How to Cook Shrimp on the Stove

updated Jan 26, 2024

It's easy to make a meal of anything when you start with sautéed shrimp.


Prep10 minutes

Cook10 minutes

Jump to Recipe
We independently select these products—if you buy from one of our links, we may earn a commission. All prices were accurate at the time of publishing.

Shrimp are so easy to make, it’s hard to think of a reason not to make them. Even when starting with a bag of frozen shrimp, a platter of sautéed shrimp can be on the table in mere minutes.

Keep reading to learn the easiest stovetop method for cooking sautéed shrimp, the best shrimp to buy, and what you can make with it.

Credit: Photo: Alex Lepe ; Food Stylist: Rachel Perlmutter

How to Shop for Shrimp

  • Fresh versus frozen: Unless you’re buying shrimp fresh off the boat, it’s most likely been frozen at some point. Even the “fresh” shrimp at most seafood counters has been thawed for display. If you buy this shrimp that’s been thawed, make sure to cook it within 2 days and do not refreeze. Frozen shrimp is the best choice because its simple to thaw exactly the amount needed on the day it’ll be cooked.
  • Peeled or unpeeled: This stovetop method works with both peeled and unpeeled shrimp, but buying shrimp that’s already been peeled and deveined makes putting dinner on the table so much faster. If the shrimp is peeled leaving the tails for presentation’s sake, save the shells for a quick seafood stock.
  • Size: Shrimp are sold by size using descriptors like jumbo, large, and small and by how many pieces of shrimp are in a pound. This technique calls for large (16 to 20 count) shrimp, but works for smaller and larger shrimp too. The cooking time will be a bit shorter for smaller shrimp and slightly longer for larger shrimp.
  • Sustainability: Most shrimp are a “good choice” from a sustainable seafood perspective — especially U.S. wild-caught or U.S. farmed shrimp.
Credit: Photo: Alex Lepe ; Food Stylist: Rachel Perlmutter

How to Cook Shrimp on the Stove

  • Thaw, if frozen. If your shrimp are frozen, quickly thaw them in a colander under cold running water until bendable. (No time to thaw? We can show you how to cook frozen shrimp.)
  • Heat oil or unsalted butter. Melt butter or heat oil in a large frying pan until it coats the bottom of the pan and shimmers.
  • Add shrimp. Shrimp should sizzle as soon as they hit the pan.
  • Season the shrimp. Add kosher salt, freshly ground black pepper, or other seasonings.
  • Cook until done. Shrimp will turn from grey and translucent to pink and opaque, and curl slightly when done.

How Long Does Shrimp Take to Cook?

It takes 4 to 5 minutes for large shrimp to cook on the stovetop. Smaller shrimp may take slightly less time, while larger shrimp will need another minute or two.

How to Know when Shrimp Is Done

Most shrimp are translucent and grey when raw. They turn opaque and pink with bright red tails when cooked. The shrimp will curl into a spiral when cooked.

How to Serve Sautéed Shrimp

Serve your sautéed shrimp with — or over! — any of these dishes to make a complete meal.

How to Cook Shrimp on the Stove

It's easy to make a meal of anything when you start with sautéed shrimp.

Prep time 10 minutes

Cook time 10 minutes

Serves 4

Nutritional Info


  • 1 pound

    raw large shrimp (16 to 20 per pound), peeled and deveined, tails removed if desired

  • 1 tablespoon

    olive oil or unsalted butter, or a combination

  • Kosher salt

  • Freshly ground black pepper


  • Colander

  • Large frying pan

  • Spatula

  • Paper towels


  1. If frozen, thaw the shrimp. Place 1 pound frozen raw large shrimp (16 to 20 per pound) in a colander in the sink and run cold water over them for about 5 minutes. Toss the shrimp occasionally to make sure they are all exposed to the cold water.

  2. The shrimp will bend easily when thawed. The shrimp is thawed and ready when they are no longer frozen solid but soft, easily bendable, and slightly translucent. This will only take a few minutes. Pat the shrimp dry with paper towels.

  3. Heat the oil or butter over medium-high heat. Place 1 tablespoon olive oil or unsalted butter in a large frying pan over medium-high heat. Tilt the pan as the oil warms, or butter melts, to coat the bottom of the pan.

  4. Add the shrimp to the hot pan. When the butter is melted or the oil is shimmering, add the shrimp. They should sizzle on contact (if not, warm your pan a little longer next time).

  5. Season the shrimp with salt and pepper. Sprinkle kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper over the shrimp. Be generous! You can also add any other seasonings at this point — chili spice, curry spice, a bit of harissa, or any other seasonings in your cupboard.

  6. Sauté the shrimp until pink and opaque. The shrimp will start off looking grey and translucent, but will gradually become pink and opaque as they cook through. The tails will also turn bright red. Cook the shrimp, stirring occasionally, until the flesh is totally pink and opaque, and you see no more grey bits. Depending on the size of your shrimp and how many you have in the pan, this will usually take 4 to 5 minutes.

  7. Transfer to a serving dish. Serve sautéed shrimp immediately.

Recipe Notes

Storage: Leftovers shrimp can be refrigerated in an airtight container for up to 2 days.