What Are... Shrimp?

Shrimp are a class of small, shelled invertebrates that come in a variety of species and live in freshwater, salt water, and mixed habitats. The larger ones are also commonly referred to as "prawns" at seafood counters and fishmongers. They are high in protein, low in fat, and are a good source of iron. However, they also contain high amounts of cholesterol; just one 3-ounce serving of cooked shrimp may contain up to 55 percent of the daily value of cholesterol for someone on a 2,000-calorie diet.

Click here to see Shrimp Grilling Tips.

Shrimp are delicious and are open to a variety of preparations. They can be fried, sautéed, boiled, baked, or grilled, and they are commonly found in pasta dishes, stir-fries, stews, soups, sandwiches, and all manner of other preparations. In short, they are a highly popular and greatly sought-after source of protein and are found in a variety of dishes in cuisines from around the world.

Click here to see Shrimp for Any Day of the Week.

Now for the juicy stuff. Here are some useful tips to keep in mind when shopping for shrimp and cooking with shrimp.

When shopping for shrimp, it's common to see shrimp advertised with their respective sizes, such as "jumbo" or "colossal." Sometimes they are accompanied by a more precise explanation of the average number of shrimp per pound. But, if that's not the case, here's a rough guide from Barbara Ann Kipfer's kitchen reference book, The Culinarian, that might come in handy.

Miniature (Bay) 70 or more per pound
Small 51-60 per pound
Medium 43-50 per pound
Medium-Large 36-42 per pound
Large 31-35 per pound
Extra-Large 26-30 per pound
Jumbo 21-25 per pound
Extra-Jumbo 16-20 per pound
Colossal or Giant (aka "U15") 10-15 per pound

It's a rough guide because retailers will vary in how they classify shrimp, and whether the shrimp is sold shell-on, head-on, or completely peeled and deveined can affect the numerical rating enough to knock it into the next size class. So, the safest thing to do is to shop by the numerical rating.

Purchase only as much shrimp as needed since they are highly perishable. Ideally, "fresh" raw shrimp should be used within 24 hours. Frozen shrimp, however, can be stored for up to three months. Keep in mind, however, that the majority of shrimp sold has actually already been frozen and is sold thawed, and should not be placed in the freezer again.

Click here to see the Grilled Shrimp with Apricot Sauce Recipe.

Most of the flavor in shrimp actually comes from the shell, so you may want to consider purchasing shell-on shrimp and cooking them in the shell. Peeling them after they're cooked may seem like an extra step, but it also means a juicier and more flavorful eating experience. Of course, whether this is practical and sensible or not will depend on the recipe.

Keep in mind also, when deveining shrimp you may see two "veins" running along the body of the shrimp — one on the outside of the curve and one on the inside. The one that should be removed is the one that runs along the outside, which is the digestive tract. To save time however, it is also possible to purchase shrimp that are already peeled and deveined.

And last, but not least, when selecting shrimp, always select shrimp that smell fresh, are firm, and free from any black spots. Avoid shrimp that smell, are slimy, or mushy. Shellfish decompose quickly when removed from their native habitat and shrimp are no exception.

There you have it — armed with a few juicy tips, you should be well on your way to shrimp-eating heaven.

Click here to see Best Seafood to Eat — 10 Choices.