Long ago we learned that the reason meats dry out during cooking—even moist cooking—is because heat makes their muscle proteins clench together and squeeze out water.
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Acidity makes it worse—just try a vinegary marinade if you want tough, dry meat—but the corollary is that alkalinity mitigates the problem. So we often apply a mild baking soda solution to meat before cooking it.
In our Fisherman’s Pie, we use the same trick on shrimp, allowing them to stay plump and juicy throughout cooking.
How To Do It:
Thoroughly toss 1 pound of peeled shrimp with ¼ teaspoon baking soda in a bowl, and refrigerate for at least 15 minutes. Then proceed with the rest of your recipe.
The baking soda raises the pH of the shellfish’s muscle, which alters the electric charge of the muscle protein. As a result, the muscle fibers stay slightly apart from each other instead of clenching together, and the moisture that’s between the fibers stays between the fibers. It’s ideal for a long cook like Fisherman’s Pie, which can otherwise tend to dry out the shrimp; but also works magic when shrimp is only briefly cooked, as in a stir-fry.