Mama Carroll’s Shrimp Boil

When Taylor and I came home for Christmas, we arrived at his parents’ house after 9pm, and with rumbly tummies.  We were greeted with warm oxtail soup, and free-rein of the kitchen.  We happened upon a large bowl of scrumptious-looking shrimp, seasoned, and ready for peeling.  I whipped us up a quick cocktail sauce of ketchup, horseradish and tabasco sauce (not seeing that there was already a bowl already made).  We sat down, and didn’t emerge until the entire bowl was refilled with shrimp shells.  When Taylor’s Mom returned home, I immediately asked where she got the shrimp.  The predictable follow-up question was to discover how they were made.  I was happy to discover that the recipe was more ingredients than precision: shrimp, beer (not lite!), Old Bay Seasoning and water.

I have been known to easily put away a pound of steamed shrimp all by myself.  The same goes for picking crabs… I just don’t seem to ever feel too full.  Lucky for me (and other shellfish enthusiasts), shrimp and crab are full of nutritious protein, and I far prefer steamed over the myriad fried versions.  This recipe may have beer and sodium (and a little ketchup), but I did not feel guilty.

This recipe is easy enough for everyday, and from start to finish, we’re talking under fifteen minutes.  It is your preference if you’d like to dig in as soon as they cook, but Taylor and I like to let them cool in the fridge.  They end up being easier to peel, and I just prefer steamed shrimp chilled.  Whether you are on team hot or cold, I would stay away from buying frozen shrimp if you can.  Until I find the perfect thawing method, they end up tasting water-logged.  I would also opt for wild-caught, with shells on, if you can find it.  I know that with shrimp, most people are worried about the “veins.”  To be honest, when the shells are on, it is not something that bothers me.  Cooking with the shell on not only protects the shrimp from over-cooking, but imparts extra delicious flavor (it is a similar concept to cooking meat on the bone).  I have found “easy to peel” shrimp in shells that had a slit down the back (that removed the vein), but I found that the shrimp with the shells intact were even easier to peel (strange, right?).

Now, the matter of beer and seasoning.  I am from Maryland, and Taylor is from Virginia.  Old Bay Seasoning is just what we love.  I have tried other crab/shrimp boil seasonings, and they just lack gusto (but maybe our taste buds are biased).  Luckily, no matter where you are, Old Bay should be in the grocery store (and if it’s not, I’ll ship it to you).  With the beer, choose your poison.  I’ve use Shiner Bock (hail to the Texan in me) and Budweiser.  Do NOT use a lite beer, it just won’t taste the same.  If you want to make this dish Paleo, omit the beer altogether, just make sure to heavily season the water.

Part of the fun of this recipe is that depending on the beer and ratio of spices, it will end up tasting different each time.  But trust me, different is not a bad thing in this case.  The only thing that could ruin this dish is walking away from the burner and letting the shrimp overcook.  However, rest-assured that for 2 lbs of shrimp, 3 minutes at a boil will end up perfect every time.  After making this dish, hopefully you will never again feel like a slave to those boring platters of cocktail shrimp at the grocery store.  My guess is that by making shrimp this way, you’ll not only save money, but the result will also be far more impressive.


  • 2 lb wild-caught shrimp (shell on)
  • 2 domestic beers (do not use light beer)
  • 4 tbs Old Bay Seasoning
  • 1/2 cup organic ketchup
  • prepared horseradish, to taste
  • optional: tabasco


  • 1. In a large spaghetti pot (that has a lid), add beer, water and Old Bay Seasoning
  • 2. Bring mixture to a boil
  • 3. Add the shrimp, and AFTER the water has returned to a boil (it won’t take long), cap IMMEDIATELY
  • 4. Start timer for 3 minutes
  • 5. When timer goes off, immediately uncap, and pour shrimp into a strainer
  • 6. Add additional Old Bay Seasoning, if desired
  • 7. Enjoy hot or cold!