Shrimp can be cooked with heads and shells on, or peeled. Cooking shrimp in their shells
seals in flavor and juices, but then they must be peeled by diners at the table, a messy job
you may want to avoid. If you prefer to cook them peeled, twist off the heads, then, running
your finger along the abdomen, lift off the shells.
Shrimp have edible sand veins, actually digestive sacs, that run along their backs. Most
smaller shrimp are only peeled, but larger shrimp look more attractive deveined. If you wish
to devein a peeled shrimp, run a sharp knife along the vein, then rinse under cold eater to
remove the vein and any grit. To devein a shrimp with the shell on, cut through the shell
along the vein, then lift the vein out with a toothpick.
Brining shrimp removes excess water and gives shrimp a crunchy texture. To brine shrimp,
dissolve salt and sugar in hot water. Add a tray of ice cubes and stir. Place shrimp in the
cold solution and soak 30 minutes for peeled shrimp, or 60 minutes for shrimp with shells
Shrimp cook very quickly and toughen with heat. The secret to successful shrimp cookery is
to not overcook them. Cook shrimp at the last minute and serve them hot.
Rinse shrimp and pat dry with paper towels. Heat a frying pan until hot and add oil. Add
shrimp, making sure they are not crowded in the pan, and fry, turning occasionally, for 4 to 8
minutes, depending on size. Shrimp are done when they are opaque in the center.
Pour oil into a wok or deep fryer; it should be at least 1 1/2 inches (about 3.8cm) deep,
and the cooker should be less than half full of oil. Heat oil to 375°F (190°C),
using a thermometer to monitor temperature. Dip peeled shrimp in batter, drain, then slip them
into hot oil. Cook until brown, 2 to 3 minutes.
Pour enough cooking liquid (water or broth and
herbs and spices) in pan to cover shrimp. Bring to a boil, add shrimp, and reduce heat.
Simmer until shrimp are opaque in the center, 3 to 6 minutes, depending on size and whether or
not they have been peeled.
If shrimp are small, string them on a skewer, then place them 4 inches (about 10cm) above
prepared hot coals or fire. Cook until opaque and moist on the inside, 3 to 4 minutes.
Place aluminum foil on a baking pan and spread shrimp on top. Place 4 inches (about 10cm)
from the heat and broil 2 minutes on each side.
Buying and storing tips
Because most shrimp have been frozen and deteriorate quickly after they’ve thawed,
they stay fresher if you buy them still frozen.
When purchasing thawed shrimp, be sure that they smell fresh, without the slightest hint of
ammonia. Shrimp should have unstained shells, with no black spots along the sides, a condition
Some shrimp have been dipped in sodium bisulfite or sodium tripolyphosphate to improve
appearance and extend shelf life. If you are concerned about these additives, ask your fish
seller to show you the box the shrimp were received in.
To store thawed shrimp, unwrap, place them in a bowl covered with a wet paper towel,
refrigerate, and prepare and eat them the same day. Frozen shrimp can be stored in its
original wrappings in the freezer for up to two months. Take out and use shrimp as you need
them, then reseal the bag and return it to the freezer.
To thaw, unwrap, place shrimp in a bowl or pan, cover, and let thaw overnight in the
refrigerator. To more quickly, wrap shrimp in waterproof plastic and place them in a sink with
cool running water, allowing about 1/2 hour per pound (454g). For fastest thawing, use the
defrost cycle of your microwave, allowing 2 to 5 minutes per pound (454g), with equal standing
time in between zaps.
Shrimp can be sold raw with heads and shells intact; raw with shells on and heads removed;
raw and peeled; or peeled, cooked, and deveined. They are sold by the “count,”
which is the number of shrimp per pound (454g). Shrimp can be frozen individually (called
IQF), or in blocks. Most shrimp sold in U.S. supermarkets and fish markets have been frozen
and thawed. Shrimp are also available canned.
There are thousands of varieties of shrimp, but those we eat fit into two categories.
These tend to be medium to large in size. Types include white shrimp, pink shrimp, and
brown shrimp—all of which have pink meat when cooked. Rock shrimp have sweet meat within
shells that are difficult to peel. Freshwater shrimp (or Malaysian prawns) come from lakes and
river deltas in Asia and can grow to weigh nearly a pound (454g).
These tend to be smaller, but have firmer, sweeter meat. Pacific ocean pink and Atlantic
Northern pink shrimp are usually machine-peeled, cooked, and served as shrimp meat. Spot,
sidestrip, and coon shrimp live in North Atlantic waters and are usually sold fresh.
Shrimp (cooked, moist heat), 3 oz. (85g)
Total Fat: 1g
*Excellent source of: Selenium (33.66mcg), and
Vitamin B12 (1.27mcg)
*Good source of: Iron (2.63mg), Niacin (2.20mg), and Phosphorus (116.45mg)
*Foods that are an “excellent source” of a particular
nutrient provide 20% or more of the Recommended Daily Value. Foods that are a “good
source” of a particular nutrient provide between 10 and 20% of the Recommended Daily
The information presented in the Food Guide is for informational purposes
only and was created by a team of US–registered dietitians and food experts. Consult
your doctor, practitioner, and/or pharmacist for any health problem and before using any
supplements, making dietary changes, or before making any changes in prescribed medications.