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Steaming Frozen Shrimp: Thaw First or Cook from Frozen?

I never plan ahead enough to defrost in the fridge. The choices are to thaw under running water, or steam from frozen. Which tastes better, in your experience?

Bonus question: For thawing under running water, is it better to put them in a ziploc and remove the air, or just throw them directly in the bowl? I'm concerned about water-logging the shrimp and washing out some flavor, but I also don't want it to take forever. Can I speed it up with warm or luke-warm water, if I cook them immediately after?

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  1. The shrimp need to be cleaned before you cook them, and that can't be done frozen. Defrosting shrimp doesn't take forever and they don't get water-logged in my experience. Place the shrimp in a bowl, fill it with cold water, and they should be defrosted within 20 to 25 minutes, ready to be rinsed, dried and cooked. Don't use warm water and don't cook them frozen, please. And, I never thaw shrimp in the refrigerator, always in a bowl of cold water in the sink. The process is very quick.

    4 Replies
    1. re: janniecooks

      I think they should be cooked in shell, less shrinkage by far. You can always shell and devein later.

      1. re: robt5265

        For many applications yes shrimp is better when cooked in the shell, but not always. And while I didn't address removing the shell in my reply; when I used the phrase "need to be cleaned" I intended it to mean "need to be deveined and rinsed", not necessarily to mean to remove the shell. Even if the shell remains for cooking, the shrimp should be deveined first if possible. Small shrimp don't necessarily get deveined, but the sizes typically used for cocktails and for cooking ought to.

        1. re: janniecooks

          Thanks so much for this thread, this is just what I needed :) Filtered water is sufficient for cleaning them right? Thank you!

          1. re: CorrinaRachel

            I just use tap water - city water. Depending on the quality of water where you live, you may wish to use filtered water, but in most developed countries, I think tap water is safe to use.

    2. I would thaw them in a bowl of cool, salted water with a bit of sugar in it. This acts as a brine and will make your shrimp taste fresher. Just don't go too long - 20 mins or so should be enough to thaw and brine them. It goes faster if you agitate the water, too.

      4 Replies
      1. re: biondanonima

        Thanks so much for this tip! I have never liked any frozen shrimp (but keep buying it anyway because it's cheaper and easier to get here). I will try the sugar brine trick for our Christmas shrimp. I am sure the people and the high-maintenance orange cat will like it a lot better!

        1. re: Isolda

          A light salt brine is a more general trick to help resuscitate some freshness: e.g. you can do it with chicken that is a day or so past its "prime."

          1. re: Isolda

            A salt bind will bring back the snap or crunch that fresh shrimp should have.
            I try not to buy Indo shrimp but when I did this really helped with texture

          2. re: biondanonima

            Can you do this for fresh shrimp still in the shell? Great tip, thanks so much!

          3. Have found that unless you have a huge block of just about anything frozen, you can thaw it in about 20-30 minutes in room temp water. When shrimp are at a really good price, I'll buy a pound or 2. Then I freeze in as close to a single layer as possible and vac seal. Same with boneless/skinless chicken breasts... will repackage (1-2 per) and vac seal. In vac sealed bag, ready to cook in no time.

            1. If you are buying IQF shrimp in a bag, they are already waterlogged because they were pumped with a water based solution which is why they shrink like a new cotton shirt and little in the way of shrimp flavor.

              If you really love the strong shrimp flavor I would recommend spending a couple extra dollars per lb and get wild caught white or brown shrimp. Both Gulf or Pacific Mexican are great.

              Steaming brings to mind shrimp cocktail or seasoned pick and peel. The common consensus seems to be cooking with the shell on preserves moisture and flavor. I buy wild shrimp in a 5lb block, thaw a section under cold water and then let the individual shrimp thaw in the water. I then slit the shell up the back toward the tail with the tip of a razor sharp chefs knife. I then remove the vein and steam shell on. IMMEDIATELY after steaming, they go in an ice bath to stop the cooking. Same procedure if I am boiling them.

              1 Reply
              1. re: Tom34

                Thank you Tom, this is very helpful!