Why Soaking Shrimp In A Milk Bath?

Sabrina Dawson

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Why Soaking Shrimp In A Milk Bath?
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Shrimp, with its delicate flavor and tender texture, is a favorite in many cuisines around the world. However, it can sometimes come with a fishy odor that can be off-putting. Fortunately, there’s a simple solution: soaking shrimp in a milk bath. This technique not only eliminates unpleasant odors but also enhances the shrimp’s flavor and texture. In this comprehensive guide, we’ll explore why soaking shrimp in milk is so effective, how to do it, and additional tips to make your shrimp dishes even better.

The Problem with Fishy Odors

Sweeten Shrimp with Milk to Remove Iodine Taste

Understanding the Cause

Shrimp, like many seafood items, contains a compound called trimethylamine N-oxide (TMAO). When shrimp is stored for an extended period, TMAO breaks down into trimethylamine (TMA), which is responsible for the fishy odor. This is a natural process that occurs in most seafood, but it can be quite unpleasant when you’re ready to cook.

Common Solutions

There are several methods people use to combat the fishy smell in shrimp, such as:

  • Rinsing with Cold Water: While this can remove surface impurities, it doesn’t address the underlying cause of the odor.
  • Using Acidic Marinades: Ingredients like lemon juice and vinegar can neutralize odors but may alter the shrimp’s texture and flavor.
  • Masking with Strong Spices: While effective in some cases, this approach often just covers up the smell rather than eliminating it.

The Milk Bath Solution

How It Works

Soaking shrimp in milk is a game-changing solution that effectively removes fishy odors without compromising the shrimp’s natural flavor. Here’s why it works:

  • Casein in Milk: Milk contains a protein called casein, which binds to the TMA compounds. When you discard the milk after soaking, the fishy compounds are removed along with it.
  • Neutral Taste: Unlike acidic marinades, milk doesn’t impart any strong flavors to the shrimp, preserving its delicate taste.

The Science Behind It

The binding of TMA to casein is a chemical process that neutralizes the odor. This interaction ensures that the fishy smell is significantly reduced or completely eliminated. Additionally, the milk soak helps to mellow out the shrimp’s natural taste, making it more palatable.

Step-by-Step Guide to Soaking Shrimp in Milk

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What You Need

  • Fresh or thawed shrimp
  • Milk (whole, skim, or buttermilk)
  • A bowl or container
  • A colander
  • Paper towels


  1. Prepare the Shrimp: If using frozen shrimp, make sure they are fully thawed. Fresh shrimp should be peeled and deveined if necessary.
  2. Soak the Shrimp: Place the shrimp in a bowl or container and cover them with milk. Ensure the shrimp are fully submerged.
  3. Wait: Let the shrimp soak for 10 to 30 minutes. This duration is sufficient to bind the TMA to the casein in the milk.
  4. Rinse and Dry: After soaking, pour the shrimp into a colander and rinse them thoroughly under cold water. Pat them dry with paper towels to remove any excess moisture.
  5. Cook as Desired: Your shrimp are now ready to be grilled, roasted, sautéed, or used in any recipe you prefer.

Tips for Best Results

  • Use Fresh Milk: Always use fresh milk for soaking to avoid any unwanted odors from spoiled milk.
  • Thorough Rinsing: Ensure you rinse the shrimp well after soaking to remove all milk residue, which can interfere with cooking.
  • Dry Completely: Drying the shrimp is crucial, especially if you’re planning to grill or sauté them, as moisture can prevent proper browning.

Enhancing Flavor and Texture

2 lbs Raw Large Shrimp, P&D, 16-20

Using Buttermilk

Buttermilk is a fantastic alternative to regular milk for soaking shrimp. It adds a slight tang and enhances the shrimp’s texture due to its acidity.

  • Acidity and Tenderization: The increased acidity in buttermilk further breaks down proteins in the shrimp, making them even more tender.
  • Flavor Infusion: Buttermilk can impart a subtle tangy flavor, enhancing the overall taste of the shrimp.

Adding Spices and Seasonings

While plain milk won’t flavor the shrimp, you can add spices and seasonings to the soaking liquid to infuse additional flavors.

  • Garlic Powder: Adds a mild, savory flavor.
  • Oregano: Brings a touch of herbaceousness.
  • Smoked Paprika: Introduces a smoky depth.
  • Hot Sauce: Provides a spicy kick.
  • Baking Soda: Enhances the shrimp’s texture by making it plumper and more resilient to overcooking.

Traditional Brine

For super juicy shrimp, consider soaking them in a traditional brine solution.

  • Brine Recipe: Dissolve one tablespoon of kosher salt in one quart of water and submerge the shrimp for 30 minutes.
  • Benefits: Brining helps the shrimp retain moisture and adds a subtle seasoning from within.

Cooking Techniques for Milk-Soaked Shrimp

Why Soaking Shrimp In A Milk Bath Is A Game Changer


Grilling is a popular method for cooking shrimp, and milk-soaked shrimp are particularly well-suited for this technique.

  • Preparation: Preheat the grill to medium-high heat. Skewer the shrimp to prevent them from falling through the grates.
  • Cooking: Grill the shrimp for 2-3 minutes per side until they are pink and slightly charred. Avoid overcooking to maintain their tender texture.


Sautéed shrimp are quick and easy to prepare, making them perfect for weeknight meals.

