How to select and prepare shrimp

Among the many varieties of shellfish, shrimp ranks as one of

America’s favourite. Even people who don’t like fish seem

enjoy shrimp and there are endless ways in

what shrimp can be prepared. The dense white meat of shrimp

It has a fresh, mild flavor that goes well with many

ingredients. Shrimp are great for dieters as they are very

low in fat and calories; however, they contain a greater

cholesterol level than most shellfish, so it should be taken

in consideration if anyone has been advised by your

doctor to limit your cholesterol intake.

Of the many species of shrimp sold around the world, saltwater shrimp

shrimp are generally designated as ‘cold water’ or ‘warm

water species. Cold water shrimp are caught in the North

Atlantic and North Pacific waters, while warm-water shrimp

They are caught in tropical waters. Most of the warm water

shrimp available in the United States are harvested from the

waters of the Gulf of Mexico and the South Atlantic. Thesis

shrimp are generally classified by the color of the shells

(ie pink, brown and white shrimp). differences in

appearance and taste are difficult to distinguish but it is

thought that the Gulf white shrimp (although the most

expensive) are the most desirable.

Shrimp come in a wide range of sizes; naturally, the larger

the shrimp, the higher the price. Size Ratings Range

from Tiny (150 to 180 shrimp per pound) to Colossal (10

shrimp or less per pound). Although larger shrimp can cost

more per pound and it will be easier to prepare (because

have fewer of them), they don’t necessarily taste better

than the little ones.


Shrimp ain’t cheap so you’ll want to be sure

that the shrimp you buy are of the best quality. Follow the

guidelines below when purchasing and storing shrimp:

When buying shrimp:

Buy frozen shrimp in their shells if possible.

Most shrimp are frozen as soon as they are processed and

the longer they stay frozen, the fresher they will be.

Look for shrimp with firm white meat and a full shell. Avoid

frozen shrimp that have already been peeled and deveined, such as

shrimp will be less protected from freezer burn

without its shell.

Do not buy shrimp with black spots or rings (unless it is

black tiger shrimp) as this indicates that the meat is beginning to

to break down. Also avoid pink meat.

Make sure the shell is not yellow; this indicates that the

the shrimp have been blanched.

Avoid shrimp that smell like anything other than salt water.

It should have a clean odor with no traces of ammonia or


Beware of labels like ‘large’ or ‘jumbo’ as there are

there are no firm guidelines for such terms. for each shrimp

variety (size), the market or grocery store must display the

number of shrimp that make up a pound – use this as a

guidelines in place.

Cooked shrimp must be purchased the same day they are

Cooked. If cooked in the shell, the shrimp should be

pinkish orange with opaque rather than translucent flesh.

Avoid freshly cooked seafood that is on display next to raw.

fish or shellfish, as bacteria can migrate from raw meat

when cooked

When storing shrimp:

Raw shrimp should be stored like fish and used the same day purchased.

When you buy frozen shrimp, make sure they are still solid.

frozen when they reach the home freezer.

Cook raw shrimp before freezing…since ‘fresh’ shrimp are

most of the time previously frozen and then thawed in the market.

Cooked, shelled, and deveined shrimp can be frozen in

airtight packaging. Most types of raw or cooked shrimp can be

keep safely frozen for up to two months at room temperature.

Always thaw frozen seafood in the refrigerator rather than at room temperature.


It is much easier to eat shrimp that have been peeled before

for cooking, but the shells add flavor to the dish. From

Of course, you can buy shrimp that have already been

shelled, deveined and ready to cook, but this makes

shrimp much more expensive. Shrimp will cost less if

buy them in the shell and learn how to shell and become them

yourself. Once you know how, it really isn’t difficult.

How to peel the shrimp:

To remove the shell from raw shrimp, use a small

knife to make a shallow cut in the back (outer curve

side) of each shrimp. Use your fingers to remove the shell.

and legs, leaving the tail part attached to the meat.

How to become shrimp:

The black “vein” that runs along the back of the shrimp is

actually your digestive tract. no need to remove

the vein, but the shrimp certainly look better and some say

they taste better when they are deveined. You can become a shrimp while

leaving the shell on (the shell adds flavor and can protect

the meat if you are grilling the shrimp).

For easy access to the vein of shelled shrimp,

Cut the back (curved outer side) of the shell with a

kitchen knife or scissors. Use a small beak (‘shrimp beak’),

a skewer or your fingers to find the vein and pull it out.

