Ingredient of the Week, July 14: Shrimp
Each type or species of shrimp have their own characteristics with flavor, texture, cooking times, and a best cooking method for them. You have Gulf Shrimp, Farm Raised Shrimp, Tiger Shrimp, Imported Shrimp, and Coldwater Shrimp. In fact, there are over 300 species of shrimp in the world.
The flavor and texture of each type of shrimp are influenced by the waters they come from or are raised in, plus from what they eat or are fed. Wild shrimp feed on seaweed and crustaceans which gives them a more enriched flavor and thicker shells. The ability to swim freely also makes the meat firmer.
Shrimp are found abundantly in America, off the Atlantic and Pacific seaboards in inshore waters, wherever the bottom is sandy. Shrimp are in season from May to October and 95% of the shrimp caught come from the warm waters of the South Atlantic and Gulf states.
How To Purchase Shrimp
Fresh shrimp is highly perishable! Fresh shrimp should ideally be eaten within 24 hours of purchase. Unless you live in the part of the country where you can actually buy "fresh" shrimp, it is best to buy frozen shrimp. Most shrimp in the grocery stores are frozen shrimp that has been thawed. The shelf like of thawed shrimp is only a couple of days, whereas shrimp stored in the freezer retain their quality for several weeks.
Fresh Shrimp: Avoid shrimp that smells of anything other than salt water. If there is any hint of the aroma of ammonia, it's a sign the shrimp is way past its prime. Truly fresh shrimp will have almost translucent flesh. 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.
Frozen Shrimp: If possible, AVOID shrimp that has been peeled and deveined before freezing. It can cause a loss of flavor and texture (shells will help to protect the meat of the shrimp and add more flavor to it).
1 pound of raw shrimp in their shells = about 1/2 pound peeled and cooked shrimp
In the United States, shrimp are sold by count. This is a rating of the size and weight of the shrimp. The count represents the number of shrimp in a pound for a given size category.
Purchase shrimp by the count - not the size: This shrimp sizing chart is to be used for buying frozen or fresh Shrimp in the shell without the head on. All shrimp are sold by sizes, whether they are sold by the actual count or by a name such as jumbo or extra large. Shrimp will be labeled both ways to help you determine the size you are buying. For example a Jumbo Shrimp would have 21 to 25 shrimp per pound.
How To Defrost Frozen Shrimp:
Never defrost any type of shellfish at room temperature and it is best not to defrost them in the microwave either. Defrost shrimp either in the refrigerator or in ice cold water. Do not defrost in a warm place or microwave.
How To De-veining Shrimp:
(Photo on right is of different types of shrimp de-veiners that can be purchased.)
Should shrimp be de-veined?
The black "vein" that runs along the back of the shrimp is actually its digestive tract. These veins are in fact edible but if eaten they can taste gritty and dirty, particularly with larger prawns or shrimp.
While it isn't necessary to remove the vein, some people say the shrimp look and taste better when de-veined. This is pretty much a question of aesthetics. Most cooks won't bother de-veining medium-sized or smaller shrimp, unless they look particularly dirty. You can see the vein through the shell and meat, so use your own judgment.
Shrimp cook well in or out of their shells, but they're easier to de-vein before cooking.
Run the de-veiner or the tip of a small knife down the back of the shrimp. This will allow you to remove the vein.
You may remove the shell at this time or boil with shell on and remove after cooking.
If frying, shell should be removed first.
You can de-vein shrimp while leaving the shell on (the shell adds flavor and can protect the meat if you're grilling the shrimp.)
How To Cook Shrimp:
Shrimp can be cooking in a variety of way. They can be boiled, steamed, grilled, sautéed, baked, or deep-fried. They can also be cooked with or without the shell, with the vein or deveined.
Shrimp should always be cooked quickly in order to preserve their sweet, delicate flavors. They are very quick to cook, and the flavor can easily be ruined by overcooking. Most shrimp cook in as little as 3 minutes - when they're pink, they are done.
Boiling Method: This is probably the most common method of cooking shrimp, particularly the smaller types. To properly boil shrimp:
Place a pound of shrimp in a quart of rapidly boiling water with (3) three tablespoons of salt.
Reduce the heat, cover the pan, and return to a boil. Let simmer until the flesh has lost its glossy appearance and is opaque in center (cut to test).
Jumbo shrimp take about 7 to 8 minutes, large shrimp take about 5 to 7 minutes, and medium size are done in about 3 to 4 minutes.
If your shrimp are to be used in a recipe and not eaten right away after cooking (such as grilling), they should be plunged into cold water to stop the cooking process. (Do not let them cool in the cooking liquid. They will continue to cook and get tough)
Grilling is a popular method for cooking larger shrimp. Smaller shrimp may also be grilled, but it is usually best to put them on skewers first.
Once the grill is hot place the larger shrimp or skewered smaller shrimp on the prepared grill, leaving room between each shrimp or skewer.
Brush the prawns with a little olive oil and then sprinkle them with salt, pepper, and garlic.
Grill for 3 to 4 minutes or until the prawns have turned pink, turning the shrimp and/or skewers once halfway through cooking time.
Remove from the heat and serve.
How To Freeze Shrimp - (Raw or Cooked)
Select high-quality, fresh shrimp for freezing. Shrimp can be frozen cooked or raw, in or out of the shell. For maximum storage life and quality, freeze shrimp raw, with heads removed, but shells still on. Shrimp may also be frozen in water in a freezer container or wrap it well in plastic and place it in the coldest part of the freezer where it will keep for about one month.
How do you like to cook shrimp? What's your favorite way to serve it?