minutes—as soon as they turn pink, they're done.
However you cook your shrimp, it's important to get them out of the pot or steamer basket and into a large bowl of ice water the moment they're done in order to stop the cooking, travelerjjm says. Leave them in the cold water for a couple of minutes, then drain on paper towels before shelling.