Shrimp are available a surprisingly big vary of sizes, varieties, and preparations—recent and frozen, wild and farmed, jumbo and teeny tiny. It may be onerous to know which sort to decide on, however this information on methods to purchase shrimp, in addition to methods to retailer it, thaw it, put together it, and prepare dinner it should make you a Bubba Gump stage professional very quickly.
Individuals love shrimp. It doesn’t take a stream of countless shrimp extravaganza commercials to determine that one out. They’re our seafood of alternative, with per capita consumption far outpacing the following runner up, salmon. Battered and fried, dredged in cocktail sauce, or grilled on the barbecue, they’re the low-fuss, crowd-pleasing seafood choice that feels particular with out busting the financial institution.
Our love affair with these crustaceans, nonetheless, implies that the shrimp business depends closely on farming to maintain up with demand. As you would possibly count on, some farms’ practices are much less savory than others. Plus, the dilemma of which shrimp is the very best shrimp doesn’t cease at wild-caught versus farmed: when purchasing for them on the retailer, you would possibly end up questioning whether or not to go for shell-on or shell-off, recent or frozen, small, giant, or jumbo (and hey, isn’t jumbo shrimp an oxymoron)?
Whereas the variety of shrimp choices on the market could seem as huge as the ocean is deep, there are a couple of fundamentals to know that may make you smarter on the seafood counter. So make like Bubba from “Forrest Gump” and get the low down with our shrimp 101:
The shrimp household consists of hundreds of various species, however solely a small portion of those are extensively consumed. Though they are often discovered all through the world’s oceans, the bulk offered for consumption within the U.S. are farmed, both domestically or in one in all a handful of nations in South America, Central America, and Southern Asia that dominate the commerce. The remainder are wild-caught from the areas simply off our coasts.
When you’re fortunate and dwell close to the shore, you may need entry to an array of native species. These seven, nonetheless, are those you’re most probably to see at your common grocery store:
Brown Gulf Shrimp
These are your all-purpose selection, well-suited for stews, curries, stir fries, and extra. Most wild-caught brown shrimp hail from the Gulf of Mexico, though they can be discovered off the Atlantic coast as much as North Carolina. Grayish-brown in coloration, they are usually small to medium-sized, with agency, flavorful meat.
White Gulf Shrimp
Wild white shrimp are also abundant in the waters off the east and southeastern U.S., and can be found in close proximity to their brown counterparts. They are distinguished by their larger size, smoother shell, and pale grey or bluish color. Prized for their mild, tender, and fleshy meat, they readily absorb seasoning. Another excellent choice for general use, they are especially suited for shrimp boils or grilling, where that extra heft really counts.
Pink Gulf Shrimp or Key West Pink Shrimp
Another eastern variety, with high concentrations off the coast of Florida. Distinguished by their pinkish-gray shell and a dark spot halfway down the tail, they are small to medium sized. Known for their distinctive sweet and briny flavor, they are a favorite for simple preparations such as shrimp cocktails or baskets of peel and eat shrimp.
A chef-y favorite, rock shrimp, which are found a bit farther offshore in the southeastern U.S., have caught on in popularity in recent years. Distinguished by their hard outer shell, they have a full, lobster-like taste and texture.
Northern Pink Shrimp
Found in the cool waters off both the northeastern and northwestern coasts, northern pink shrimp are small (about 50 or more per pound), but they pack in loads of sweet flavor. These are ideal for shrimp-based salads.
Argentinian Pink Shrimp
A more recent contender in American seafood cases, these pink, as the name suggests, are caught off the coast of Argentina, and are a pink color even when raw. This can make judging doneness by color a bit tricky, but the sweet, tender meat, often compared favorably to lobster (however means cheaper) is price it. Attempt them in tacos and different easy preparations like shrimp scampi.
Tiger Shrimp or Tiger Prawns
Tiger shrimp are native to the Indian Ocean and the Asian side of the Pacific, although the majority sold for consumption are farmed. Distinguished by the dark stripes that run across their shells, they tend to be medium to large in size, and some specimens have even been known to reach well beyond a foot in length. These are great for grilling.
