How to Select and Prepare Shrimp

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

America’s most favorite. Even people who dislike fish seem

to enjoy shrimp and there is an endless number of ways in

which shrimp may be prepared. The dense white meat of shrimp

has a fresh, mild flavor that combines well with many

ingredients. Shrimp is great for dieters as they are very

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

level of cholesterol than most seafood so that must be taken

into consideration if anyone has been advised by their

physician to limit their cholesterol intake.

Of the numerous species of shrimp sold worldwide, saltwater

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

water’ species. Cold water shrimp are caught in the North

Atlantic and northern Pacific waters while warm water shrimp

are caught in tropical waters. The majority of warm water

shrimp available in the United States are harvested from the

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

shrimp are generally classified by the color of the shells

(i.e., pink, brown and white shrimp). The differences in

appearance and flavor 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 classifications range

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

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

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

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

than the smaller ones.


Shrimp are not inexpensive, so you will want to be certain

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

guidelines below when purchasing and storing shrimp:

When buying shrimp:

Purchase frozen shrimp with their shells on if possible.

Most all shrimp are frozen as soon as they’re processed, and

the longer they stay frozen, the fresher they’ll be.

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

frozen shrimp that has already been peeled and deveined, as

the shrimp will be less protected against freezer burn

without its shell.

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

black tiger shrimp) as this indicates the meat is starting

to break down. Also avoid pink meat.

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

shrimp has been bleached.

Avoid shrimp that smells of anything other than salt water.

It should have a clean smell with no trace of ammonia or


Be cautious of labels such as ‘large’ or ‘jumbo,’ as there

are no firm guidelines for such terms. For each shrimp

variety (size), the market or grocery should display the

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

guideline instead.

Cooked shrimp should be purchased the same day they were

cooked. If cooked in the shell, shrimp should be

pinkish-orange with opaque rather than translucent flesh.

Avoid fresh-cooked seafood that is displayed alongside raw

fish or shellfish, as bacteria can migrate from the raw meat

to the cooked.

When storing shrimp:

Uncooked shrimp should be stored like fish and used the same day they are purchased.

When buying frozen shrimp, make sure they are still solidly

frozen when they reach the home freezer.

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

most often previously frozen and then thawed at the market.

Cooked, shelled, and deveined shrimp may be frozen in

airtight packaging. Most types of raw or cooked shrimp can

be safely kept frozen for up to two months at a temperature.

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


It is much easier to eat shrimp that have been shelled prior

to cooking, but the shells do add flavor to the dish. Of

course, shrimp may be purchased that have already been

shelled, deveined and are ready to be cooked, but this makes

the shrimp far more expensive. Shrimp will cost less if you

buy them in the shell and learn to shell and devein them

yourself. Once you know how, it’s really not difficult.

How to shell shrimp:

To remove the shell from uncooked shrimp, use a small sharp

knife to make a shallow cut down the back (outer curved

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

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

How to devein shrimp:

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

actually its digestive tract. It isn’t necessary to remove

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

they taste better when deveined. You can devein shrimp while

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

the meat if you’re grilling the shrimp.)

To make it easier to access the vein of unshelled shrimp,

cut down the back (outer curved side) of the shell with a

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

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

Pull out as much of the vein as possible (working under cold

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

other areas until the vein has been fully removed.

How to dallas cowboys vintage sweatshirt shrimp:

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

shelled shrimp are split and flatten to give them a pretty

appearance or aid in preparation, such as battering and


First shell the shrimp leaving the tail attached. Next

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

the shrimp at the head region. Cut almost all the way

through the flesh, down the center of the shrimp’s back and

to the tail. Use your hands to open the flesh of the shrimp

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

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

rinse thoroughly.

Methods of cooking shrimp:

When cooking shrimp, it is important to heat them

sufficiently to destroy harmful organisms, but not so long

that the flesh becomes tough and looses flavor. This can

happen with only seconds of overcooking. Cooking must be

closely monitored and times will vary depending on size.

Shrimp will undergo a characteristic change when cooked that

indicates doneness. The flesh of adequately cooked shrimp

will turn opaque and the color will change from a

grayish-green to pink or orange.

BAKED: Peeled shrimp turn out moist when baked in foil

packets. To bake in foil, place the shrimp on a large square

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

and spices may also be added, if desired). Fold the foil

over the shrimp and seal by crimping the edges together.

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

done (approximately 5 minutes).

BOILED: Shelled or unshelled shrimp that are cooked ahead to be served cold or used in a recipe are usually boiled. Add raw shrimp to water that has been brought to a rolling boil. For extra flavor, add a few lemon wedges and crab-boil to

the 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 to 5 minutes.

BROILED or GRILLED: Shrimp, in or out of the shell, can be grilled on skewers or broiled in the oven; however, leaving

the shells on will protect the delicate meat as it cooks and

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

as it cooks.

MICROWAVED: This is a quick method for cooking shrimp. Place shrimp (preferably unshelled) around the edge of a

microwave-safe casserole dish with the tails pointing toward

the center. Drizzle with lemon juice and cook on high for 2

to 3 minutes. Be careful not to overcook.

POACHED: This cooking method works well for shrimp in or out of the shell. Poach shrimp in a mixture of water and lemon

juice or wine. Flavor the poaching liquid with herbs, if

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

liquid to a gentle simmer, add the shrimp and bring to a

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

then remove immediately.

SAUTEED: This method for cooking shrimp traditionally

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

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

shrimp from the pan promptly when done, or they will

continue cooking (and may overcook) from the pan’s heat


STEAMED: Steaming shrimp provides a gentle, fat-free and

flavorful method of cooking. Steam unshelled shrimp in a

collapsible steamer or steaming rack over boiling water.

Seasonings may be added to the water in the steamer for

additional flavoring. Cook just until the shell on the back

of the shrimp ‘lifts’ away from the meat.

STIR-FRIED: Stir-frying is a quick-cooking method that is well suited for preparing shrimp. Cook and remove the peeled

shrimp from the wok as soon as they are done then stir-fry

the remaining ingredients in the dish. Return the shrimp to

the cooked ingredients in the pan to briefly reheat

immediately prior to serving.

According to Bubba and Forrest Gump…

Shrimp is perhaps the most versatile shellfish on the

market. The number of ingredients shrimp compliment is

limitless as it adapts well to both spicy and plain recipes.

Not only does shrimp make an excellent gumbo, it can also turn

a plain pasta and sauce recipe into an elegant dish.

Although the ingredients may vary, there are only a few

basic methods of preparing shrimp. Once you know how to

select good shrimp and have a basic knowledge of how to

prepare them, you will find endless ways to enjoy this

delicate, succulent tasting crustacean.

Copyright ©2005 Janice Faulk Duplantis

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