Fish Hopper Seafood and Steaks - How to Pick Out the Best Shrimp
People are often mystified at how they can buy good shrimps and for good reason, as there are tons of varieties for sale. When looking for the best shrimp for dinner, there are three main factors that will help you to choose the best: Fresh or frozen shrimp, what size shrimp you need, and what format the shrimp are sold in. Whether you are confused about the sizing system, if you should be buying fresh versus frozen or how to make sure the quality is top-notch, shopping for shrimp can be a befuddling task.
The first thing to think about when looking for high quality shrimp is the freezing. Unless the shrimp is extremely local, all shrimp has been previously frozen. This means that even the shrimp at the seafood counter is previously frozen"and by law, should state that. You can always ask is this previously frozen if need be. Do not purchase the thawed shrimp from the counter if you are not planning to use the shrimp that night. It is the same as what's in the freezer, only you have less control over its care.
Once you've learned that the secret to buying good shrimp is to find the freezer section, you can pick from what may be a wide variety of sizes. If you have a recipe, it should say what size you need. Shrimp are sized by how many fit in a pound, so you'll often see it specified that you need 21-25 ct (large) or something similar. That means there are 21 to 25 individual shrimp of that size in a pound. If you are grilling or serving the shrimp as a main, you probably want 21-25 or larger (16-20, U16). If you are stir-frying or adding to a soup or pasta dish, you probably want a smaller shrimp (31-35 or 36-40).
If you purchase an all-natural shrimp, it will not contain a preservation agent called sodium tri-polyphosphate, and thus will be about the same size after cooking as it is before. The cheaper the shrimp, often the more "STP" as it's called, is added, so the more the shrimp will shrink in the cooking process. If you want top quality shrimp, check the ingredients and make sure there is no sodium tri-polyphosphate added.
Once you have the proper size of shrimp the next step in figuring out how to buy good shrimp is to decide in what form you need them. Shrimp have heads, tails, veins and shells, and you'll find they are sold with any number of combinations of those on or off, either deveined or not. Most of the shrimp's flavor comes from the shell and the head, so if you can cook them with those both on, you'll get the most delicious shrimp in the store, though you'll have a lot more work to do peeling them later. If you want the easiest shrimp to deal with, look for deveined, peeled, headless shrimp.
Cooked shrimp are another option in the freezer. If the shrimp are cooked, it is most likely without head, vein or shell. These shrimp will have less flavor than if you cook them yourself, but will save you a lot of time and effort. If you don't want to deal with the process of peeling or deveining a shrimp, this is a good way to avoid it.
The last step in purchasing the best shrimp in the store is to take care of it. Keep it completely frozen until 24 hours before you plan to use it, then defrost it slowly by putting it in the refrigerator. If you need to use it quickly, leave it wrapped in plastic and place under cool running water for 15-20 minutes, until defrost.