The majority of shrimp that you will find to purchase are farm-raised and frozen. This is not to say that you can’t find fresh (thawed) or wild shrimp. The majority of fresh shrimp, though, has been previously frozen. Shrimp that is wild will be explicitly marked as wild.
Shrimp are sold by size (per pound). For instance, 14-16 count means you will get 14-16 shrimp in a pound. This means 14-16 count would be larger shrimp than 20-24 count. Shrimp in the shell are thought of as having the most flavor.
Options when Buying: There are many other options when buying shrimp, though, like shelled, head removed, peeled & deveined, and fully cooked.
- Shell-on shrimp are normally cheaper than shell-off and usually have more flavor. They tend to be less often mangled or deformed because the shell has protected them as they go to market.
- EZ-peel shrimp are deveined and split but still have the shell-on. These are sort of the best of both worlds as they hold onto the flavor from the shell while making it easier to remove the shell and consume. These are normally priced higher than shell-on for those reasons and often have a deeper gouge from deveining than if you would do it yourself. This is mostly visual but if you’re for the best appearance, you will probably want to devein them yourself.
- Pre-peeled shrimp have had all of the work done to them so they are the easiest to prepare. Because of this, they are usually the highest-priced shrimp. Since they have the shell removed, these are prone to having damage done to them mainly because of overhandling.
Checking for Freshness: The first sign that shrimp is becoming perishable or has already spoiled is the smell of ammonia. Another sign of spoilage is if they look limp or are beginning to fall apart. These are signs that the shrimp have started to decay.
- Thaw your frozen shrimp in the refrigerator overnight. Do not use the microwave or thaw at room temperature on the kitchen counter. If you are pressed for time, fill and seal a Ziploc bag and run under cold water for 5 to 10 minutes (do not use warm or hot water).
- Cook shrimp to an internal temperature of 120 degrees and no more. Look for the shrimp to turn opaque pink. If they begin to curl up, they are starting to become overcooked.
- When cooking shrimp on the grill, you will only need to cook about 2 minutes per side. The easiest way to ensure this is by skewering your shrimp before adding them to the grill.
- Deveining your shrimp is not a step you want to skip. Eating a shrimp that has not been deveined won’t hurt you but it can take away from the naturally sweet taste of the shrimp. Using either a sharp pairing knife or kitchen shears, you cut or snip a shallow ridge starting from the head down to the tail and then gently scrape out the black strip running through the shrimp.
- Cooking with the shell on can help limit overcooking your shrimp when using high heat. With the shell on, your shrimp will not cook quite as fast so when using cooking methods like grilling, this can help you cook your shrimp to perfection.