From America's Test Kitchen Season 11: Shrimp in a Skillet
Stir-fries are typically cooked over high heat to sear the food and develop flavor. This works well with chicken, beef, and pork, but delicate shrimp turns to rubber when cooked this way. We wanted a stir-fry with plump, juicy, well-seasoned shrimp in a balanced, flavorful sauce.
To start, we wondered if browning was really necessary. Abandoning the high-heat method, we turned down the burner to medium-low and gently parcooked a batch of shrimp (marinated in oil, salt, and garlic for better flavor and texture), removed them from the skillet, then turned up the heat to sear the vegetables, sauté the aromatics, and finish cooking the shrimp with the sauce. This worked beautifully. Reversing the approach—cooking the veggies followed by the aromatics over high heat, then turning the heat down before adding the shrimp—made the process more efficient.
As for an assertive sauce, the heavily soy-based brews we turn to for meat stir-fries were runny and salty. Better suited to the shrimp (and more traditional in Chinese cuisine) were sweeter or spicier sauces flavored with garlic and chiles and reduced to a consistency that tightly adhered to the shellfish.
Serve this stir-fry with steamed white rice.