Shrimp: Preparation, Nutrition & More

by Joost Nusselder | Last Updated:  May 28, 2022

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The term shrimp is used to refer to some decapod crustaceans, although the exact animals covered can vary. Used broadly, it may cover any of the groups with elongated bodies and a primarily swimming mode of locomotion – chiefly Caridea and Dendrobranchiata.

Shrimp is a great food, but it can be tricky to cook perfectly due to its delicate texture. Additionally, it can be quite costly, making it a special treat.

In this article, I’ll provide tips for cooking shrimp flawlessly and selecting the best quality when purchasing.

What are shrimp

Shrimp: The Little Seafood That Packs a Big Punch

Shrimp is a type of shellfish that is found abundantly all over the world, both in freshwater and saltwater. They are a type of crustacean, which includes other creatures like crabs and lobsters. Shrimp are smaller than most other shellfish, with the biggest species reaching up to only a few inches in length. Despite their size, shrimp are an important part of many traditional diets around the world, and are popular in the United States where billions of pounds are consumed each year.

How is Shrimp Caught?

Shrimp are caught using a variety of methods, including fishing and farming. Fishing for shrimp involves using bait to attract the creatures, which are then caught in nets or traps. Shrimp are also farmed in many parts of the world, with some of the biggest farms located in mangrove habitats. However, farming shrimp can lead to unhealthy levels of antibiotics in the creatures, and can also be dangerous for other creatures accidentally killed or abandoned in the process.

What Predators Eat Shrimp?

Shrimp are preyed upon by a variety of larger creatures, including whales, fish, and even some types of birds. Some of the biggest predators of shrimp include sharks and stingrays, which are known to actively hunt for the creatures in deepwater habitats. Shrimp are also preyed upon by some types of catfish and other bottom feeders.

Why is Shrimp Appealing to Humans?

Shrimp are appealing to humans for a variety of reasons, including their taste and nutritional value. Shrimp are low in fat and calories, but high in protein and other important nutrients like vitamin B12 and iron. They are also versatile, and can be prepared in a variety of ways, from simple boiled shrimp to complex shrimp dishes. However, it’s important to choose high-quality shrimp and avoid those that come from farms that destroy natural habitats or use dangerous levels of antibiotics.

Fun Facts About Shrimp

  • Shrimp have been around for millions of years, and are one of the oldest species of creatures on the planet.
  • Some species of shrimp are known as “carpet feeders,” because they cling to the floor of the ocean and search for prey like small snails.
  • Shrimp are often used as bait for other types of fishing, including for larger fish like tuna and marlin.
  • Shrimp are sometimes called “assassin snails,” because they are known to prey on other types of snails in freshwater habitats.

Choosing the Best Shrimp: A Guide to Finding Fresh and High-Quality Seafood

When it comes to buying shrimp, it’s important to know that there are many different varieties available. Some of the most common types of shrimp include white, large, and small shrimp. Each of these varieties has a slightly different taste and texture, so it’s important to choose the right one for your recipe.

How to Tell If Shrimp Is Fresh

Fresh shrimp should have a firm texture and a slightly salty smell. If the shrimp smells like ammonia or has a slimy texture, it’s likely not fresh and should be avoided. When buying shrimp, look for ones that are kept on ice or in a cold place to ensure that they stay fresh.

How to Store Shrimp Properly

To keep your shrimp fresh for as long as possible, it’s important to store them properly. Here are some tips to keep in mind:

  • If you’re not planning to use the shrimp right away, transfer them to a colander and place them in the fridge overnight.
  • When storing shrimp in the fridge, make sure to leave about an inch of space between the shrimp and the top of the container.
  • If you’re storing shrimp in the freezer, place them in a freezer bag and remove as much air as possible before sealing. This will help prevent freezer burn.
  • When thawing frozen shrimp, place them in a shallow dish and cover with a damp paper towel. Let them sit for a few minutes until they’re fully defrosted.

How to Prepare Shrimp for Cooking

Once you’ve chosen your shrimp and stored them properly, it’s time to prepare them for cooking. Here’s how to do it:

  • To remove the shell, make a slit down the back of the shrimp with a paring knife.
  • Use your thumb to loosen the shell and then peel it off, starting at the legs and working your way up to the tail.
  • To remove the tail, pinch it between your thumb and forefinger and gently slide it off.

