I used to associate slow cooker meals with soups and stews and comfort food, best enjoyed during the fall and winter months. But this summer my slow cooker has become one of my most-used appliances, thanks to its ability to churn out incredibly delicious meals without heating up the kitchen.
It's especially satisfying when the slow cooker helps me turn a somewhat-involved recipe into one that requires almost zero work — which is exactly the case for this slow cooker shrimp boil.
What Is a Shrimp Boil?
Most coastal towns enjoy their own version of a seafood boil — which is in some areas called Frogmore stew or Lowcountry boil. Although the ingredients may differ, the idea remains the same: Seafood, such as crab, shrimp, clams, or crawfish, is boiled in a large pot of seasoned water and then drained and served outdoors, spread onto newspapers with melted butter, hot sauce, and lots of lemon wedges. Oh, and don't forget the beer.
Seafood boils are often enjoyed as part of a large community gathering, cooked in a giant outdoor boiler heated by propane. Smaller-batch recipes are typically adapted to fit an indoor stockpot, and often require you to add the ingredients in stages. In the heat in the summer, we much prefer the slow cooker, which cooks most of the ingredients together and saves us from sweating over the stove. Our recipe takes inspiration from a South Carolina shrimp boil, which often contains smoked sausage, potatoes, and corn.
The Best Shrimp for a Shrimp Boil
Large, deveined, tail-on shrimp are best for a shrimp boil. Why? The large size (16 to 20 shrimp per pound) keeps them from getting lost among the other ingredients, and the shrimp tails help flavor the broth. Plus, because you eat the whole dish with your hands anyways, it's not a pain to peel the shrimp as you go (in fact, I find it adds to the experience). Either fresh or frozen shrimp are fine — just be sure to thaw the frozen shrimp completely before stirring it in.
If you choose to use smaller tail-off shrimp, remember they will cook faster.
3 Smart Tips for the Best Slow Cooker Shrimp Boil
1. Use a six-quart or larger slow cooker. If you're making a shrimp boil, chances are you're serving a small crowd. This recipe makes enough to serve six, and only a six-quart or larger slow cooker will fit all the ingredients.
2. Layer the ingredients. Strategically layering the ingredients in the slow cooker means you don't have to add them intermittently — making this a true set-it-and-forget-it recipe. Adding the potatoes first (which take the longest and need the moist moisture to cook) allows them to soak up the water and soften. Then, you'll add the sausage, corn, and garlic, followed by the Old Bay. The corn just needs steam to cook, so it's okay if it's not entirely submerged by liquid. The only thing you'll add at the very end of the cook time are the shrimp, which cook in just 10 minutes.
3. Use just enough liquid. You want to add just enough water to cover the ingredients, but not so much that you water down the flavor (we found six cups to be the magic number). And don't toss it when you're ready to serve the boil. After removing all the ingredients with a slotted spoon, ladle some of the seasoned cooking liquid into small bowls for dipping.
How to Serve Your Shrimp Boil
If you're eating outdoors or up at a counter, transfer the contents of the slow cooker to a butcher paper-lined table with a slotted spoon. If you're eating indoors at the dining room table, you may want to serve it in shallow bowls. Either way, finish it off with chopped fresh parsley, freshly ground black pepper, and more Old Bay. Melted butter, hot sauce, and lemon wedges should all be within arm's reach.
How To Make the Best Shrimp Boil in the Slow Cooker
Serves 4 to 6
Prep time: 15 minutes ; cooking time: 4 hours to 5 hours
What You Need
1 1/2 pounds
small red-skinned potatoes (about 15), quartered
smoked Andouille or kielbasa sausage, cut into 1-inch pieces
corn, shucked, cut into thirds crosswise
garlic, smashed and peeled
Old Bay seasoning
medium lemon, halved, plus wedges for serving
large raw shrimp (16 to 20 per pound), cleaned and peeled but with tails left on, thawed if frozen
For serving: Chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley leaves, freshly ground black pepper, melted butter, and hot sauce
Chef's knife and cutting board
6-quart or larger slow cooker
Liquid measuring cup
Add the potatoes to the slow cooker. Arrange the potatoes in a single layer in a 6-quart or larger slow cooker.
Add the sausage, corn, and garlic. Layer the sausage on top of the potatoes, followed by the corn and garlic.
Season with Old Bay. Sprinkle the Old Bay evenly over the ingredients in the slow cooker.
Add the lemon juice. Squeeze the lemon halves into the slow cooker, then toss in the squeezed halves.
Add the water. Pour the water over the Old Bay so it incorporates throughout slow cooker; the water should come about halfway up the corn. Do not stir.
Cook on HIGH for 4 to 5 hours. Cover and cook on on the HIGH setting, 4 to 5 hours.
Add the shrimp. Add the shrimp, stir gently until just submerged, and cook until opaque, 10 to 15 minutes depending on size of shrimp. (If the slow cooker is too full to incorporate the shrimp easily, remove the corn before adding the shrimp.)
Strain and serve. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the contents of the slow cooker to a newspaper or butcher paper-lined table. (Alternatively, spoon into shallow dishes.) Add the corn and top with the parsley, more Old Bay, and black pepper. Serve with the lemon wedges, melted butter, hot sauce, and reserved cooking liquid on the side for dipping.
Storage: This recipe is best eaten fresh, but leftovers can be refrigerated in an airtight container for up to 3 days.