Guide to Cooking With Fresh Shrimp
Shrimp is a popular protein around the world, finding a place in a variety of cuisines and dishes. Its popularity extends to the United States as well, where it is the most eaten seafood in the country, making up more than a quarter of the seafood consumed annually. In fact, more than one billion pounds of it flood the US market each year.
With how much people love shrimp, it is no surprise that there are a lot of ways to cook it. However, the difference between getting perfectly cooked shrimp or not is razor-thin. You also need to make sure that you are using fresh shrimp, which can be difficult. The goal of this article is to teach you what you need to know to cook with fresh shrimp.
Start With Finding the Freshest Shrimp
When it comes to shrimp, you want the freshest product that you can find. Some people live by the water and can take advantage of certain local markets that have the freshest selections or go directly to shrimpers, but that is not the case in most areas. Therefore, it is important to know how to get the best you can in your area.
The first piece of advice is to avoid “fresh” shrimp at your local store. Unless they happen to have direct access to a shrimper and get their product daily, the shrimp you find at a fishmonger in a grocery store is just thawed shrimp from their frozen selection. You want to avoid that since you do not know how long it has been sitting there.
The better option is to get frozen shrimp and thaw it yourself, selecting the freshest-looking product that has been flash-frozen or Individually Quick Frozen (IQF). There are other options as well, such as getting your shrimp delivered from Sun Shrimp, but the important thing is selecting the freshest shrimp you can get your hands on.
Keep in Mind That Fresh Shrimp Is Highly Perishable
While fresh shrimp is definitely the way to go, it does have a shorter shelf life than frozen shrimp, so if you do find something truly fresh, then you need to use it quickly. Here are some guidelines when it comes to fresh shrimp:
- Fresh shrimp without a shell last 1-2 days in a fridge
- Fresh shrimp without a shell last 6-9 months in a freezer
- Fresh shrimp with the shell on last 2-3 days in a fridge
- Fresh shrimp with the shell on last 9-12 months in a freezer
Proper storage is important. When you buy fresh shrimp, you need to put it in the fridge or freezer immediately to preserve it. Moreover, keeping it away from moisture is important, and if you plan on freezing it, make sure to use a container that is meant for the freezer.
Make Sure Everything Is Prepared
Once you know how and where to find the freshest shrimp, it is time to decide on the preparation of the shrimp you are going to purchase. After all, you can get the entire shrimp, or you can save yourself some effort and buy them without certain parts. A few of the ways you can purchase shrimp are:
- Whole Shrimp: These include the head, shell, and everything else.
When it comes to cooking, picking the easiest one is not always the answer. Some dishes call for the head to add flavor or for the stock, and the shell can pack a delicious punch as well. Of course, you need to balance that with how much time and energy you want to spend working with the protein, but it is something to consider.
The shells add a lot of flavor, which makes them something you should not give up without thinking about it first. However, that is not the only way to add some flavor to your shrimp. You can also consider brining your shrimp before cooking them if you want to step things up a notch.
It might sound odd to brine shrimp since they are already notoriously easy to overcook, but it can add a lot of juiciness and increase the flavor to another level. It is not always necessary, but it is quite easy, and if you have the time, you should give it a try. All you need is some baking soda, salt, water, and an hour of time.
The Effect of Size on Cooking
Size is another thing you should consider when you are deciding on the shrimp you want to use. The size of shrimp can impact how easily they overcook, with smaller shrimp cooking faster than larger shrimp. Therefore, if you are inexperienced when it comes to shrimp, you might want to go with something more forgiving.
That being said, if you get bigger shrimp, you still need to make sure that you defrost them properly. Shrimp should be at room temperature, regardless of the size, or you risk overcooking the outside before heat ever reaches the inside of the shrimp. Though, you should make sure you know how to properly thaw them to avoid any problems.
Thawing Your Shrimp
As mentioned above, shrimp needs to be fully thawed and at room temperature to be cooked correctly. However, you should never just let it sit out or place it in warm water. Both of those methods will lead to problems. Instead, do one of these things:
- Let it sit in the fridge for around 24 hours per pound
- Sit it in a colander under cold running water until it is thawed
Using a colander along with cold water is the fastest way, but both work. Either way, make sure it is thawed properly, then let it reach room temperature. Once those things are done, you can move on to one of the cooking methods below.
How to Actually Cook Fresh Shrimp
Now that some of the basics are out of the way, it is time to look at the different methods for cooking with fresh shrimp, and there are a significant number of them. Some of the different methods include boiling, sautéing, grilling, deep-frying, and baking. Moreover, they all finish quickly, making it a great choice when you want a quick but tasty meal.
Contrary to what one might believe when they think of boiling, it does not have to be boring. In fact, boiling covers a wide range of things, and it is not just throwing shrimp in water and calling it a day. That being said, there is a proper way to boil shrimp by itself, and it really is not boiling at all.
