Frozen shrimp is a must for any freezer. The reasons are obvious and include the following:
- First, shrimp is delicious and everyone loves it.
- Second, it cooks fast, so it’s the ideal protein for busy weeknight meals.
- Third, most of the time, it can be cooked straight from frozen, so it can be cooked on the fly with little to no preplanning.
- And fourth, shrimp is versatile. It can be served alone or used to create recipes that feature a wide variety of flavors and textures.
When shopping for frozen shrimp, you’ll find your grocer’s freezer case filled with options. Here’s a brief overview of your choices:
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Your first question might be “why should I buy frozen shrimp? Isn’t fresh better?” The answer is simple. If you can get genuinely fresh shrimp, straight from the boat, that’s totally the way to go. But most of the time, that option’s not available and your choices are “fresh” shrimp from the butcher counter or frozen shrimp. When these are your choices, frozen is by far the winner. The answer is because that “fresh” shrimp at the butcher’s counter is actually frozen shrimp that’s been thawed. By the time you get that shrimp home to cook it, it’s been thawed for who knows how long and will usually yield bland, mushy, unsatisfactory results. Buying shrimp that’s still frozen gives you more control and a juicy, firm, flavorful product.
Uncooked plain shrimp generally come packaged in bags and are categorized by size – small, medium, jumbo, etc. Bags are marked with a number that could look something like this: 26/30. That number indicates the number of shrimp pieces found in a pound; in this case, 1 pound of shrimp will be about 26 to 30 pieces. The larger the number, the smaller the shrimp. You’ll get about 51 to 60 small shrimp in a pound or 21 to 25 jumbo shrimp in a pound.
You’ll also find that raw shrimp comes in various states of “undress” from fully shelled to totally deveined and detailed. The one you choose depends on the recipe you’re making, your budget, and your tolerance for prepping shrimp.
Uncooked frozen shrimp can be boiled, baked, or sauteed straight from frozen or you can thaw it in the fridge or under cold running water. It cooks up in minutes and can be used in countless recipes.
Breaded or Otherwise Pre-Prepped Shrimp
Your grocery store also carries commercially prepared breaded or prepped varieties of shrimp. These products contain uncooked shrimp that’s been prepped for you in some way, giving you a valuable head start in your meal preparation. They can be baked, boiled, sauteed, fried, or cooked in an air fryer. Quality is good, especially from brands such as SeaPak, and the options are endless.
Cooked Frozen Shrimp
Next to the bags of uncooked shrimp, you’ll find bags of cooked shrimp. These may or may not still have their tails intact, but they’re otherwise cooked and ready to go. You can thaw them and eat them straight from the bag with cocktail sauce or you can warm them and use them in your favorite recipes. Since they’re already cooked, they’re less versatile than uncooked and you need to be wary or overcooking them and creating a tough shrimp that’s unpleasant to eat. These are great for eating plain, tossing in salads, taking on picnics, or prepping appetizers. But, if you’re looking to create a cooked main dish, uncooked shrimp is a better option.
Whatever you choose, it’s clear frozen shrimp needs to be on your menu this week.