It should be noted that in the U.S., “shrimp” is used to refer to most edible species, from the smallest to the very large, although you might see the word “prawn” used to describe the biggest ones. In the U.K., the word “shrimp” tends to be reserved just for the smallest specimens, while “prawn” is more common in general use. Langoustines, although commonly referred to as scampi or Dublin Bay prawns, are actually a part of the lobster family.
Depending on your recipe, you may want to go for a larger or a smaller shrimp. Categories like small, medium, or large aren’t standardized, but you can go off the by the pound count, which any seller worth their salt will provide. You’ll often see a ballpark number, annotated with a slash. For example, 26/30 means that there are 26 to 30 shrimp in each pound. The largest shrimp may be marked with a “U” for “under”—for example, U10 shrimp will be 10 or less per pound. Once you get above 50 per pound, you’re dealing with some pretty small specimens. At the other end, once you start to go below 20, things get pretty colossal.
Shrimp (and all crustaceans) have enzymes in their liver that begin attacking the flesh as soon as the animal is killed, turning it to mush. This process is partly mitigated by removing the upper torso and head (most shrimp sold for consumption is actually just the tail), and is why head-on shrimp spoils especially fast. But the only way to fully minimize spoilage due to enzymes, bacteria, and oxidation is by freezing them completely. Unless you can get freshly caught shrimp (lucky you), you’re better off buying them from the freezer case, since as soon as they defrost, they begin to deteriorate again.
If you’ve noticed that your shrimp has an odd texture even after following instructions for cooking it perfectly and/or that it still seems semi-translucent even after turning white, it’s probably because of sodium tripolyphosphate or sodium bisulfite. These components are sometimes used to stop shrimp shells from discoloring, which in itself is not dangerous at all, in addition to to make them appear larger than they are surely (or “retain moisture” as packaging often claims, however it actually means they soak up water to plump them up, which adversely impacts their texture when cooked).
Melissa Clark breaks it down in this piece. Sadly, it may be troublesome to seek out frozen shrimp with out sodium tripolyphosphate—and if you do, they are going to be dearer (however you’ll truly be getting what you pay for, moderately than sub-par shrimp that’s been inflated with extra water weight). Since even “recent” shrimp on the seafood counter was probably beforehand frozen, it might even have been handled and you need to ask in case you’re involved.
Allow them to thaw within the fridge in a single day (ideally in a colander set over a big bowl), or fast thaw in a bowl of chilly water about quarter-hour forward of if you plan on utilizing them. By no means re-freeze shrimp.
When you purchase recent shrimp, use them ASAP and in the mean time, retailer them like so: Open the bag and place a paper towel excessive, place the bag on a bowl of ice, and retailer within the coldest a part of your fridge. The shrimp ought to be okay to make use of for as much as two days.
Frozen shrimp shouldn’t be allowed to thaw between shopping for and storing. In the event that they didn’t already are available an air-tight bag, switch them to at least one, leaving about 1/4 inch of area on the high, and maintain within the freezer for 3 to 6 months.
Whether or not you’re coping with recent or defrosted shrimp, guarantee that the flesh is agency (it should have some give, however shouldn’t be completely mushy) and that there aren’t any noticeable “off” odors. Whereas a slight iodine odor is regular, particularly with brown shrimp, there shouldn’t be something significantly fishy or ammonia-like occurring—that’s an indication that your catch is nicely past its peak.
When you’re acutely aware about avoiding antibiotics and different substances used to keep up farmed seafood shares, it could appear logical to go for wild-caught shrimp. However within the wild, shrimp inhabit the underside flooring of their habitats. It’s obligatory to make use of giant nets to catch them in vital numbers, and these nets have a tendency to choose up quite a lot of bycatch. This technique can produce vital waste and be disruptive to the marine ecosystem.
Farmed shrimp, alternatively, are hit and miss, relying on the strategies used to boost them. Legal guidelines concerning the usage of antibiotics and chemical compounds fluctuate extensively from nation to nation, though the U.S. has fairly complete laws. Moreover, inland shrimp farms are typically arrange with circulation programs that may deal with waste, whereas coastal operations are likely to cope with waste just by dumping it again into the atmosphere.
There may be additionally the problem of human rights abuse to think about. Shrimp that comes from sure locations (like Thailand) may have been produced using forced labor. Presently, there’s a Seafood Slavery Risk Tool 2.0 in personal beta mode; you may signal as much as be alerted when the general public beta goes dwell.
