Ina Garten's Cooking Tip For More Flavorful Shrimp Salad

If we're talking shrimp salad, boiled is how we usually approach cooking shrimp. But that goes for almost any cold, mayo-based picnic staple salad. Whether it's egg, potato, or macaroni, the go-to method of prepping the salad base is to pop it in a pot of boiling water. Because of this, the source of flavor in shrimp salad or any dressed salad is almost always the dressing or sauce. It's almost a given that the combination of spices, fresh herbs, vinegar, mustard, and other ingredients will be the main thrust behind the flavor of these side dishes. 

But leave it to none other than Ina Garten to fight against this assumption, and offer up a technique that infuses flavor into the shrimp from the get-go. Say goodbye to bland and boiled and say hello to depth and nuance. Not to mention, Garten's method is about as easy as it gets — even easier than boiling, in fact — with minimal cleanup. 

Roasting shrimp brings out its flavor

As Ina Garten demonstrates on her Food Network show, Barefoot Contessa, roasting the shrimp for your shrimp salad could not be any easier. Simply place peeled and deveined shrimp on a sheet pan, drizzle olive oil and a generous seasoning of salt and pepper over top, then give it all a toss to coat. Spread the shrimp out evenly and pop the pan in the oven to cook. She recommends adding the sauce of your salad to the shrimp while they are still warm to aid in absorption.

This method adds flavor in two ways: through roasting and through the addition of fat plus seasonings prior. Much like how the flavor of a piece of bread takes on a whole new level of depth when toasted, or the difference between the taste of steamed Brussels sprouts versus roasted, cooking shrimp will result in a browning which brings out a much heartier flavor. Adding olive oil and a bit of salt and pepper also imparts a punch. There's a vast taste difference between coating the shrimp in all three before cooking and just drizzling and sprinkling them over the final end product. 

If you're still looking to step your salad up a notch, you could even add some Old Bay or cajun seasoning, lemon juice, garlic and herbs, or melted butter to channel a lobster roll ... but really the options are endless.