Shrimp Facts

All about buying and eating fresh and frozen shrimp

Our shrimp facts provide interesting information about this favorite seafood.  Of course, you can make our delicious and easy shrimp recipes without knowing any of these facts about buying and eating shrimp.  But just in case you want to know more, we've answered some of the most common shrimp questions.  

Should I buy fresh shrimp?  Or should I buy frozen shrimp?

We use both fresh and frozen shrimp in our easy shrimp recipes.

In the United States, you can find fresh shrimp in markets between May and October.  Fresh shrimp should be eaten on the day you buy it, because it's quite perishable. 

Most of this fresh shrimp comes from the warm waters off the Gulf and Southern Atlantic states.  Here in New England, we can find small cold-water shrimp from Maine in the markets for a short period during early fall.  Their sweet taste makes them a seasonal treat.

Because shrimp is so perishable, most U.S. grocery stores sell shrimp that's been frozen and thawed, even when fresh shrimp is in season.  Some frozen shrimp comes from the U.S., but much of it originates in the warm waters of Southeast Asian countries such as Indonesia, Vietnam, and Thailand. 

Here's one of the most important shrimp facts:  the shelf life of thawed shrimp is only a couple of days.  

Never buy fresh or thawed frozen fish that smells of anything other than salt water!  Fresh shrimp normally look almost translucent.  Shrimp that have been frozen and then thawed usually look more opaque.

Frozen shrimp facts

Unless you're planning to go home and cook the shrimp immediately, you may be better off buying frozen shrimp.  Additionally, you don't know how long the shrimp sold at the market has been thawed - another reason to buy frozen and defrost it yourself!

We've also noticed that in our part of the country, previous-frozen shrimp sold thawed in the markets costs roughly twice as much per pound as bags of frozen shrimp of similar size. 

Most shrimp is flash-frozen, often immediately after being caught, so the quality can be excellent - assuming the distributors who get it from the fishing boats to the stores have handled it properly.  Avoid any bags of frozen shrimp where you can feel or see chunks of ice, as this may mean the shrimp have freezer burn, or even worse, they've thawed and been refrozen.

Frozen shrimp keep their quality well for several weeks.  However, your home refrigerator will not be as cold as commercial versions, plus you'll be opening and closing it - so try to keep frozen shrimp for no more than a week after you buy them.

Some people avoid the bags of peeled and deveined shrimp.  Sure, they're convenient - but the shrimp can lose flavor and texture without their shells.   That's why it's important to know the best way to thaw shrimp.

Shrimp facts about thawing

Best and easiest - Just thaw frozen shrimp overnight in your fridge.  This method retains the best flavor and texture.

A couple of hours before cooking - Lay the frozen shrimp in a single layer on a large plate or platter and leave out at room temperature.  Check every half hour or so to make sure the shrimp doesn't get too warm - if so, refrigerate immediately.  Still frozen when you're ready to cook?  Use the last minute method in the next paragraph. 

Last minute - Take the frozen shrimp out of its package and put it in a bowl of cold water in your sink.  Turn on your faucet and let a trickle of cold water run into the bowl, with the excess flowing out and down the drain.  The motion of the water will thaw the shrimp in 15 - 30 minutes without compromising flavor or texture too much.

How many shrimp are in a pound?

Most recipes call for shrimp by the pound - but the number of shrimp per pound varies based on the type of shrimp.

Here's a general guideline to the shrimp count per pound used in the U.S.:

  • Colossal = 10 shrimps or less
  • Jumbo = 11 to 15
  • Extra-large = 16 to 20
  • Large = 21 to 30
  • Medium = 31 to 35
  • Small = 36 to 45
  • Very small = 46 or more

Larger shrimp cost more than smaller ones, but are faster to clean. 

Are all shrimp the same?

No, over 300 species of shrimp exist.  They vary in appearance and size.  Their taste depends on what they've been eating and the temperature of the water where they live.  Wild shrimp feed on seaweed and other crustaceans.

Increasingly, shrimp are cultured for the commercial food market, and their flavor depends on what they've been fed and also the water in which they've been raised. 

Shrimp also vary by color.  Uncooked, most look pink, brown, white, or striped on the outside, and they're usually kind of translucent if you look inside the shells.  Once shrimp are cooked, their color ranges from near-white to pink to orange-red. 

Shrimp from colder water areas are generally smaller and sweeter than shrimp from warmer waters, which tend to be larger and saltier.

Are prawns the same thing as shrimp?

Technically, no.  Prawns are a different species within the lobster family.  However, in some parts of the world, large shrimp are called prawns.

Need to know how to clean shrimp?

Check out our easy instructions and photo showing how to clean shrimp.

Doesn't eating shrimp cause high cholesterol?

No, nutrition research back in the mid-1990s showed that although shrimp contain cholesterol, they do not adversely impact production of cholesterol in humans.  In fact, researchers from Rockefeller University found that eating shrimp could actually cause a drop in triglyceride levels. 

Shrimp are low in fat and calories, but contain beneficial amounts of omega-3 fatty acids, vitamin B12, niacin, and minerals such as iron, zinc, and copper.

Most important of all:  they're delicious!

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