Did you know that of all the seafood out there, shrimp is the most popular in North America? It's really no wonder why. Shrimp is sweet, versatile in much the same way chicken is, and highly nutritious. It's also very easy to cook. Is it really easy to cook though? This is a question you may ask yourself if you've ever cooked shrimp only to end up with tough rubbery little Os.
The mistake that most people make with make with shrimp is that they overcook it. That's also what makes the shrimp rubbery and leaves itcurling up into themselves. There are many mistakes made when preparing it, and even when buying it. To save you from making those same mistakes, we've compiled this list of the top six tips you can follow the next time you prepare this delicious and ever so popular crustacean!
1. Know how to defrost them
First things first. Shrimp should always be bought frozen. It's counterintuitive as it goes against all that "fresh is best" talk we hear so often, and it can just seem plain wrong. It's important though. This is because fresh shrimp, unless it's just been caught, can quickly spoil. This is especially true for whole shrimp because the head contains an enzyme that can quickly turn the meat to mush. So start off buying frozen shrimp, and then know how to defrost it the right way.
Forget about your microwave and setting them out on the counter. It doesn't work with chicken, and it certainly isn't going to work with shrimp. Instead, set a colander inside a bowl and place the frozen shrimp into the colander. Cover it with plastic wrap and then set the entire thing into the refrigerator to defrost overnight. As the shrimp thaws, it will release moisture that will drain out of the colander and into the bowl. This is important because if the shrimp is left to sit in that liquid, it will again turn mushy and unpleasant.
2. Clean your shrimp
This doesn't mean running water over them. In fact, you should never place your shrimp directly under running water because they'll become waterlogged. No, instead we're talking about deveining your shrimp, or taking out that poop line. If you forget, rest assured that there is nothing unsafe about eating this, just unappetizing. If you're serving your shrimp to guests, they will likely not want to eat the shrimp if this tract is left in.
To take out th tract, use a pair of kitchen shears and make a small cut into the shrimp at the point where the tract starts, closer to the head. Then cut towards the tail along the line and then just scrape it out. It's a bit of a process, particularly for those that are new to cooking shrimp, but it's important.
3. Remove the shells
This is something that isn't done in many parts of the world as many actually eat the entire shrimp, shells and all. They are edible and they can provide a nice crunch, but here in North America, we don't typically eat them. When they're being served at a party, it's nice to take that task off your guests' shoulders and do it for them, as it can be a little messy, especially if the shrimp is swimming in sauce.
To remove the shell, slightly crack the shell on the underside of the shrimp. Work your thumbs slightly under the shell, cracking it as you do, and then work towards the tail, removing and peeling the shell away as you do. If you want to keep the tail fins on, that's perfectly acceptable as they're a little easier to work around and remove.
4. Keep the shells
Once the shells have been removed, it's a big mistake to just toss them out. Much like the way the bones of beef and chicken are used to make stock, the shells of shrimp can be used similarly. There is so much flavor in there and if you toss them into the trash, you're wasting all of it. The shells can be roasted with vegetables and then simmered to make a bisque, or they can be placed in a pot with aromatics, celery, carrots, and onions to make a stock or consommé. These stocks are some of the most beautiful that will ever come out of your kitchen!
5. Skewer them
You don't always have to skewer shrimp when you cook it, but you definitely need to if you're going to be cooking those shrimps on the grill. Shrimp cooks incredibly fast and by the time you've flipped the first of the shrimp over, the ones at the other end of the grill are getting overcooked. To prevent this from happening, flip five or six over at a time by placing the shrimp on skewers. To prevent the shrimp from just spinning around on those skewers, use two skewers, one inserted into each end of the shrimp. Place several shrimps on the double skewer so you don't have to flip each one individually.
6. Don't overcook them
It may be the last tip on our list, but it's the most important one. The number one reason shrimp doesn't turn out the way most people want is because it's been overcooked. Unlike poultry and other meats, shrimp only needs to reach an internal temperature of 120 degrees Fahrenheit. Also unlike meat and poultry, shrimp doesn't need a long cooking time. In fact, typically about three minutes is enough time for shrimp to cook. While it may be difficult to get a thermometer into those tiny shrimp, you can usually tell that they're fully cooked after their blue, green, or gray exterior (depending on the type of shrimp) turns opaque white or pink. Once this happens, wait another 30 seconds before taking them off the heat, but not other second more. At this point they're done and cooking them any longer will just turn them to rubber.
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