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Shrimp Size

I find that 21-25 shrimp seem to usually be ideal for most uses as the combination of taste and texture is well balanced. The huge U10 prawns seem best suited for grilling in their shell brushed with some garlic butter. In landlocked Vermont we are certainly not getting the best the World's waters have to offer but I'm curious as to what the rest of you hounds think about the best shrimp size/type. Also, I disagree with any recipe that advises peeling shrimp before boiling (for cocktail). I always boil shell on with some peppercorns, lemon, parsley, and Old Bay. If there is a better way, let me know !

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  1. You can use pickling spices in you water.

    1. steam/boil them in about 1/2-3/4 in. of beer!

      1 Reply
      1. re: Procrastibaker

        Ah, yes - an American version of Asian drunken prawns!

      2. Though I certainly appreciate your feelings about 21-25's, I have had the modest 26-30's foisted upon my conscience as an excellent size for inclusion in shrimp cocktails and pastas & sautes. I find they are large enough for two polite mouthfulls when served on their own, and you need not have knives on the table if serving them in a pasta.
        I may be a big guy, but I do not have an unhinged jaw!
        I like your shellfish boil, but usually throw in a bay leaf and or fennel fronds if I have them.

        1. Recently, I'm seeing a more consistent, tastier 16-20 shrimp from Mexico.

          I use the specialized pointy plastic "shrimp zipper" tool to evicerate the shrimp. I get my frozen 16-20s without heads. The tool goes in where the head was--I guide it out above the tail. This is that fastest way to lose the shell and open the digestive tract. I then do a rinse under the tap to finish removing the digestive tract. The tail makes a nice handle.

          I can't allow my guests to be removing their own shells. I serve the shrimp cocktail as soon as they walk in the door.

          In addition to the standard "bloody mary" cocktail sauce, I do a low fat sour cream and horseradish (Newport Cocktail sauce, we call it).

          1. 21-25s are great for general purpose stuff where the whole shrimp is the star, but I prefer much smaller shrimp for gumbos & jambalaya (60-70, head-on count).

            If you can get it, try Zatarain's Crab Boil as an alternative to Old Bay in your boiling water. I do agree that shell-on is the way to go for boiled shrimp.

            And here's a plea: eat domestic seafood, esp shrimp. Ask in restaurants if the shrimp served is imported or domestic. Cheap, pond-raised shrimp are a serious trade threat to American shrimpers, whose wild-caught product is far superior in taste & texture. To read about trade issues, get recipes, and for way more seafood info than you ever wanted to know, see www.louisianaseafood.com. Many shrimp trawlers are independent, self-employed small businessmen, not guys working on fleet boats for someone else. Trawlers in the northern central Gulf of Mexico were hard-hit by Katrina & Rita in '05, and many are struggling to survive in the face of global trade, rising fuel prices, and the double-barrelled task of rebuilding their boats/docks/icehouses & other business infrastructure while also rebuilding their homes.

            2 Replies
            1. re: Hungry Celeste

              Great point about supporting our domestic shrimp trade (and all other domestic products when possible). There is nothing wrong with a global market but let's forget our own bounty and the food it puts on our fellow American's tables. I'll look for the Zatarain's and give it a try (maybe with a bottle of Anchor Steam). I agree that the shell should be removed before serving but not until after the shrimp are cooked. Those precooked cocktail shrimp at the stores are like eating styrofoam.

              1. re: Hungry Celeste

                Here in Canada ( Maritimes) it is hard to find US shrimp . I am thinking mainly of the shrimp caught along the eastern seaboard and caught by shrimp trawlers. In our grocery stores the farm raised freshwater shrimp from the Far East are mostly the only ones available. When we were visiting Toronto during the summer we were able to buy fresh "wild" shrimp. What a difference in taste and texture.