Shrimp is one of the most beloved pieces of seafood in the world. That is especially the case in the US, where the amount of shrimp consumed each year exceeds one billion pounds. Because of that, there are numerous recipes and ways to cook shrimp, and among them, one of the best ways is smoking.
Shrimp is clean, crisp, and mildly sweet, especially when it is fresh, which lends itself well to smoking. Part of the reason for that is because it works well with other flavors, allowing you to coat it with a seasoning or pair it with a sauce and bring out even more variety and flavor than you can get with many other proteins.
It is also versatile in the sense that it can be smoked in multiple ways with great success. Therefore, shrimp and smoking are a combination that is definitely worth considering, and it even has a few distinct advantages that will be discussed in the coming article, so make sure to keep reading to learn more.
What Makes Smoking Special
Smoking is the process of cooking food through exposure to smoke, and that brings some great advantages. The biggest of which, at least as far as meals are concerned, is flavor. Smoking pulls out a lot of flavor, and it is not limited to the shrimp. The wood and other ingredients all combine with the natural flavors of the shrimp to enhance the taste.
If you smoke it in the right way, you can also expect smoked food to have a decent shelf life. Additionally, as mentioned before, there is a lot of variety in technique and flavor with smoking, so once you master it, you do not have to worry about eating the same thing time after time.
Fresh or Frozen Shrimp?
One of the things you have to be careful about when smoking shrimp is the texture. If you find that the shrimp is slimy, then not only could it be bad, but it will not smoke as well. Therefore, it is important to pick your ingredients carefully and go with frozen shrimp if you cannot find truly fresh shrimp.
Even if you buy fresh shrimp, you will want to use it quickly, such as the same day, since it goes bad quickly. That being said, fresh is always better, and there are some options for getting fresh shrimp, such as Sun Shrimp.
Since Sun Shrimp harvests and ships shrimp daily, you can trust that it will arrive fresh and ready to smoke. Sun Shrimp also comes in vacuum skin packaging, so you do not have to worry about a slimy texture.
Moreover, even if you need to freeze them for later use, you can rest assured that they have not been dethawed and refrozen many times like other shrimp. So, if you want to try making smoked shrimp with fresh shrimp but do not have access to truly fresh shrimp, there is always Sun Shrimp.
Does Size Matter for Smoking?
Another thing that you need to consider when smoking shrimp is the size of the shrimp. When you make many dishes, the size will not matter, but there is a preference when it comes to smoked shrimp. Mainly, you want shrimp that will hold up under high-heat cooking, which is difficult for smaller shrimp to handle.
That being the case, medium to large shrimp are best. Fortunately, it is not difficult to find large shrimp. In fact, Sun Shrimp carries large and jumbo shrimp that are perfect for smoking. Moreover, they are peeled and deveined, making them a convenient option for anyone looking to try the delicious combination of smoke and shrimp.
Preparation When Smoking Shrimp
The first step to smoking shrimp is to make ample preparations. These range from the basics of thawing and removing the unwanted parts to seasoning and adding any sauce you might want. The following section will go step by step through the process of preparing your shrimp for a successful smoking experience.
Thawing the Shrimp
Even if you get incredibly fresh shrimp, there is likely to be some thawing required. That might not be the case if you go to a store and get “fresh” shrimp from a seafood counter, but that is not the best choice. After all, the fresh shrimp at most seafood markets is just the frozen shrimp they sell that has been defrosted.
Therefore, you need to know how to properly defrost shrimp without harming the shrimp. One way to do that is by using a colander. Colanders are great for thawing shrimp because they let you keep water running, which makes the entire process easy. All you have to do is leave the shrimp under cold running water for 15-20 minutes.
If you prefer efficiency over speed and do not want to waste water, you can also use a water bath and soak the shrimp. All you have to do for that is get a bowl of water, leave the shrimp in for ten minutes or so, then drain the shrimp and repeat the process for another 15 minutes.
Finally, when you plan ahead, you can leave the shrimp in the fridge overnight. The key to keeping them in the fridge is to make sure they are covered with a lid or some kind of wrap, protecting them as they slowly thaw. When you go to take them out, simply rinse them beneath some cold water to finish the process.
Get Them Ready to Season
The next step is crucial if you plan to properly season and smoke your shrimp. The first thing you must do is dry them thoroughly. You have to be careful because you do not want to leave any excess moisture behind. You also need to ensure that you do not do anything that might damage the shrimp, so patting them gently until they are dry is best.
Once the shrimp are thawed and dry, you will want to cook them as soon as possible. To do that, they need to be peeled and deveined, which can be daunting at first but only requires a few steps. You can follow this general process to prepare your shrimp:
Chop off the head and remove the legs if necessary
Use your finger to get between the shrimp and the shell to pull it off
Make a shallow cut down the back of the shrimp and remove the dark vein
It might not seem easy at first, but the process does not take long to figure out. After that, you are ready to season.
Seasoning the Shrimp
Seasoning the shrimp is where it gets fun. There are a vast number of recipes and ideas out there for seasoning shrimp, from simple to complex. You can even consider different types of wood to get some flavor from the smoke. But you can also go simple, tossing on some herbs or garlic, even some heat, or let the natural flavor shine through.
Smoking the Shrimp
Now that the prep is out of the way, you can dive into actually smoking the shrimp, which can be done in a variety of ways. You will even find multiple temperature suggestions, though the important part is to strike a balance between cooked and overcooked shrimp.
The general principle is to keep a close eye on the shrimp and bring the internal temperature to 120°F. If you see the shrimp constrict, it has been overcooked. To accomplish this with smoking, a good rule of thumb is a smoking temp of around 225-250°F.
You will also want to try to match the type of wood you use to the seasoning and flavor you want, though there are plenty of resources out there to help you find a winning combination. More importantly, you have to consider your cooking method.
Methods for Smoking Shrimp
While there are many ways, perhaps one of the best is a grilling basket, which allows you to smoke the shrimp with the added benefit of leaving the tails on. Because the tails are left, they are easy to eat by hand and are the ideal choice for those wanting to dive right in. However, just like grilling, skewers are also a fantastic choice.
It is hard to beat the convenience of skewers when it comes to preparing shrimp. It is easy to handle and serve, and it works well for smoking because there is room between the shrimp, which allows for even cooking.
Finally, you can decide to put the shrimp on a buttered pan and smoke them that way, though this will mean less smoke and ultimately not as much smokey flavor.
There are a few more things you should consider when smoking shrimp. The first is to not leave the shrimp in the smoker longer than around 30 minutes. At that point, they will become tough and difficult to eat. You also want to preheat your smoker every time so the shrimp start cooking immediately when placed inside.
Additionally, if you want a strong smoked flavor, a great choice is pecan wood, which might be a great starting point for your first attempt at smoking shrimp. Regardless of what you choose, you are sure to enjoy it. And if you need fresh shrimp to take things to the next level, there is always Sun Shrimp.