What are the best tips when buying shrimp?

What are the best tips when buying shrimp?


Shrimp is a delicious and nutritious seafood that can be used in various dishes. However, choosing the right shrimp can be daunting, especially if you’re not well-versed in the different types of shrimp available. Whether you’re shopping for fresh or frozen shrimp, you should know a few things to get the best quality and flavour. In this article, we will provide some of the best tips to consider when shopping for shrimp, from choosing the right type to checking for freshness so that you can prepare your meals with the perfect shrimp every time.


Should I buy fresh or frozen shrimp?

When choosing between fresh or frozen shrimp, there are a few factors to consider. Both fresh and frozen shrimp have their advantages and disadvantages.

Fresh shrimp has a better texture and delicate flavour than frozen shrimp and is ideal when eaten raw or grilled. However, fresh shrimp can spoil quickly, and it has a short shelf life, making it more expensive and harder to find. Fresh shrimp should be cooked within a day or two of purchase for optimal taste. Also, remember, the “fresh” shrimp on the ice at your grocery store is anything but fresh. It’s typically frozen, then thawed, and you don’t know how long it’s been sitting out.

Frozen shrimp, on the other hand, is convenient, lasts longer, can be cooked whenever needed, and is often cheaper than fresh shrimp. It can be cooked as deliciously as fresh shrimp and is perfect for recipes that call for cooked shrimp. So, frozen shrimp are a great choice if you’re looking for convenience. Frozen shrimp are flash-frozen right after being caught, which helps maintain their quality, preserving the freshest flavour. You’ll also save money and have more flexibility when you buy frozen shrimp in the shell, and then you can thaw right before preparing. Be sure to thoroughly defrost them before adding them to the marinade.

However, if you are sure it is fresh, fresh shrimp is the way to go if you prioritize taste and texture.


Should I buy shrimp with or without the shell?

peeled shrimp
shrimp with shell
shrimp with heads on

When buying shrimp, whether to get them with or without the shell depends on personal preference and how you plan to use them.

Shrimp with the shell intact tend to have a stronger flavour and better texture because the shells protect the meat and prevent moisture loss during cooking. They’re also less processed. Shrimp with shells also require more preparation time and effort, as you need to devein, peel, and remove the heads before cooking, but they can be ideal for dishes without removing shells, such as stir-fries or grilled shrimp or cooking with a sauce.

On the other hand, peeled and deveined shrimp are more convenient and faster to prepare, making them perfect for stir-fries, soups, and stews.

Ultimately, the choice between shell-on or shell-off shrimp comes down to your cooking style and the desired flavour and texture you want in your dish. Remember that shrimp with the shell has a longer shelf life, while peeled shrimp should be used within a few days. But I understand the convenience of peeled and deveined shrimp, so grab what you can.


Is cleaned and pre-cooked shrimp a good option?

Cleaned and pre-cooked shrimp can be a good option for convenience and time-saving. However, it is essential to consider the source and quality of the shrimp. Ensure the shrimp is sustainably farmed, wild-caught, and free from added chemicals or preservatives.

Pre-cooked shrimp is also convenient for salads, sandwiches or stir-fries as it can be quickly added to dishes without additional cooking. However, it is important to note that the flavour of pre-cooked shrimp will not be as intense as fresh, uncooked shrimp. Also, it may have a different texture than fresh.

cleaned and pre-cooked shrimp

Additionally, pre-cooked shrimp may have a higher sodium content due to the cooking process and added seasonings. It’s important to check the ingredient list for any additives or preservatives and to ensure they are properly stored and refrigerated to maintain their quality.

Overall, cleaned and pre-cooked shrimp can be a convenient option for quick and easy meals if it is high quality and fits into a balanced diet.

Remember: As they are already prepared, they should be added to the recipe at the end of cooking.


Which shrimp is best? Wild or farmed?

The debate over whether wild or farmed shrimp is better has been ongoing for years. Wild shrimp are caught in their natural habitat, while farmed shrimp are raised in manufactured ponds or tanks. When it comes to which is better, wild or farmed shrimp, there are several factors to consider.

Wild shrimp are often considered more sustainable and have a better flavour profile and texture, but they can also be more expensive and have a higher risk of overfishing. Wild shrimp will be free from antibiotics and injected hormones and are better for the environment.

On the other hand, farmed shrimp are more affordable and have a longer shelf life. However, there have been concerns about the use of antibiotics and environmental issues associated with shrimp farming.

Ultimately, the decision between wild and farmed shrimp depends on your preferences and priorities.


Which size of shrimp should I use?

shrimp size

When cooking with shrimp, the size you should use will depend on your recipe and preference. It’s always best to check the recipe and see if a specific size of shrimp is recommended.

How are shrimp sized?

Shrimp are typically categorized by “count” per pound (454g). 

Find the count numbers on the bag (16/20 or 21/25). It tells you the average number of shrimp in a one-pound bag.

