How to Clean & Prepare Fresh Shrimp

Cleaning

Rinse shrimp thoroughly in cold water. If desired, remove heads by pinching and twisting or cutting with a small paring knife.

Peeling

While it’s easier to peel the shell from shrimp prior to cooking, leaving the shell on while steaming or boiling helps better retain their delicious flavor.

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To peel shrimp, first remove the legs by pulling them away from the body. Next, grip the shell at the head end and pull the shell up and away, continuing in a circular motion around the shrimp.

The tail can be left on shrimp when grilling, or removed when baking or sautéing. To remove it, simply pinch the section of tail that connects to the shrimp’s body and pull it away while holding the shrimp with your other hand.

Set peeled, un-cooked shrimp in chilled water while you prepare the remainder. Pat dry with a paper towel before cooking.

De-Veining

The “vein” is a shrimp’s digestive track and usually appears as a dark line running down its back. The choice to de-vein shrimp relies entirely upon personal preference. There is seldom a flavor difference between cooked shrimp that have and have not been de-veined. Many people feel that removing the vein enhances the appearance of prepared shrimp, but may provide unnecessary work when cooking shrimp in their shells.

The process to remove the vein from shrimp is the same whether they are in-shell or already peeled. Using a small paring knife, cut a slit in the shrimp’s back about 1/3 of its body deep from the head end to just before the tail. Spread the split and remove the vein with your fingers, the tip of the knife, or a toothpick. Any remaining residue from the track can be rinsed out under cold water.

Storing

Use fresh shrimp within 2 days to ensure their delicious flavor and outstanding quality. Store them on ice and covered with wax paper in the coldest section of your refrigerator.

It’s best to eat shrimp within 2-3 days of cooking. Utilizing versatile recipes (like coconut shrimp) that can be eaten hot or cold will offer you a variety of dishes and minimize cooking times.

For longer term storage, pack shrimp tightly in a freezer bag with their shells on. Generally, frozen shrimp will lose their texture but retain their savory flavor for up to 6 months.

To thaw shrimp, place them in chilled water for a few hours or overnight. Once thawed, soak shrimp in salted ice water to refresh them until you are ready to cook, within 1 – 2 days.

Remember that thawed shrimp CANNOT be refrozen, so package in ready-to-use quantities if you are plan to freeze them.

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Using Heads & Shells

Utilizing left-over heads and shells (cooked or raw) to create shrimp stock or shrimp butter is a great way to save money and enhance future dishes. The shells retain tons of delicious flavor that seeps into butter and oil when cooked. Shells and heads can even be further utilized as compost material for your garden and flower beds. Follow these easy steps to get the most out of your flavorful shrimp.

Shrimp Stock

Heat 1 tablespoon of canola or vegetable oil in a large skillet over medium-low heat.

Add shrimp shells and toss well. Cook 2 – 3 minutes, stirring often.

Add 1 ½ cup water per the shells from 1 pound of shrimp. Season water with spices, if desired.

Bring to a simmer, pressing firmly on the shells with a flat spatula to best extract the flavor. Simmer 5 to 7 minutes.

Strain, pressing shells to remove the maximum amount of liquid. Add salt to taste.

Shrimp stock stays fresh for up to 1 week in the refrigerator, or 6 months when frozen.

Shrimp Butter

Melt 1 cup of butter in a saucepan over medium heat. Add 4 cups of shrimp shells and stir frequently. After 15 minutes, strain through a fine mesh sieve. Press shells firmly to release all liquids.

Chill butter and store for later. Utilize the butter when preparing seafood or melt slices over cooked vegetables to enhance flavor.