For Extra Crispy Bacon-Wrapped Shrimp, Start With A Partial Bake

Bacon-wrapped shrimp is the darling of any party. Whether the crowd is gathering for the big game or a more intimate occasion with a few friends, the pork-meets-seafood pairing delights palates. It's a combination of sweet and savory flavors that stands alone as an appetizer or easily takes a starring role in a main dish.

This is a foodie fare that is simple by design, but one where each ingredient requires a bit of individual attention. Getting a balance of flavors involves seasoning your shrimp before it comes into contact with the bacon. Similarly, it means giving the bacon a chance to reach its full potential before meeting up with the shrimp. Without this one-on-one with both ingredients, you might find yourself with overcooked shrimp paired with perfectly crisp bacon, or an equally unsatisfying tender shrimp wrapped with limp bacon. The secret to getting both these ingredients to shine is to partially cook the bacon before assembling your bacon-wrapped shrimp.

Create the optimal pairing of shrimp and bacon

Why would you take the added step of partially baking your bacon? The short answer is that shrimp cooks faster than bacon. How much faster depends on the ingredients you're working with. For example, thick-cut bacon will perform differently from a thin-cut option. Not only will it take longer to cook through, but it will provide a different density and texture to the finished dish. The bacon you choose is a matter of preference, but understanding the differences allows you to properly align the cooking times of the different ingredients. Similarly, there's a lot to know when selecting and cooking shrimp. However, for bacon-wrapped shrimp, you'll primarily want to pay attention to the size since smaller shrimp cook faster than larger ones.

Optimize the flavors and textures of both the shrimp and the bacon by ensuring both are cooked through at the same time. This is most easily accomplished by partially baking your bacon in advance. Although it is a bit more work than using it in raw form, it's easy to pre-cook your bacon, and your efforts will be well rewarded. Just as important as partially baking it before use, it's equally essential that you don't overcook it. If it gets too crispy, you won't be able to wrap it around the shrimp without cracking and crumbling. To avoid that fate, be sure to pull it while it is still limp. 

Tips for the perfect extra crispy bacon-wrapped shrimp

When it comes to partially cooking your bacon, you can use a grill, oven, stovetop, microwave, or air fryer. If baking on a sheet pan, minimize cleanup by lining it with parchment paper or foil. Also, use a pan with edges so you don't have bacon grease dripping to the bottom of your oven. When baking your wrapped shrimp, start with a preheated pan to evenly crisp both sides of the bacon.

In addition to perfecting the cooking technique, you'll want to elevate the flavors of your shrimp. Try a brief dip in a marinade or coat it with a dry rub. Similarly, you can layer on an additional flavor with a well-balanced sauce. Bring in a sweet touch with honey, agave, maple syrup, or brown sugar. Then, balance the sweetness with a savory flavor boost from bourbon, vermouth, or wine. Kick up the seasonings in your sauce with a dash of cumin, chili powder, or paprika. Remember that bacon has a briny flavor, so err on the side of caution when adding extra salt. You can baste your sauce during the short cooking period or serve dipping sauces like butter garlic or cocktail sauce alongside your bacon-wrapped shrimp. Feel free to use this par-cooking technique for other bacon-wrapped foods like asparagus, scallops, steak, or even a grilled cheese sandwich.