How to Cook Shrimp

Cooking shrimp is a quick and easy process. Here’s how to do it:

  • Heat a pan over medium-high heat and add a small amount of oil.
  • Once the oil is hot, add the shrimp and cook for 2-3 minutes on each side, or until they’re pink and firm.
  • Toss the shrimp with your favorite seasonings and serve immediately.

How to Avoid Common Mistakes When Buying Shrimp

When buying shrimp, there are a few common mistakes to avoid:

  • Don’t buy shrimp that has been defrosted and then refrozen. This can affect the taste and texture of the meat.
  • Avoid shrimp that has a strong smell or slimy texture.
  • Don’t buy shrimp that has shells that feel soft or slimy.
  • When buying frozen shrimp, make sure to choose the coldest bag available.

By following these tips, you can ensure that you’re choosing the best shrimp for your next seafood dish.

Preparing Shrimp: A Guide to Different Methods and Dishes

Peeling and deveining shrimp is a significant step in the preparation process. Shrimp can be sold with or without the shell, and the shell can be white or red. The color of the shell doesn’t affect the taste, but it can be used to distinguish the size of the shrimp. Smaller shrimp are often found with a white shell, while larger shrimp have a red shell. To peel and devein shrimp, follow these steps:

  • Hold the shrimp by the tail and gently twist the body to remove the head.
  • Use a sharp knife or scissors to cut along the back of the shrimp, exposing the dark vein running down the back.
  • Use a toothpick or the tip of the knife to gently remove the vein.

Cooking Methods

Shrimp is a versatile seafood that can be prepared in many different ways. Some popular cooking methods include:

  • Grilling: Shrimp can be attached to skewers and cooked on a barbecue or grill.
  • Boiling: Shrimp can be boiled in water or broth for a few minutes until they turn pink and the flesh becomes slightly opaque.
  • Stir-frying: Shrimp can be cut into small pieces and stir-fried with vegetables and sauces.
  • Baking: Shrimp can be baked in the oven with butter, garlic, and herbs.

Shrimp Dishes

Shrimp can be prepared in many different dishes, including:

  • Shrimp scampi: Shrimp cooked in garlic, butter, and white wine.
  • Shrimp cocktail: Cooked shrimp served with a sweet and tangy cocktail sauce.
  • Shrimp gumbo: A spicy soup made with shrimp, sausage, and vegetables.
  • Shrimp fried rice: A popular Asian dish made with rice, shrimp, vegetables, and eggs.

Technical Information

  • Shrimp are named according to their size and the method of processing. For example, “16/20” means that there are 16 to 20 shrimp per pound.
  • Female shrimp are generally larger than male shrimp.
  • Shrimp can change color when cooked. Raw shrimp are grayish-blue, but they turn pink when cooked.
  • Shrimp can be sold with or without the head and tail.
  • Shrimp have a sweet taste and little fat content.

Importance of Preparation

Proper preparation is essential to ensure that shrimp is safe to eat and tastes delicious. Here are some tips to keep in mind:

  • Always buy fresh shrimp and store it in the refrigerator until ready to use.
  • Clean and devein shrimp before cooking to remove any dirt or sand.
  • Cook shrimp thoroughly to kill any harmful bacteria.
  • Don’t overcook shrimp, as it can become tough and rubbery.
  • Use a variety of spices and herbs to add flavor to shrimp dishes.

Local and Western Uses

Shrimp is a popular seafood in many parts of the world. Here are some ways that shrimp is used in different cuisines:

  • In the southern United States, shrimp is often used in dishes like gumbo and jambalaya.
  • In Asian cuisine, shrimp is used in stir-fries, sushi, and noodle dishes.
  • In Latin American cuisine, shrimp is used in ceviche and shrimp cocktail.
  • In European cuisine, shrimp is used in dishes like paella and seafood risotto.

Shrimp Delights: Creative and Classic Shrimp Dishes

Shrimp fried rice is a smart way to combine plain white rice with the burst of flavor that shrimp provides. This traditional Chinese dish can be made in a quick and easy way by following this recipe:

  • Cook plain white rice in water and set aside.
  • Sautéed bacon and shrimp in a pan until slightly cooked.
  • Add aromatics like onion, garlic, and ginger to the pan.
  • Put the rice in the pan and stir until the ingredients are evenly combined.
  • Add soy sauce and seasonings to taste.
  • Top with green onions and serve.

