The Shrimp Cocktail

4 servings

  • 32 shell-on (21 to 25 count) tiger shrimp
  • For the brine:
  • 1/4 cup kosher salt
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1 cup water
  • 2 cups ice
  • For the cocktail sauce:
  • 1 (14 1/2-ounce) can diced tomatoes, drained
  • 1/2 cup prepared chili sauce
  • 4 tablespoons prepared horseradish
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • Few grinds fresh black pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • Sprinkle Old Bay seasoning

Using a pair of scissors or a serrated knife, make an incision down the backside of the shrimp, following the intestinal track. Eviscerate shrimp and rinse under cool water leaving shells intact.

Place cleaned shrimp into a bowl with brine and refrigerate mixture for 20 to 25 minutes. While shrimp are brining, place tomatoes, chili sauce, horseradish, sugar, pepper, and salt in food processor and blend until smooth. Refrigerate cocktail sauce until ready to serve.

Place a baking sheet or broiler pan under oven broiler and preheat for 5 minutes. Remove shrimp from brine and drain thoroughly. Rinse the shrimp under cold water and dry on paper towels. In a large bowl, toss shrimp with olive oil and sprinkle with Old Bay seasoning, if desired.

Place shrimp onto a sizzling sheet pan and return to broiler immediately. After 2 minutes, turn the shrimp with a pair of tongs. Return the shrimp to broiler for 1 minute. Transfer to a cold cookie sheet. Refrigerate immediately.

Once shrimp have chilled, arrange with cocktail sauce in a martini glass or as desired.

Pairs Well With

Rich, buttery white wine

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    117 Reviews
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    This has really spoiled me. I can't eat prepackaged shrimp anymore. This is really great stuff.
    I was going to boil the shrimp and use bottled cocktail sauce, but thought to consult Alton Brown. These were so good I went out the next day and bought more shrimp just to do it again. Used local shrimp and garnished with finely chopped dill. This is a really great recipe.
    I really want to make this recipe for Thanksgiving, but I'm concerned about the saltiness and confused by the fresh vs frozen shrimp instructions in the reviews.  
    I'll be using peeled (tail on) deveined frozen shrimp.  
    Do I thaw the shrimp and then put them in the brine, or do I put them in the brine frozen? I don't see how they'll thaw completely in 20 minutes that way 
    Best shrimp cocktail I've ever made. Something about broiling them then into that cool temperature. Juicy and tasty even without cocktail sauce.
    Simple, clean and absolutely delicious. I'll never buy prepared cocktail sauce again.  
    I was short on horseradish so only included 1 T and that was just fine. May Ploy brand sweet chili sauce was perfect. Instead of raw sugar, which I was also out of, I used a squirt of catsup. The result was perfect.
    I'm not sure where I went wrong with the sauce, but it was waaaayyy too intense! I used less horseradish than suggested, but the result was still inedible. I was able to save it by taking half of the sauce and adding a can of tomato paste and some water to it. I dumped the other half. It had the right flavor after that, but it was nothing special. I assume since no one else had this problem that I must have done something wrong, but I followed the recipe very closely. I probably won't use this recipe again.
    I have never brined seafood. I have whole turkey and pork, but never seafood and thought it strange to brine shrimp. I did it anyhow and oh BOY am I glad I did. These were the BEST shrimp cocktail ever. The shrimp are amazing made this way!! Used my cocktail sauce I already had because the shrimp are the star here.
    Fantastic, and everything was on hand in the cupboard. We added 5 T of fresh horseradish and some Bay Seasoning to the sauce as well as the shrimp, cut down on the sugar and it was fantastic. Thanks, as usual, Alton.
    After watching this episode, I tried broiling shrimp because of all of the rave reviews on broiling. I didn't want to wait 30 minutes to brine the shrimp (because it doesn't make a huge difference with chicken so I figured it wouldn't make a huge difference with shrimp. Long story short, I wasn't overly impressed. It tasted the same as if you were to pan fry or even steam.  
    However, I tried this recipe again (only I actually followed it this time and bought shell-on shrimp and brined them. The brine makes all the difference in the world! And maybe the fact that the shell was still on made a difference too. I didn't have any oil, so I just melted some butter and tossed the shrimp in that. It was absolutely the best shrimp I have ever had. The saltiness was amazing. In fact, I kind of thought it tasted better hot out of the oven rather than chilled with cocktail sauce. Next time, I might just add some garlic to the melted butter and have garlic shrimp with dinner.
    This is an overall GREAT recipe! It is super easy and fast. The cocktail sauce is perfect and the best I have ever had! It is a little on the spicy side, so if you don't like any heat in your sauce you can cut down the amount to 3 tablespoons. On the other hand, you could up it to 5 tablespoons if you like it super spicy.  
    The process goes even faster if you buy already shelled and with the intestinal tract removed. (I found some at Sprouts  
    The sauce really goes with any shrimp so if you are in a tremendous hurry, you can just make the sauce, which only takes about 5 minutes.
    I have been making this recipe for years and it is still my ultimate go-to recipe for an appetizer.
    This is the BEST EVER way to prepare shrimp! I definitely recommend adding a good sprinkle of Old Bay with the olive oil to coat the shrimp before cooking. Never fails...a true crowd pleaser.
    OMG. this recipe was fantastic!! I made these as the appetizer for Valentines Day. My fiance & I devoured the shrimp! The ONLY thing I modified was adding about a tablespoon more of horseradish, it wasnt quite enough for us personally at first. Other than that, PERFECT. I will never ever ever make shrimp differently again! Thanks Alton!
    Fantastic! This is my go to item for party food. For New Years Eve party at friends house the main question is "Is Ken bringing the shrimp?'
    Really tasty way to cook fresh shrimp, thanks Alton!
    5 star on shrimp method only. used 10-15 count shrimp, tony's cajun spice for the shrimp, and cooked a minute longer. made my own cocktail sauce with ketchup, tomato sauce, chili powder, a bit o garlic and jalapeno "juice", some wostershire, lime, and lemon. spiked it with fresh horseradish and cayenne. best shrimp cocktail ever. alton da man
    After making this recipe, I'll never boil shrimp again. Brined and broiled shrimp have so much more flavor. I skip the cocktail sauce and use them as the perfect garnish to a spicy Bloody Mary.
    This is even better than the shrimp cocktails I've had at some high-end restaurants. I've never tried brining shrimp before, but it was worth the effort. The only change I made to the recipe was to add a couple of dashes of hot sauce to the cocktail sauce. If you're a fan of shrimp cocktail, you've got to try this!
    This is one of my all-time favorite recipes. Alton really knows how to turn the volume up on simple, wonderful flavors. Don't skimp on anything, this recipe is perfect.
    By far the best and the easiest way to make shrimp cocktail!!! Absolutely ANYONE can make this recipe!! Its beyond Yummy!! This recipe is getting put in my cook book so it can be handed down to my kids!! Thanks Alton, your the best!!!
    This is the best way to prepare shrimp. I learn so much from Alton. This works on the grill also.
    OMG!! This was soooo easy and tasted great! - I used frozen shrimp - tail-on shelled and deveined and put 'em in the brine to thaw - worked wonderfully and no fussing w/ shells.

