Boiling shrimp remains one of the most common cooking methods along with grilling, sauteing, frying and baking. Fresh shrimp will still have their shells, so a cook has the option whether to peel the shrimp before boiling them. How you plan to use your shrimp helps that decision along.
Buy fresh or frozen shrimp, but you should generally go with ones with the shells intact. Look for shrimp that fully fill out their shells. This will give you the most fresh-tasting shrimp after boiling.
Wash the fresh shrimp thoroughly in preparation for boiling. If you buy frozen shrimp, defrost them in cold water or in the refrigerator. Don't defrost the shrimp in the microwave or in a warm place because they will lost nutrients, moisture and flavor. Only remove the shell before cooking if you plan to serve the shrimp in a hot liquid.
Stir the shrimp occasionally as they boil to keep them separate from one another. Use four to six cups of water per pound of unpeeled shrimp. The shrimp cook completely in five to eight minutes.
Strain the shrimp and allow them to cool before you remove their shells, or allow your guests to peel their own.