Hearty and Classic: Shrimp Chowder

Shrimp chowder is a classic dish that has stood the test of time. This hearty soup is packed with flavor and can be made in a quick and easy way by following this recipe:

  • Boil shrimp in chicken broth until cooked and set aside.
  • Sautéed aromatics like onion, garlic, and celery in a pan until slightly browned.
  • Add flour to the pan to create a roux.
  • Pour in the chicken broth used to boil the shrimp and stir until the mixture thickens.
  • Add cooked shrimp, corn, and seasonings to the pan.
  • Top with bacon and serve.

Southern Comfort: Shrimp and Grits

Shrimp and grits is a staple dish in the southern United States. This dish combines the light flavor of shrimp with the hearty taste of cheddar grits. To make this dish, follow this recipe:

  • Cook grits according to the package instructions and set aside.
  • Sautéed butterflied shrimp in a pan until slightly cooked.
  • Add aromatics like onion, garlic, and cherry tomatoes to the pan.
  • Combine the shrimp and aromatics with the grits.
  • Top with cheddar cheese and serve.

New Orleans Nod: Shrimp Burger

The shrimp burger is a new take on the classic hamburger. This dish combines the deep flavor of shrimp with the light breading of a burger. To make this dish, follow this recipe:

  • Combine shrimp in a food processor with seasonings like garlic and onion.
  • Add a binder like bread crumbs to the mixture.
  • Form the mixture into patties and set aside.
  • Toast buns and set aside.
  • Sautéed the patties in a pan until slightly cooked.
  • Top with a combination of mayonnaise, ketchup, and hot sauce.
  • Serve with a side of fries.

Classic Cocktail Hour: Shrimp Francese Toasts

Shrimp Francese toasts are a classic party treat that combines the light flavor of shrimp with the deep taste of a toast. This dish can be made in a quick and easy way by following this recipe:

  • Toast bread and set aside.
  • Sautéed shrimp in a pan until slightly cooked.
  • Add butter and white wine to the pan.
  • Add lemon juice and chicken broth to the pan.
  • Dip the toast in the mixture and place on a plate.
  • Top with shrimp and serve.

Storing Shrimp: How to Keep Your Seafood Fresh and Delicious

  • When buying raw shrimp, make sure to choose firm and translucent flesh with a mild aroma.
  • Avoid shrimp that appear slimy, have a strong odor, or have a grayish color, as these are indications of poor quality.
  • If you’re not sure about the freshness of the shrimp, ask the shrimper or seafood seller when the product was caught or previously handled.

Storing Raw Shrimp

  • If you intend to cook the shrimp within a few days, store them in the fridge on the bottom shelf in a sealed container or package.
  • Make sure to wash the shrimp and drain them quickly before storing them in the fridge.
  • To extend the shelf life of raw shrimp, freeze them in a sealed container or package for up to several months.
  • When defrosting frozen shrimp, do it in the fridge or under cold running water, and never at room temperature.
  • Icing the shrimp during storage and defrosting is recommended to keep them at a lower temperature.

Maximizing the Shelf Life of Shrimp

  • Chilling the shrimp as quickly as possible after buying or cooking is recommended to maximize their shelf life.
  • Sealing the shrimp in a container or package can also help prevent the growth of bacteria and other microorganisms.
  • Always check the expiration date and handling instructions on the package before storing the shrimp.
  • Remember that the shelf life of shrimp will depend on how well they were handled and cared for before reaching your end.

The Truth About “Fresh” Shrimp

  • The term “fresh” can be confusing when it comes to shrimp, as many shrimp are flash-frozen on the boats to preserve their quality.
  • In fact, frozen shrimp can sometimes be fresher than “fresh” shrimp that have been sitting on the shelf for a long time.
  • When it comes to shrimp, the best way to ensure their quality is to choose a high-quality product and handle it with care during storage and preparation.

Shrimp: The Nutritional Powerhouse of the Sea

Shrimp is an excellent source of protein, providing about 20 grams of protein per 100 grams of cooked shrimp. It also contains a small amount of fat, mainly in the form of omega-3 fatty acids, which are essential for proper body function and cannot be produced by the body. The omega-3 fatty acid content varies depending on the type of shrimp, with some varieties being higher in omega-3s than others.

Essential Nutrients

Shrimp is rich in a wide range of essential nutrients, including iodine, which is important for thyroid health, and selenium, which is important for heart, immune, and thyroid health. Shrimp also contains Vitamin B12, zinc, copper, and the antioxidant astaxanthin.

