It turned out to be slightly more difficult than I expected, because my hot water wasn’t quite hot enough. Getting my large Dutch oven full of 140-degree water took about ten minutes, and lots of supplementation from my electric kettle. I slipped in a FoodSaver bag – a Ziploc will work, but I saw the handheld FoodSaver pump at Target and couldn’t resist – full of room-temperature shrimp and a little butter and salt, and waited seven minutes, occasionally checking the temperature and adjusting it a degree. That level of watchfulness was probably unnecessary, but I was hovering anyway, watching as the liquid in the bag around the shrimp magically turned white. Cooking. In my sink.
After seven minutes, I dropped the bag into ice water to stop the cooking, then pulled out a shrimp. Wow. They were wonderful. Cooked through but ever-so-slightly translucent, perfectly tender, and fantastically sweet and flavorful – like the very best lobster. The tenderness makes sense, as they were cooked so gently, but why the depth of flavor? I’m guessing it’s because the juices are held close to the shrimp and reabsorbed instead of being leached out into the cooking water or evaporated off a hot pan. Whatever the reason – and it wasn’t that they were of inherently stellar quality, as they were just from Trader Joe’s freezer section – they may have been the best shrimp I’ve ever eaten.
That evening I used the shrimp to top a simple arugula salad with lemon dressing, and their delicate sweetness was fabulous against the peppery snap of the greens and the tartness of the dressing.
Is this the simplest way to cook shrimp? No – a quick boil or pan-fry is more familiar, and thus easier. But I’m sure it’s the simplest, most foolproof way to get shrimp of this juicy, sweet, tender perfection.
Sous Vide Shrimp in the Kitchen Sink
1/2 to 1 pound shelled shrimp, at room temperature
1 tablespoon butter, optional
Salt and pepper
Place all ingredients in a zip-top plastic bag or vacuum bag, in as close to one layer as possible. For vacuum bag, follow manufacturer’s instructions to seal. If using a zip-top bag, seal halfway, then press out as much air as you can by dipping the bag in a tub of water or sliding it down the edge of your counter. Seal.
Fill a very large pot with 140-degree water. Tap water may suffice; if it’s not hot enough, add boiling water from a teakettle, stirring to circulate, until it reaches 140 degrees.
Drop bagged shrimp in hot water. Leave them 7 minutes. Remove bag. If eating the shrimp warm, use immediately; otherwise, drop the bag in ice water to chill quickly, then store in refrigerator.