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Everything You Need to Know about Cooking Shrimp

May 1, 2023

“I love shrimp but have no idea how to cook them. Help!”

We hear you – shrimp make for a delicious and quick mid-week dinner or a luxurious date night treat. Despite their small size, shrimp can still feel intimidating to cook – especially if they come with shells and tails on. And what is that vein all about?

We’ve gathered commonly asked shrimp questions all in one place, so you can feel right at home cooking and enjoying shrimp with confidence.

Should I buy fresh or frozen shrimp?

Both are great options! Frozen shrimp can go straight into your freezer and stay there for up to 18 months, making it a convenient choice. Fresh or already thawed shrimp will last for 1-3 days stored in your refrigerator. Remember to look for ASC’s sea green label when shopping for farm-raised shrimp, so you know your seafood selection was raised responsibly according to the highest standards.

ASC frozen shrimp bag and noodles

As with any meat or seafood, look out for abnormalities before you start cooking. If your shrimp smell like ammonia, have yellow-colored shells or are showing dry spots, your shrimp have likely gone bad and are no longer safe to eat.

Do I need to thaw them before I start cooking?

Yes – thawing shrimp before using them in your meal will provide a tastier end result and keeps cooking times even, as most recipes call for thawed shrimp. Cooking frozen shrimp won’t harm you, but the texture won’t be as appetizing as starting with a thawed or fresh product.

If time allows, leave your shrimp in the refrigerator overnight to thaw. Avoid thawing at room temperature as this can also impact texture.

If you don’t have all night, place your sealed pack of shrimp in a bag or bowl of cold water to speed up the thawing process. Change the water every 30 minutes so it stays cold and repeat until shrimp are soft and slightly translucent.

How do I peel shrimp?

Pre-peeled shrimp are widely available, but if you’d prefer to peel the shrimp yourself or you end up with a whole shrimp product, it’s very simple. Find the inside curve of the shell where the legs are (toward the shrimp’s underside), hook your finger and pull the shell open. Peel back the shell, starting at the head end, and finish by gently pulling off the tail.

Depending on the shrimp you’ve bought, you may see dark lines on either side of your shrimp at this point. If you’re wondering what they are and what you should do with them, you can read more about this topic in our other blog – can you eat the veins in shrimp? The short answer is: they are safe to eat, but if you prefer not to deveining is quite easy to do.

Pro-tip: save the shells to make a delicious stock as a base for seafood risotto or fish stew. If you don’t have enough shells to make stock, you can freeze what you have in a sealed bag or container until you’re ready.

To make the stock, simply fry the shrimp shells in oil for a couple of minutes to bring out their flavor. Then cover with water, simmer 5-7 minutes, remove the shells and add a pinch of salt to the pot. Freeze the stock in portions for ultimate forward-planning.

Pot with shrimp broth for risotto or soup

What’s the best way to cook shrimp?

There are so many ways to cook shrimp that the options are endless once you get the hang of it. Bear in mind that shrimp are mild in flavor so they easily absorb the taste of whatever you combine them with. Think about using flavorful sauces, herbs and marinades to help them shine.

Many recipes call for shrimp to be added during the cooking process with other ingredients, but if you want to make shrimp the heroes of your meal they are easy to cook on their own…

🍤 How to cook shrimp in a pan: Simply heat olive oil or butter in a frying pan, throw in your peeled and deveined shrimp and cook for 2-3 minutes on high heat, then flip and cook for another 2-3 minutes until just opaque. Boost the flavor by first rubbing them in spices like paprika, garlic powder, red pepper flakes or fish seasoning, plus a little sea salt. Serve pan-seared shrimp with couscous and salad for a quick, healthy lunch or try our our creamy shrimp crostini.

🍤 How to grill shrimp: Nothing says summer like grilling shrimp on the BBQ. Simply skewer your shrimp with thin slices of lemon in between for added flavor and grill for 2-3 minutes on each side over a hot, lightly oiled grill. We love a garlic saffron butter with ours. Or, give these blackened shrimp tacos a try.

🍤 How to bake shrimp in the oven: Roasting in the oven is lesser-known way to enjoy shrimp, but no less delicious. Lay your shrimp on a baking tray and pop them into a pre-heated oven, around six inches from the heat source. Bake for 2-5 minutes, depending on the size of your shrimp. A rub or marinate can make your shrimp even more flavorful, added either before or after baking.

🍤 How to cook shrimp on the stove: Boiling shrimp is yet another quick way to a healthy, tasty meal. Bring a pan of salted water to a boil, drop in your shrimp and simmer for 1-3 minutes, stirring occasionally. Drain and rinse under cold water, then serve. This is an especially good method if you’re preparing shrimp in advance for a cold salad. Our simple Old Bay shrimp with cocktail sauce is always a hit.

Old Bay shrimp cocktail

How do I know if my shrimp is fully cooked?

Did you know that these clever crustaceans tell you when they are fully cooked? While raw shrimp are a wide U shape, once ready to eat they form a C shape and are pink in color and opaque. If the shrimp are shaped like a tight circle or become overly pink then they’re likely overcooked and that gives them that rubbery texture.

It’s really easy to overcook shrimp, as they only take a few minutes to fully cook. Once they are in the pan, oven or grill it’s good to keep a close eye on them.

How long does cooked shrimp last in the fridge?

If you have leftover shrimp, you can save it to enjoy over the next few days. Shrimp will typically last 3-4 days in the fridge after being cooked.

Can I reheat cooked shrimp?

Yes. Overcooked shrimp has a rubbery texture, so keep your shrimp succulent by allowing it to reach room temperature first, then reheat on a low heat using the original cooking method. If reheating in a pan, add a little water to avoid drying out.

I’m ready to eat more shrimp!

We hope we’ve inspired you to add more shrimp dishes to your meal plan. Remember to look for the ASC label when shopping to ensure that your shrimp purchase was responsibly farmed. ASC’s sea green label is the best way to know where your shrimp came from, how they were raised and how they got to you.

For more delicious shrimp recipes to enjoy during weekend grill-outs or weeknight family meals, visit our recipe finder or follow ASC on Instagram where we post shrimp and other seafood recipes regularly!

Shrimp with lemon
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