Health Benefits

The health benefits of shrimp are vast. Research has linked the consumption of shrimp to a lower risk of heart disease, and the selenium content in shrimp may help protect against certain types of cancer. Shrimp is also low in carbohydrates and calories, making it a suitable food for those looking to maintain a healthy diet.

Cooking Methods and Nutrient Content

The way shrimp is cooked can affect its nutrient content. Steamed or boiled shrimp is a good way to preserve its natural nutrient content, while fried or heavily seasoned shrimp may contain extra fat and sodium. It’s important to read labels and choose a cooking method that suits your needs.

Serving Size and Daily Value

A serving size of shrimp is typically 3-4 ounces, or about 85-113 grams. The daily value for shrimp is 200-300 mg of cholesterol and 44-60 g of protein, depending on the individual’s needs.

Overall, shrimp is a high-quality seafood that offers a wide range of health benefits. Whether you prefer it boiled, steamed, or cooked in a variety of different ways, shrimp is a delicious and nutritious addition to any diet.

Shrimp Allergies: A Common Concern for Many People

Shrimp is a popular food item that is enjoyed by many people around the world. However, for some individuals, consuming shrimp can cause severe allergic reactions. Shrimp allergies are a common concern for many people, and it’s important to understand the symptoms, diagnosing methods, and treatment options associated with this allergy.

Symptoms of Shrimp Allergy

Shrimp allergy symptoms can vary from person to person and can range from mild to severe. Some common symptoms of shrimp allergy include:

  • Skin reactions such as hives, itching, and swelling
  • Digestive problems such as nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea
  • Respiratory problems such as wheezing, coughing, and difficulty breathing
  • Anaphylaxis, a severe and potentially life-threatening reaction that can cause a drop in blood pressure, loss of consciousness, and shock

Diagnosing Shrimp Allergy

If you suspect that you or someone you know has a shrimp allergy, it’s important to speak with a healthcare provider or allergist. They can perform various tests to diagnose the allergy, such as:

  • Skin prick test: A small amount of shrimp extract is placed on the skin, and a sharp tool is used to prick the skin. If a reaction occurs, it may indicate a shrimp allergy.
  • Blood test: A sample of blood is taken and tested for the presence of antibodies that react to shrimp.
  • Oral food challenge: This method involves eating small amounts of shrimp in a controlled environment to see if a reaction occurs.

Deciphering the Difference between Shrimp and Prawns

At first glance, it can be difficult to differentiate between shrimp and prawns. They both belong to the crustacean family and have similar appearances. However, there are a few telltale signs that can help you distinguish between the two:

  • Size: Prawns are generally larger than shrimp, with the largest prawns growing up to a foot in length.
  • Legs and Pincers: Prawns have three pairs of claws, while shrimp only have two. Additionally, prawns have longer legs and larger pincers than shrimp.
  • Eggs: Female prawns carry fertilized eggs underneath their tails, while shrimp release their eggs into the water.
  • Shellfish Anatomy: Both shrimp and prawns have a hard outer skeleton, or exoskeleton, that they must shed periodically to grow. They also have lamellar gills, which are thin, plate-like structures that help them breathe.

Nutritional Aspects

When it comes to nutritional value, shrimp and prawns are essentially identical. They both contain high levels of protein, omega-3 fatty acids, and other important nutrients. However, the way they are prepared and cooked can affect their nutritional value. For example, deep-frying shrimp or prawns can add unnecessary calories and fat.

Cooking and Eating

Despite their similarities, shrimp and prawns behave differently in recipes. Prawns are often used in dishes that require a larger, meatier texture, while shrimp are more commonly used in dishes that require smaller, bite-sized pieces. When cooking shrimp or prawns, it’s important to pay attention to their curling. Shrimp will curl into a “C” shape when cooked, while prawns will bend somewhat but won’t curl as tightly. When eating, you can also examine the underside of the tail to determine whether you’re eating shrimp or prawns. Shrimp tails have a plate that overlays the segments, while prawn tails have overlapping plates.


So, there you have it- everything you need to know about shrimp as food. 

They’re a great source of protein and can be prepared in so many ways. So, don’t be afraid to try them!

Joost Nusselder, the founder of Lakeside Smokers is a content marketer, dad and loves trying out new food with BBQ Smoking (& Japanese food!) at the heart of his passion, and together with his team he's been creating in-depth blog articles since 2016 to help loyal readers with recipes and cooking tips.