Beth R. | Sep 08, 2017 | 0 Comments
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Let's Do Some Shrimpin'

You would think when a recipe calls for a pound of shrimp, that you go to the seafood counter at your supermarket and get a pound of shrimp, right? Well, sort of…even the most landlocked of states sell shellfish both frozen and fresh; typically previously frozen (more on this below). But what you may not know is how they are measured and sized for selling. A shrimp’s size is based on how many individual shrimp it takes to make one pound. A simple guide: the smaller the number, the bigger the shrimp.

The largest sizes are usually marked with a “U” in front of the number. This means that whatever the number is, you will get “under” that amount in a pound. So for example, U/12 means that less than 12 shrimp make up one pound. The smaller shrimp are labeled for how many per pound in a given range. If you see a bag marked with 51/60, this means there are 51 to 60 small shrimp in one pound. In some cases they are also marked as Medium or Jumbo as well as the count. There isn’t a standard on how they claim these sizes, so the best bet is to look at the count to ensure you get enough shrimp to serve your guests. Take a look at the chart below on basic shrimp sizing (source SeriousEats.com)

 Shrimp Label Shrimp Per Pound
Small 51 or greater
Medium 36 to 50
Large 26 to 40
Jumbo 16 to 25
Colossal Fewer than 15

So when planning to serve Roasted Shrimp with Zesty Cocktail Sauce at your next gathering, how much should you buy? If you have multiple appetizers on your menu, you can plan on 2-3 large shrimp per person. If that is the only starter you are serving, you should plan on 4-5 per guest.

More Shrimp recipes you might like: Fresh or Frozen? In most cases you are better off buying your shrimp frozen, unless you are certain of the freshness. The reason why is that most shrimp sold in supermarkets are frozen at sea before being delivered to the retailer. Often times “fresh” shrimp sold at the seafood counter are the same shrimp you buy in the frozen bags from the freezer section that have been thawed and marked as “fresh” – how fresh is the key? They could have been thawed that morning or two days ago. Your best bet, buy frozen and defrost at home. Unless of course you are fortunate to live where you have access to fresh from the ocean seafood – lucky you!!

What we can agree on is never buy pre-cooked shrimp, it is almost always overcooked which is rubbery and has little flavor. And your shrimp bisque deserves the most flavorful shrimp!  Always check labels to make sure you are buying only shrimp. Some are treated with additives that increase thawed shelf life or retain water or moisture so they can be sold as larger shrimp.  Just say 'no' to those plastic trays of shrimp with the red sauce.

So you waited until the last hour to thaw your shrimp for your party, what now? Easy - place them in a bowl and set them under cold, never warm, running water; in a few minutes they will be ready to serve. If you prefer not to run water, you can place them in a bowl of cool water and let them sit; this will take a bit longer to defrost and you may need to change the water out at least once during the process. For even more information on how to pick shrimp and different shrimp varieties, check out this article on Coastal Creations >

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