In the meantime, and within the matter of all issues seafood, it’s greatest to seek the advice of with organizations such because the Monterey Bay Aquarium Seafood Watch. Their guides make suggestions concerning the sustainability of various fishing and seafood farming strategies, and are up to date frequently. Right here’s their Shrimp Overview.
When you’ve ever had shrimp cooked within the shell, you’ll know that the outer layer locks in the entire meat’s fullest flavors. Even in case you don’t plan on cooking or consuming them that means, you need to nonetheless hunt down shrimp that include the shell on as a result of it acts as a barrier in opposition to spoilage and oxidation, protecting the meat agency and engaging.
Plus, shelled shrimp is mostly dearer, and there’s a better probability that its been mangled or mishandled someplace alongside the road.
For a similar causes, you also needs to purchase shrimp with the vein in and take away it by yourself. Sure, deveining (that’s taking out the intestinal tract, which could be full of sand and particles) is an additional step, however the rewards repay in a better-tasting product.
The extra intact the shrimp, the much less probably it’s been handled with sodium tripolyphosphate too (see “Watch Out for This Ingredient” above for more information on that additive).
To take away the shell from recent or defrosted shrimp, simply slide your thumb in the place the legs are to loosen it, then peel it away, leaving the tail on, in case you want, or gently pinching it off.
To devein, merely make a shallow slit down the again of the shrimp with a paring knife and take away the darkish tube inside. See? Straightforward peasy.
If you wish to take away the vein however maintain the shells on (say, in case you’re grilling the shrimp), simply use kitchen shears to slit the shell down the again and a pointy paring knife to carry out the vein.
After deveining, rinse the shrimp once more (typically a bit grit will get on the meat through the cleansing course of) and pat dry earlier than you utilize them in your recipe.
Because you’re shopping for shrimp within the shell, save them for a straightforward shrimp inventory; it solely takes a couple of additional minutes, and you may stash the inventory within the freezer in case you don’t want it immediately:
Now all that’s left to do is get cooking! Regardless of their diminutive identify, shrimp have a domineering presence throughout cuisines and take nicely to a variety of flavors and accompaniments. Listed here are a few of our favorites, masking a variety of cooking processes (although don’t overlook about steaming shrimp and frying shrimp both):
Shrimp and grits are a basic combo, however there are numerous variations on the pair. This one spices up the seafood with some chipotle and pink pepper flakes, and enriches the grits with white cheddar. Get our Spicy Shrimp and Grits recipe.
A creamy shrimp salad sandwich is always a welcome lunch, open-faced or otherwise—and it’s just as good scooped up with crackers or spooned over greens. Our Shrimp Salad recipe makes use of crème fraîche as an alternative of mayo, however it’s endlessly adaptable.
You can grill shrimp shell-on or shell-off, threaded onto skewers or in a grill basket. Right here, we skewer them after a fast spice rub, rapidly char them on the coals, after which fold them into tacos with a corn-avocado salsa. Get our Grilled Shrimp Tacos recipe, or go Greek with our Shrimp and Feta Taco recipe. (And since it’s the season, strive our Grilled Shrimp Boil Skewer recipe and our Pineapple Shrimp Skewer recipe too.)
Skewering shrimp before baking or roasting in the oven is also a neat party trick. You can wrap them in prosciutto first, or coat them with sesame seeds (through which case, they’re nice paired with cilantro-lime dipping sauce). Get our Sesame Shrimp Skewer recipe.
Can’t stand the heat? “Cook” your shrimp with citrus juice instead. Actually, we do briefly poach them first, then flavor them with lemon and lime juice, plus onion and serrano chile. Cilantro, avocado, and cucumber round things out. Get our Shrimp Ceviche recipe.
Shrimp make a nice addition to a bowl of brothy noodles, and they cook directly in the pot. For a more intense seafood flavor, start by making a shrimp stock as shown above, then use that in place of some or all of the chicken broth in our Easy Shrimp Pho recipe.
Quick-cooking shrimp is also a perfect protein addition to fried rice. Even better if it has a kick from kimchi—but try adding some shrimp to whatever combo of ingredients you have on hand. Get our Shrimp Fried Rice recipe.