Test Kitchen recipe: How to buy, store and cook shrimp

Q: What are some keys to cooking and storing shrimp properly?

A: While buying shrimp at Kroger on one of the grocery chain's four-day specials, I overheard lots of questions about shrimp. What size are these? How long will they stay frozen? What's the best way to cook them?

Shrimp is popular year-round; it’s America’s most-consumed seafood, according to the National Fisheries Institute.

What’s great about having a stash of frozen shrimp in the freezer: You can whip up a quick appetizer or dinner. Because of their small size, shrimp thaw quickly.

At most grocery stores and seafood markets, there are many size options for shrimp. There also is often the choice between wild-caught or farm-raised. I prefer wild-caught shrimp because I find its flavor sweeter.

Shrimp are typically categorized by how many will comprise 1 pound. The count number is usually listed on the package or a label at the seafood counter. Sometimes shrimp will be labeled as colossal, jumbo, extra-large, large, medium or small. A versatile size for shrimp is 21-25 per pound. That will generally work for appetizers or main dishes.

Perhaps the biggest turnoff with shrimp is the dark vein that runs along the back. This vein is the animal’s digestive tract. It’s best to remove it before using. To remove, using small scissors, cut a slit through the shell and just a bit into the flesh along the back. It’s best to expose the vein without cutting too deep into the flesh. Use the tip of the scissors to remove and discard the vein. For shrimp that’s already shelled, use a paring knife to cut a small slit along the back.

If you’re squeamish about the vein you can buy them already deveined and partially peeled. Look for EZ peel on the package.

When storing shrimp: If they bought were fresh or frozen, they will keep 3-12 months in the freezer, according to the United States Department of Agriculture.

Shrimp take to a variety of cooking methods: grilling, baking, broiling, roasting, steaming and sauteing. Avoid overcooking, or they will be tough. When I roast or bake a whole sheet pan of 21-25 count shrimp, it takes about 8 to 10 minutes. When finished, they should be opaque with some pink to them. With other methods, cook shrimp until they become pink.

Many times I brine shrimp in a saltwater solution before cooking. This plumps them up a bit and makes them juicy. To brine a pound of shrimp, mix 1 gallon water with ½ cup of kosher salt. Add shrimp and brine in the refrigerator about 1-2 hours.

Sometimes shrimp get a bad rap for their high cholesterol. But it’s important to note that they are low in fat, including artery-clogging saturated fat.

Sheet Pan New Orleans Barbecue Shrimp

Serves: 4

Prep time: 15 minutes (plus marinating time)

Total time: 45 minutes

2 pounds raw shrimp (21-25 count) peeled and deveined

2 tablespoons olive oil

2 tablespoons melted butter

2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce

1 tablespoon favorite creole seasoning

2 teaspoons minced fresh garlic

2 lemons, divided

1 heaping teaspoon minced fresh rosemary leaves

Salt and pepper to taste

Chopped chives for garnish

In a glass measuring cup, whisk together olive oil, melted butter, Worcestershire sauce, creole seasoning, garlic, juice from one lemon and rosemary.

Place shrimp in a bowl or plastic bag and pour marinade over shrimp. Toss to evenly coat shrimp with marinade. Marinate 15 minutes.

Preheat oven to 425 degrees.

Line a baking sheet with foil. Pour shrimp and marinade onto the prepared baking sheet and spread into a single layer.

Roast shrimp for 8 to 10 minutes, or just until pink, stirring halfway through. Remove from oven and squeeze juice from remaining lemon over top. Toss to coat, and garnish with fresh chopped chives.

Adapted from Zatarain’s.

Tested by Susan Selasky for the Free Press Test Kitchen.

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