Extract as much as possible from the vein (working cold).

running water will help free the vein). Repeat in several

other areas until the vein has been completely removed.

How to butterfly shrimp:

Many recipes will call for ‘butterfly’ shrimp. The wound

shelled shrimp are split and flattened to give them a nice

appearance or aid in preparation, such as battering and


First peel the shrimp leaving the tail attached. next

insert a knife or kitchen shears about 3/4 of the way into

shrimp in the head region. Cut almost all the way

through the meat, down the center of the back of the shrimp and

to the tail Use your hands to open the shrimp meat.

until flat. Remove the vein with your fingers or with the

tip of a knife. Hold the shrimp under cold running water to

rinse well.

Methods of cooking shrimp:

When cooking shrimp, it is important to heat them

enough to destroy harmful organisms, but not as much

The meat toughens and loses flavor. This can

happen with just a few seconds of overcooking. The kitchen must be

closely supervised and times will vary by size.

Shrimp will undergo a characteristic change when cooked that

indicates that it is ready. Properly cooked shrimp meat

will become opaque and the color will change from

gray-green to pink or orange.

BAKED: Peeled shrimp stay moist when baked in foil

Baking packets in foil, arrange shrimp in a large square

of heavy-duty aluminum foil and add lemon slices and butter (herbs

and spices can also be added, if desired). fold the sheet

over shrimp and seal by bringing edges together.

Bake in an oven that has been preheated to 375F until just barely

done (approximately 5 minutes).

BOILED: Shelled or unshelled shrimp that are cooked ahead of time to serve cold or to use in a recipe are usually boiled. Add the raw shrimp to the water that has been brought to a boil. To give it more flavor, add a few lemon slices and boil the crab to

Water. Avoid overcooking or the shrimp will toughen and

loose flavor. Medium shrimp (2 to 3 inches long) take only

about 2 minutes to cook; larger shrimp take 3-5 minutes.

GRILLED OR GRILLED: Shrimp, shelled or unshelled, can be grilled on skewers or roasted in the oven; however, leaving

the shells will protect the delicate meat as it cooks and

add flavor. A marinade or baste will keep the shrimp moist.

while cooking.

MICROWAVE: This is a quick method of cooking shrimp. Arrange the shrimp (preferably shelled) around the edge of a

microwave-safe saucepan with tails pointing down

center Sprinkle with lemon juice and cook over high heat for 2

to 3 minutes. Be careful not to overcook.

POACHED: This cooking method works well for shell-on or shell-on shrimp. Shrimp poached in a mixture of water and lemon

juice or wine Flavor poaching liquid with herbs, yew

wanted. To poach 2 pounds of shrimp, bring 2 quarts of

liquid over low heat, add the shrimp and bring to a

boil. Once the liquid boils, cook the shrimp for 60 seconds,

then remove it immediately.

JUMP: This method of cooking shrimp traditionally

requires a bit of butter or oil, both for flavor and for

to prevent the shrimp from sticking to the pan. Remove the

shrimp from the pan immediately when they are done, or

continue to cook (and may overcook) from the heat of the pan


STEAMED: Steamed shrimp provide a smooth, fat-free flavor and

tasty cooking method. Steamed shelled shrimp in a

collapsible steamer or rack to steam over boiling water.

Seasonings can be added to the water in the steamer to

additional flavoring. Cook until the shell on the back

of the shrimp “lifts” from the meat.

SAUTE: Stir-frying is a quick cooking method that is very suitable for preparing shrimp. Cook and remove the peeled.

wok shrimp as soon as done then stir fry

the remaining ingredients on the plate. Return shrimp to

the cooked ingredients in the pan to reheat briefly

immediately before serving.

According to Bubba and Forrest Gump…

Shrimp is perhaps the most versatile shellfish in the world.

market. The amount of ingredients that complement the shrimp is

unlimited as it adapts well to both spicy and simple recipes.

Shrimp not only make a great gumbo, but can also be made

a simple pasta and sauce recipe in an elegant dish.

Although the ingredients may vary, there are only a few

Basic methods of shrimp preparation. Once you know how

select good shrimp and have a basic understanding of how to

prepare them, you will find endless ways to enjoy this

crustacean with a delicate and succulent flavor.

Copyright © 2005 Janice Faulk Duplantis

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