  • Preparation: Heat a tablespoon of olive oil or butter in a skillet over medium-high heat.
  • Cooking: Add the shrimp and cook for 2-3 minutes per side until they are opaque and cooked through. Season with salt, pepper, and any other desired spices.


Roasting shrimp in the oven is a hands-off method that delivers evenly cooked results.

  • Preparation: Preheat the oven to 400°F (200°C). Arrange the shrimp in a single layer on a baking sheet.
  • Cooking: Roast for 8-10 minutes until the shrimp are pink and firm. Toss with melted butter and fresh herbs before serving.


Poaching shrimp is a gentle cooking method that keeps them tender and juicy.

  • Preparation: Bring a pot of water to a simmer and season with salt, lemon slices, and bay leaves.
  • Cooking: Add the shrimp and poach for 3-4 minutes until they are opaque and cooked through. Drain and serve immediately.

Advanced Techniques and Recipes

Salt and Pepper Shrimp Stir-Fry

Crispy Salt and Pepper Shrimp Recipe (椒盐大虾)


  • 1 pound milk-soaked shrimp
  • 2 tablespoons cornstarch
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon black pepper
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 red bell pepper, sliced
  • 1 green bell pepper, sliced
  • 2 green onions, chopped
  • 1 teaspoon soy sauce
  • 1 teaspoon rice vinegar


  1. Coat the Shrimp: Toss the milk-soaked shrimp in cornstarch, salt, and black pepper until evenly coated.
  2. Sauté: Heat the vegetable oil in a wok or large skillet over high heat. Add the garlic and stir-fry for 30 seconds until fragrant.
  3. Cook the Shrimp: Add the shrimp and cook for 2-3 minutes until crispy and golden. Remove from the wok and set aside.
  4. Stir-Fry Vegetables: Add the bell peppers and green onions to the wok and stir-fry for 2-3 minutes until tender-crisp.
  5. Combine and Serve: Return the shrimp to the wok, add soy sauce and rice vinegar, and toss to combine. Serve immediately.

Shrimp Congee

Korean Shrimp Porridge (Congee) - Recovery Meal – FutureDish


  • 1 cup jasmine rice
  • 8 cups water or chicken broth
  • 1 pound milk-soaked shrimp
  • 2 slices ginger
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon soy sauce
  • 2 green onions, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon sesame oil


  1. Prepare the Congee: Rinse the rice under cold water until the water runs clear. In a large pot, bring the water or broth to a boil. Add the rice, ginger, and garlic.
  2. Simmer: Reduce the heat to low and simmer for 1-2 hours, stirring occasionally, until the rice breaks down and the congee reaches a porridge-like consistency.
  3. Add Shrimp: Add the milk-soaked shrimp and salt to the congee. Cook for an additional 5-7 minutes until the shrimp are cooked through.
  4. Season: Stir in soy sauce, green onions, and sesame oil. Serve hot.

Buttermilk Fried Shrimp

Buttermilk Fried Shrimp with Bang Bang Sauce


  • 1 pound milk-soaked shrimp
  • 1 cup buttermilk
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup cornmeal
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon paprika
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
  • Vegetable oil for frying
  • Lemon wedges for serving


  1. Marinate the Shrimp: Combine the milk-soaked shrimp with buttermilk in a bowl. Let marinate for 30 minutes.
  2. Prepare the Coating: In a shallow dish, mix together flour, cornmeal, salt, paprika, and black pepper.
  3. Coat the Shrimp: Remove the shrimp from the buttermilk, letting the excess drip off. Dredge in the flour mixture, pressing to adhere.
  4. Heat the Oil: In a large skillet, heat about 1 inch of vegetable oil over medium-high heat until shimmering.
  5. Fry the Shrimp: Working in batches, fry the shrimp for 2-3 minutes per side until golden brown and crispy. Drain on paper towels.
  6. Serve: Serve the fried shrimp with lemon wedges and your favorite dipping sauce.

Safety Considerations

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Storage and Shelf Life

To ensure the safety and quality of your shrimp, follow these storage guidelines:

  • Refrigeration: Keep raw shrimp in the refrigerator at or below 40°F (4°C). Use within two days of purchase.
  • Freezing: For longer storage, freeze shrimp in an airtight container or vacuum-sealed bag. They can be stored for up to six months.
  • Thawing: Thaw frozen shrimp in the refrigerator overnight or under cold running water.

Recognizing Spoiled Shrimp

It’s crucial to identify and avoid spoiled shrimp, as no amount of milk soaking will make them safe to eat. Signs of spoiled shrimp include:

  • Slimy Texture: Fresh shrimp should be firm to the touch. A slimy surface indicates spoilage.
  • Sour Smell: A sour, ammonia-like smell is a clear sign that the shrimp has gone bad.
  • Discoloration: Look for any black spots or unusual discoloration on the shrimp’s shell or flesh.


Soaking shrimp in a milk bath is a simple yet highly effective method to eliminate fishy odors and enhance the shrimp’s natural flavor and texture. By understanding the science behind this technique and incorporating it into your cooking routine, you can elevate your shrimp dishes to new heights. Whether you’re grilling, sautéing, roasting, or poaching, milk-soaked shrimp provide a clean canvas for a variety of culinary creations. With additional tips like using buttermilk or adding spices, you can further customize and improve your recipes. Remember to always handle shrimp safely and enjoy the delicious results of this game-changing method.