There are multiple ways to cook shrimp. Depending on the species of shrimp that you select, there will always be one best way to cook it. You can choose from imported shrimp, cold water shrimp, gulf shrimp, tiger shrimp, and even farm-raised shrimp.
The flavor and texture that you are looking for in your home-cooked shrimp come from the type of species that you select. The flavor of shrimp relies heavily on the environment in which these shrimp are raised, and also what they are fed.
Shrimp from wild waters typically consume seaweed or crustaceans that result in thicker shells to peel but a richer flavor on the inside. Since these shrimp are free to swim in the water, their meat is also much firmer than farm-raised shrimp.
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Purchasing the Right Shrimp
When you go out to get groceries, don’t just grab shrimp because you plan on cooking them sometime next week. Buying fresh shrimp means that you must eat them within 24 hours to preserve their flavor and freshness.
Since buying fresh shrimp is not an option for most people, the second-best option is to purchase frozen shrimp. Shrimp found in grocery stores are frozen and thawed, so their richness in texture and taste only lasts for a few days. If you buy frozen shrimp directly, then you can store them for several weeks before deciding to cook them.
1. Fresh Shrimp
If you do decide to purchase fresh shrimp, then make sure that you smell them beforehand. Fresh shrimp should not smell anything except saltwater. In case you smell ammonia or see black spots on the shrimp, chances are that it is not safe to consume anymore.
The best way to tell if shrimp is fresh is to check if their flesh is still translucent. If the flesh is becoming opaque or is pink in color, you should avoid it.
2. Frozen Shrimp
The optimal frozen shrimp are those that haven’t been peeled and deveined already. Shells protect the flesh of the shrimp and add to the richness in flavor, so it is important to purchase frozen shrimp that are fully intact.
For a rough idea in cooking, 1 pound of raw shrimp with shells will result in only half a pound of peeled shrimp. You should keep this measurement in mind if you are planning to cook for a large gathering.
Defrosting Frozen Shrimp
Typically, any frozen item can be defrosted by putting it out on the counter or in the microwave. However, you should never defrost any seafood this way.
The ideal way to defrost shrimp is to let them thaw in the refrigerator for a few hours or putting them in a bowl of ice-cold water. This method allows the shrimp to defrost without damaging the flesh, texture, or flavor.
3 Best Way To Cook Shrimp
If you have eaten shrimp in restaurants before, you should be aware that shrimp can be cooked in various ways. Some people prefer their shrimp boiled or steamed, while others like grilled or deep-fried shrimp. You can also choose to cook the shrimp with or without the shell, and deveined or with the vein still intact.
The best way to cook shrimp is to do it quickly. The shellfish must be able to preserve the raw and delicate flavor before and after cooking. Since shrimp are cooked rather quickly, it is a common mistake to let the shrimp sit over the flame for too long and end up with overcooked shrimp.
Most types of shrimp will be done within three minutes. You can tell when your shrimp is done by observing their shape. Shrimp will turn pink, become firm, and slightly curve into a ‘C’ shape when they are fully cooked at their prime.
Here are a few common methods to cook shrimp:
1. Boiled Shrimp
If you purchase small-sized shrimp, then you can easily boil them. All you need to do is place a quart of water into a large pan, add three tablespoons of salt, and let the water reach boiling temperature.
Once you see bubbles in the water, you can add a pound of shrimp to the pan. Cover the pan with a lid and reduce the heat for the shrimp to cook properly in simmering hot water. Your shrimp will be done when the glossy appearance has disappeared, and the shrimp are becoming opaque in the center of the flesh.
The cooking time for this method is approximately 8 minutes for jumbo shrimp, 6 minutes for large shrimp, and 4 minutes for medium or regular-sized shrimp. However, this depends on the temperature of your water, so it is always a good idea to take one shrimp out and cut it to test.
Keep a close check on your shrimp if you are boiling them as they can become overcooked if you leave them in boiling water for too long.
Boiled shrimp can be eaten right away to enjoy the richest flavor. If you are boiling shrimp beforehand to use in another recipe, you should put your boiled shrimp in cold water to prevent them from cooking any further.
2. Grilled Shrimp
Grilling is an ideal way to cook large shrimp. If you are grilling smaller shrimp, then we recommend putting them on skewers to prevent the flesh from falling apart.
To grill shrimp, you should have a hot grill prepared beforehand. Place your shrimp on the grill, leaving about an inch of space between each one. Brush the top of the shrimp with olive oil and add optional seasonings like garlic powder, salt, and pepper as per your taste.
In about 2 minutes, you will notice that the shrimp are becoming pink in color. At this stage, you should flip them over to let the other side cook for another 2 minutes. Your grilled shrimp will be done in about 4-5 minutes at maximum.
3. Deep Fried Shrimp
Most restaurants serve delicious, deep-fried shrimp with tangy sauces. To replicate the same flavors at home, you can follow this simple method.
Before you start cooking, you will have to prepare four separate bowls to coat your shrimp. In the first bowl, place your shrimp and season them with garlic powder, ginger powder, salt, and pepper. In the second bowl, combine one cup of flour with paprika and any other seasonings of your liking.
The third bowl should contain 2 beaten eggs, and the fourth bowl should have panko crumbs. You can either make panko crumbs yourself by following a recipe online, or you can purchase boxed panko crumbs from your local grocery store.
For frying, you will need 1 quart of vegetable oil in a deep-fryer or skillet. Place the pan over high heat until the oil reaches about 375 degrees F. Take one shrimp from the first bowl, dip it into the flour mixture, then the beaten eggs, and finally the panko crumbs. Put the coated shrimp in the fryer and repeat the process.
Depending on the size of your fryer, you can fry a few shrimp at a time until they are golden brown in color. It will take approximately 5 minutes, but you should keep a close check on the shrimp as they can change color rather quickly.
Remove your fried shrimp from the pan with a slotted spoon and dry them on a plate with paper towels. It is important to let the excess oil dry off from the shrimp to avoid them from getting soggy and achieving crispy, deep-fried shrimp.
Also read: How To Cook Crab Legs: A Beginner’s Guide
Can You Freeze Shrimp?
If you want to preserve your shrimp for a longer time, you can freeze either raw or cooked shrimp. The best way to preserve the rich taste of your shrimp is to freeze them raw with the shells.
Raw shrimp can also be frozen by placing them in plastic wrap or an airtight container and placing them in a very cold freezer. This way, you can preserve raw shrimp for about a month.
To freeze cooked shrimp, you must let them cool completely first. It is recommended to only freeze the meat of the shrimp, so you should remove the shell, the vein, and the head before freezing cooked shrimp.
Pack the shrimp in a freezer bag or container, making sure to leave a quarter-inch of space between each one. Place in the freezer for about one month.
How To Serve Shrimp: The Etiquette
Shrimp look like a delicacy on the dinner table, and you should present them properly. Large shrimp can be served as a shrimp cocktail in a stemmed glass, along with an oyster fork and a tangy sauce to add to the flavor.
If you don’t want to make a shrimp cocktail, simply serve them on a platter with the sauce on the side. Except for deep-fried shrimp, your guests will have to discard the tail of the shrimp when eating. Make sure that you provide a ‘discard dish’ on the table to accommodate your guests.
While people think that cooking shrimp is a difficult task, it is actually not that complicated. All you need to do is purchase the right type of shrimp and decide on the best way to cook shrimp method that you want to try.
Shrimp take very little time to cook, yet they can be the star dish at your next dinner gathering.