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Do You Defrost Frozen Shrimp Before Cooking?

by Natalie Smith, studioD

Shrimp is an excellent source of protein for your family, with a delicate flavor that even the pickiest eaters won't object to. Preparing them is lightning fast, once they're thawed. For instance, simply sauté in butter or olive oil and serve atop pasta, stir-fried vegetables or a mixed green salad with crunchy, seasoned croutons and creamy dressing. Or, serve them with a creamy dip. You may wonder if you should purchase shrimp with the head on or off, or if you should opt for shelled and deveined shrimp or shrimp with the shell on. Even more perplexing, you may not know whether to add the shrimp to the recipe when it is still frozen or thawed.

Purchasing Shrimp

If you haven't purchased your shrimp for your recipe yet, choose frozen shrimp rather than thawed. Unlike most seafood, you are better off purchasing frozen shrimp for best results. This is because fresh shrimp are very perishable. Unless you live in an area where you are able to get shrimp caught the same day, the quality of your shrimp might suffer from not being frozen. In addition, if you purchase thawed shrimp at the supermarket, you do not know how long they have been sitting out, which may put your family at risk for food-borne illness.

Deciphering The Recipe

Read the recipe. If the recipe calls for boiled shrimp or simmered shrimp and the water from the thawing shrimp won't affect the sauce, such as the case of a shrimp boil in which the cooking water is discarded, you can add the shrimp frozen. Add approximately two minutes to the overall cooking time to accommodate for the fact that the shrimp must thaw before they begin cooking. However, if the shrimp are baked, grilled, or cooked in a sauce that you will be serving alongside the meal, thaw them first or the water from the shrimp might thin the sauce.

When in Doubt

If you aren't sure whether the water given off by the thawing shrimp will affect the recipe, thaw them. You can thaw the shrimp by placing them on a plate and leaving them in the refrigerator overnight. If you don't have 24 hours, thaw the shrimp quickly by placing the shrimp in a colander and running cool water over them for four minutes or until they are no longer hard.

Cooking Tips

Whether you added the shrimp thawed or frozen, you will know they are done cooking when they turn bright pink. Do not cook the shrimp past this point or they will become very dense and rubbery. Allow shell-on shrimp two minutes to cook before you serve them so your little ones don't burn their fingers trying to take the shells off.

About the Author

Natalie Smith is a technical writing professor specializing in medical writing localization and food writing. Her work has been published in technical journals, on several prominent cooking and nutrition websites, as well as books and conference proceedings. Smith has won two international research awards for her scholarship in intercultural medical writing, and holds a PhD in technical communication and rhetoric.

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