Shrimp is a popular seafood item that many individuals around the world enjoy as a treat on their lunch and dinner menus. Not only are shrimp delicious to have, they pack essential nutrients such as omega-3 fatty acids and proteins.
Shrimps are enjoyed in a variety of dishes. From classic shrimp scampi to spicy shrimp tacos and fried shrimp, there is something for everyone. However, not all shrimps are created equal and it can be difficult to know what to look for when purchasing fresh, delicious shrimps.
This comprehensive guide will provide you with everything you need to know about buying the best shrimps for your next meal, from choosing the right type of shrimp to ensuring its freshness and quality.
Factors To Consider When Buying Shrimps
The freshness of the shrimp is one of the most important factors to consider. You want to make sure that the shrimps you purchase are not only fresh but also have a sweet, briny flavor. Buy shrimp that have been stored at proper temperatures to ensure maximum freshness. Avoid buying shrimp that have been sitting in the store for too long.
The flavor of shrimp can vary greatly depending on where they are sourced and how they are caught. Some shrimp have a mild, sweet flavor, while others have a more intense, briny taste. The ones with mild, sweet flavor are the best for a good dish to add to your seafood menu.
It's important to consider the sustainability of the shrimp you purchase. Overfishing and harmful fishing practices can lead to a decline in shrimp populations and harm the environment. Check if the shrimp you are buying is farmed or wild-caught, and if it has been sourced responsibly to avoid overfishing and environmental damage.
Price is also an important factor to consider when purchasing shrimps. While it's tempting to go for the cheapest option, it's important to keep in mind that high-quality, sustainably-sourced shrimp will likely cost a little more. Shrimp prices can also vary greatly depending on the season, species, and location. Shop around for the best deals and consider purchasing in bulk to save money.
Different species of shrimp have different tastes, textures, and cooking requirements. Choose the species that fits your needs and preferences.
Shrimp come in different sizes and the size you choose will depend on the dish you're preparing. Jumbo, extra-large, and large shrimp are better for grilling or sautéing. Medium and small shrimp are ideal for soups, stews, and stir-fries.
Consider the packaging the shrimp comes in and make sure it is properly sealed. A good packaging should keep the shrimp fresh and safe from contamination.
If you have a shellfish allergy, make sure to read the label and ask the seller about the product before purchasing.
Take into account any personal preferences or dietary restrictions, such as avoiding certain ingredients or cooking methods.
Where To Buy Shrimps
Seafood markets are a great place to purchase fresh shrimps. The shrimps are often displayed on ice and sold by the pound. You can also find a variety of different types of shrimp, from jumbo to extra small.
You can also purchase shrimps online from retailers who specialize in seafood. The advantage of buying online is that you can often find a wider selection of shrimps and have them delivered right to your door.
How To Select Fresh Shrimps
The smell of fresh shrimp should be a mild ocean or seawater scent, not overpowering or sour. If the shrimp has an overly strong odor, it's likely to be old and should not be consumed.
Fresh shrimp should have a translucent or opaque appearance, with a slightly glossy or moist look. If the shrimp looks dull, has discoloration, or dark spots, it's likely not fresh and you should avoid buying it.
To test the freshness of shrimp, gently press it with your fingers. Fresh shrimp should feel firm and not give to pressure, indicating that it has not begun to break down. If the shrimp feels mushy or falls apart, it's likely to be old and should not be purchased.
Avoid pre-peeled shrimp
Pre-peeled shrimp are often treated with preservatives to maintain their appearance and texture. This can affect their flavor and freshness of the shrimp. We recommend you to buy whole, raw shrimp and peel them yourself just before cooking.
It's important to store shrimp properly to keep it fresh. Store uncooked shrimp in the coldest part of your refrigerator, either in its original packaging or in an airtight container. Use the shrimp within a day or two of purchase, or freeze it for later use. When defrosting frozen shrimp, do so in the refrigerator and not at room temperature to prevent bacteria growth.
Block or IQF?
There are two methods for freezing shrimp: in large blocks of five pounds or through IQF (Individually Quick Frozen). We recommend going for the latter method as IQF shrimp experience less damage during the freezing process. Additionally, IQF shrimp allows you to thaw only the amount you need for a single meal, making it a more convenient option.
When purchasing from a grocery store freezer, check the contents of the shrimp bag by looking through the transparent plastic window. If you notice any signs of freezer burn, it's best to move on to the next bag. Freezer burn is a sign that the shrimp either partially thawed before being refrozen or were handled improperly during the freezing process. Both of which negatively affects both texture and flavor.
Heads and Shells
When buying headless shrimp, you may come across three options: shell-on, EZ-peel, or fully peeled shrimp.
We suggest opting for shell-on shrimp, as they offer several benefits. Firstly, they are often more aesthetically pleasing than shrimp with shell-on, which can look unappealing. Secondly, shell-on shrimp tend to be more affordable. Additionally, the shells provide a rich, flavorful addition to your dish, whether you choose to grill the shrimp in the shell or use the shells to enhance the flavor of your dish, as in Spanish-style shrimp.
EZ-peel shrimp are split and without a vein. Which makes them easier to prepare, but they do come with a higher price tag. Additionally, the machines used to split and devein the shrimp can sometimes cause deeper gouges in the shrimp, making them less suitable for dishes where appearance is important. If you're preparing a dish where appearance doesn't matter, such as dumplings, EZ-peel shrimp may be a good option. However, if you want a visually appealing dish, like shrimp cocktail, it's better to peel the shrimp yourself. In either case, be sure to save the shells, as they can help you make a flavorful seafood stock, sauce, or oil.
Pre-peeled shrimp offer the ultimate convenience, but they also come with a high price tag and often suffer from overhandling, resulting in a less desirable texture. We do not recommend purchasing pre-peeled shrimp.
Tips To Ensure Sustainable Seafood Practices
Research about the supplier's fishing methods
Before purchasing shrimps, it's important to research the supplier's fishing methods. We suggest you to prefer suppliers that use sustainable fishing methods and avoid those that use harmful practices such as bottom trawling.
Ask questions at the seafood market
If you're purchasing shrimps at a seafood market, don't be afraid to ask the vendor questions about their fishing practices and the origin of their shrimps.
Look for eco-friendly certifications
When buying shrimp lookout for eco-friendly certifications such as the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) or the Aquaculture Stewardship Council (ASC). These certifications indicate that the shrimps were sourced in an environmentally responsible manner.
Frequently Asked Questions
Avoid shrimp that smell like ammonia (an easy way to tell that they're bad) or have shells that feel soft or slimy (again, not a good sign). If you can't be sure, or know they've been thawed, head to the freezer. The frozen shrimp will taste better, cook better, and feel better.
It's preferable to buy shrimp frozen - most are sold in five-pound blocks - as fresh is rare and thawed shrimp gives neither the flavor of fresh nor the flexibility of frozen. The shelf life of thawed shrimp is only a couple of days, whereas shrimp stored in the freezer retain their quality for several weeks. However, if you can get your hands on fresh shrimp it will be better.
A perfectly cooked shrimp is firm enough to curl without being constricted, and it has an opaque pinky color with a sheen. When they are overcooked, shrimp turn matte white or gray. Another easy way to tell if your shrimp are cooked is if they are curled into a nice C shape.
In conclusion, buying fresh shrimp is an important factor in enjoying a delicious and healthy meal. By following the steps outlined in this guide, you can ensure that you select the freshest and best-tasting shrimp possible.
Remember to smell, check appearance, feel for firmness, avoid pre-peeled shrimp, and store properly. By doing so, you'll be on your way to enjoying a delicious and healthy seafood experience with a perfect seafood menu.