Cooking with shrimp is not difficult, but there are a few helpful tips that will make your shrimp casserole and other dishes turn out their best. Begin by making sure shrimp smells fresh. If it smells bad, return it. Frozen shrimp should be thawed in the refrigerator or in cold water, never at room temperature or in hot water. Always remove shells, tails, and the “mud vein” before cooking shrimp and clean each piece thoroughly.
The “mud vein” is the dark part that runs up the back of the shrimp. Carefully slice each piece and remove this section completely when shelling and removing tails. Cut the tails off just above where the tail section starts to make sure you remove it all. Rinse well, drain, and pat with paper towels. You might even need to gently squeeze the shrimp with paper towels if it was thawed in water. Otherwise once added to shrimp casserole, you may have extra moisture, causing your other ingredients to become soggy.
When creating a shrimp casserole, you don’t want the shrimp to overwhelm the dish. You can but the shrimp into chunks or cut them similar to a butterfly cut if you feel they are too large. Once cleaned and ready for use, slit each piece lengthwise. Instead of only slicing to the edge and opening the shrimp up as you would for butterfly shrimp, slice all the way through. This is also a good way to make a small amount of shrimp go further, as you’ll double the number of pieces available.
Shrimp does not take very long to cook, so watch it carefully. Do not overcook it, as it can become rubbery. If the shrimp casserole you are making must be cooked for more than a few minutes, it may be best to start with uncooked shrimp so it doesn’t get overdone while baking the casserole. Another option is to prepare the main portion of the casserole, mix in lightly cooked shrimp, and then only bake for a few moments to melt cheese on top or to finish off other types of toppings.
Some people opt for canned shrimp when making salads or shrimp casserole. Open the can, drain it, and then rinse shrimp thoroughly. Allow to dry on a layer of paper towels. If making a cold salad or cold shrimp casserole, chill the canned shrimp for an hour or two before adding it to the rest of the mixture. For hot dishes, there is no need to cook canned shrimp before use. They are tiny and will heat up quickly during the other cooking processes.
Be sure to refrigerate any unused portions of shrimp casserole immediately to avoid food safety concerns. Seafood, like many other foods, should be kept hot or cold. It should not sit out at room temperature.