The first number represents the lower end of the count range, and the second represents the higher end.

In the supermarket or recipes, they’re usually given names like large, extra-large, or jumbo, but these don’t uniformly describe the exact count since there’s no standard for the names.

If you’re making a recipe from a source that doesn’t give a count, use the following guide—it’s the closest thing we’ve found to a standard.

shrimp size

Shrimp sizes are based on the form in which they are purchased.

Colossal shrimp (peeled and deveined) will have more meat than colossal shrimp (shell, tail and head on). 

On average, shrimp with the head on are two sizes larger than they would be with the leaders removed.

A shrimp with just the shell and tail will be about one size larger than it would be with these removed. 

For example, if you purchased a extra jumbo 16-20 shrimp with the head on, it would be approximately a extra large 26-30-size shrimp with the head removed. Once the shell is removed, it would be roughly a large 31-35 size shrimp.

The smaller the number, the larger the shrimp.

Between U-10 and 30 per pound - Extra colossal to extra large

Suitable for recipes where shrimp is the highlight of the dish. For a dish where the shrimp stand alone, like a shrimp cocktail or fried shrimp, bigger is better.

They have more flavour and firmer texture because they are meatier. If you want your shrimp to be large and juicy, use the largest (smaller count) shrimp you can find.

If you like stuffed baked shrimp, look for ones labelled colossal or super colossal (U 10 or 12). They’ll be large enough to hold stuffing and won’t immediately overcook in the oven.

Larger shrimp, often labelled jumbo, extra jumbo, or extra-large (anywhere from 13 to 30 per pound), are ideal for simple peel-and-eat preparations.

Between 16 to 30 shrimp per pound - extra jumbo to extra large

They are ideal for most recipes.

Generally, larger shrimp like 16/20 or 21/25 are great for grilling, broiling, or dishes where you want a more substantial bite.

The Extra jumbo (16/20) is meatier and easier to work if you put them on skewers. You want your shrimp to be large and juicy. Use the largest (smaller count) shrimp you can find. If necessary, you can go smaller (usually between 31-40 counts per pound), and the recipe will still be delicious.

Between 31 to 50 shrimp per pound - large to medium

They are great for recipes where the shrimp adds flavour and is important in the look.

If you’re cooking shrimp to put in pasta, soup, stew, or salad, medium to large shrimp (anywhere from 35 to 41 shrimp per pound) are the best size because you can easily fork or spoon them up. You can go for a slightly smaller size for a shrimp boil, which includes other ingredients like corn and potatoes.

For grilling or skewering, medium-sized shrimp (usually between 31-40 counts per pound) are a good option as they are more substantial and won’t easily fall apart on the grill or skewer.

Smaller shrimp, like 31/35 or 41/50, are suitable for stir-fries, pasta dishes, or soups where you want them to cook quickly and distribute evenly throughout the dish.

Between 51 to 70 shrimp per pound - small to extra small

Use in recipes where the seafood adds flavour to the preparation but does not need to show up on the plate.
If you’re stir-frying the shrimp, smaller, bite-sized shrimp (usually between 51-60 counts per pound) are easier to cook evenly and more manageable to eat.

For shrimp salads or shrimp rolls, you can also opt for “salad shrimp,” the littlest ones (51 to 70 per pound), which don’t require any chopping.


How much to buy?

buying shrimps

When buying shrimp, a good rule of thumb is to plan for about 500g/1 pound of raw and unpeeled shrimp per person. If you are buying it peeled, 300g/10oz or, if you are buying it cooked and peeled, 120-170g/4-6oz per person.

This can vary depending on appetite and the type of dish being prepared, but it’s a good starting point.

I recommend you make more than you think you need. They’re irresistible; you’ll want to eat them all yourself.

How much weight do shrimp lose when peeled?

Shrimp peeling can result in a significant weight loss, typically around 30-40% of the original weight. This is due to removing the shell and other inedible parts, which comprise a significant portion of the shrimp’s total weight.

For example, 1 kg (2.2 pounds) of shrimp with shell yields 600-700 g (1.32-1.54lb) of clean shrimp + 300-400 g (10.58-14oz) shell and head.

So, if the recipe calls for 1 kg (2.2 pounds) of clean shrimp, consider 30-40% more weight (1.3-1.4 kg/2.86-3lb).

Why does a shrimp seem smaller after cooking it?

Shrimp may appear smaller after cooking due to various reasons. One explanation is that the heat causes the shrimp’s proteins to contract, making them appear smaller. Additionally, cooking can cause moisture loss in the shrimp, which can further contribute to their reduced size. It’s important to note that the cooking process can vary depending on the method used, so adjusting the cooking time or temperature may help maintain the original size of the shrimp. Furthermore, selecting larger shrimp can also help ensure they remain a satisfactory size after cooking.


This article is part of “How to cook shrimp


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