Because shrimp cook so quickly, if you actually put them in boiling water, you run the risk of overcooking them. You can pull it off, carefully watching them and yanking them out when they have reached perfection, but there is an easier way when you are dealing with shrimp, which is to start with cool water instead.
If you start with cool water, you can heat the shrimp and water at the same time. Watch the water until it hits around 170 degrees, then turn off your stove. After draining and rinsing the shrimp under cool water to stop the cooking process, you should have perfect shrimp. Shrimp boiled this way is great for use in something like a shrimp salad.
Alternatively, you can boil shrimp as part of a soup, stew, or chowder. The same is true if you want a traditional shrimp boil. In these cases, you start by cooking your other ingredients, waiting until the end to put the shrimp in. By putting the shrimp in last, you prevent them from overcooking.
Sautéing shrimp is the ideal method for cooking, and it is used in a variety of dishes. You will find this method used for things like stir fry, scampi, and blackened shrimp. Even shrimp and grits relies on pan-frying peeled shrimp in bacon grease before adding some other goodies to pull out a heavenly flavor.
However, specific recipes aside, there is a basic way to saute shrimp that will not let you down. You start with a non-stick pan or skillet. Once you have your skillet, add some oil and turn the stove on medium-high heat. From there, all you have to do is let it heat up and add the shrimp, cooking it for around one to two minutes per side.
When you are sautéing shrimp, you can always pay close attention and wait for it to turn pink and start to curl. After you see those signs of it being done, pull it out without hesitation to prevent it from being overcooked. Also, keep the quick cook time in mind and have any other ingredients prepared beforehand to avoid rushing around in a panic.
Grilling is a method that is sure to bring out some incredible flavor and please everyone involved. It is also one of the easiest ways, with grilling being all about the shrimp. All you need to do is pick out your shrimp, add some oil and seasoning, and get to cooking.
The same rules that apply to sauteed shrimp apply to grilled shrimp as well. If you do not oil them well, they have a tendency to stick. Moreover, they only need about two minutes per side, with any longer risking the shrimp being overcooked.
A big difference between sauteed and grilled shrimp is that you might want to leave the shell on for grilled shrimp. Shelled shrimp works better on a grill, and since the shell often adds more flavor, it is worth the extra time peeling it after. Just keep an eye on the shell if you choose to grill it with the shell on, letting it get pink before yanking it off.
There are a lot of reasons to deep fry shrimp, and it is not just because it is an easy way to cook something. In fact, it might be the opposite when it comes to shrimp. Shrimp already cooks quickly, and deep frying only makes that process faster and more time-sensitive, cooking it in as little as one to two minutes.
However, if you are willing to figure the timing out, you can make something truly delicious, cooking shrimp that has a crispy texture on the outside while remaining juicy on the inside. You can even play with the breading to produce something special, which is seen in recipes like coconut shrimp.
Aside from time, you should also pay close attention to temperature when you are deep frying shrimp. If you go over or under about 375 degrees Fahrenheit, then you risk making a mess of your deep-fried shrimp, which would be a real shame.
While baking shrimp might not be the best choice in many situations, with other options being easier, there are times when it works great. An example is when you have other things to bake and can just add them towards the end. Therefore, under certain circumstances, it is easier to toss them in the oven and let them roast to perfection.
The process of roasting is an easy one, with around 400 degrees being the ideal temperature. If you go with a temperature of 400 degrees, you will only need around seven minutes to make perfectly cooked shrimp. All you need to look for is the same pink color and curl that lets you know they are done when using the other methods.
Sun Shrimp Makes Cooking With Shrimp Easier
Sun Shrimp does not sell shrimp that do not overcook, so the basic premise of making sure you do not overcook your shrimp remains the same. However, Sun Shrimp is a great choice for a few reasons, with the first being the fact that they deliver their product directly to you, and it is sent out within hours of being harvested.
Since Sun Shrimp ensures that you get the freshest shrimp anywhere in the US, you can focus on the other aspects that are important, such as the preparation you want. Sun Shrimp offers a range of preparations, including:
- Whole Sun Shrimp
- Sun Shrimp Tails
- Peeled and Deveined Sun Shrimp
They also sell a Sun Shrimp BBQ Feast that is perfect for grilling. It comes with some of their great shrimp, bamboo sticks, spices, and all the olive oil you will need. Plus, just like all of Sun Shrimps products, the shrimp comes in their incredible packaging, which eliminates messes and keeps things as easy as possible.
So, if you want to add some of America’s favorite seafood to your diet, you definitely can. All you need to do is pick a cooking method or recipe, get some fresh shrimp, and get to cooking. The best part is, with Sun Shrimp, fresh is always an option!