Serving shrimp in quantity presents a critical food-safety issue: keeping it out of the "danger zone," or the temperature gradient between 40 and 140 degrees Fahrenheit, for more than two hours. You can keep shrimp at room temperature up to two hours safely, but you want the shrimp cold and fresh for your guests, not just safe. Take a tip from restaurant buffets and use stainless-steel serving platters and ice for success.
Assembling the Shrimp Cocktail
Line a rimmed stainless-steel seafood-serving platter with an edible ingredient such as leaf lettuce or seaweed that can keep the shrimp from touching the platter directly, and arrange the shrimp on it uniformly. Intersperse lemon wedges among the shrimp and fill a bowl with cocktail sauce.
Preparing the ice
Fill a bowl larger than the seafood platter full of ice, then fill a bowl larger than the bowl of cocktail sauce with ice.
Arranging the Shrimp Cocktail
Place the bowls of ice in an area of the buffet that is out of direct sunlight and away from hot foods or bright lights. Use a vase of flowers to provide shade, if needed. Place the shrimp platter and bowl of cocktail sauce on their respective bowls of ice beside each other. Place two small serving tongs in the lemons and shrimp and a spoon in the cocktail sauce.
Maintaining the Buffet
Keep back-ups of ice ready to go, and replace the bowls of ice as needed throughout the buffet service. Keep a cover on the shrimp, if desired.
A.J. Andrews' work has appeared in Food and Wine, Fricote and "BBC Good Food." He lives in Europe where he bakes with wild yeast, milks goats for cheese and prepares for the Court of Master Sommeliers level II exam. Andrews received formal training at Le Cordon Bleu.