    The sauce was really good - liked it better than ketchup based, but I put in more horseradish. You must make this over the summer!!
    Love this recipe! This is the only shrimp cocktail I make since I tried the recipe.
    Absolutely the most delicious shrimp cocktail.. I used the larger shrimp.. increased cooking time on 2nd side by 30 sec.. I was even in a hurry, just decided on last minute to cook these. Put them in freezer but they were just a little warm when we ate them and they were delicous.. Trick to shrimp is not to overcook.. I just love this recipe.. I have made it 3 times and it gets better every time.. thanks Alton.. love your show..
    This is one of the better Shrimp Cocktails that I ever had. My husband does not like boiled or steamed shrimp and he actually ate an entire cocktail(8 shrimp) and said that he enjoyed it very much. Now I'm not saying this made him a convert,but at least I've got one recipe that I know he will eat.
    Well we always have the best seafood on New Years Day. So tonight i made lobster tals, dungenous crab and shrimp cocktails. I wanted to find new recipes for all. I tried Alton Brown's recipe but after the less then perfect ratings I decided to make half with my old method, of boiling in beer and Old bay seasoning and this recipe. I did only have the 15/lb in my freezer. I brined it per the recipe and cooked it one minute longer since i was using larger shrimp. I then tested both on my hubby and adult son. Both preferred the boiled shrimp, but I like this recipe much better. It was more firm and tasty to me. I made sure not to brine it too long and actually rinsed after 20 minutes. I thought it was great but rest of family did not.
    I have been making Alton's shrip for years. I alway have to double the batch and take copies of the recipe. People can't get enough.

    I love shrimp cocktail and this preparation beats them all. The shrimp come out with a warm beautiful color and a snap when you bite them instead of pale and limp. I'm a convert. I added fresh lemon juice to the cocktail sauce to give it a fresh vesty taste. It's my go-to shrimp recipe. I used the leftovers for a shrimp and pasta recipe the next day.
    This recipe is time consuming and tedious but oh so worth it. The BEST shrimp cocktail ever!
    I tried to substitute frozen shrimp for this recipe because they are more economical. After several failed attempts I discovered that frozen shrimp are processed with salt so essentially they are pre-brined. So another salt bath is overkill. Once I figured this out the recipe turned out great.
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