HOME > Chowhound > Home Cooking >


Shrimp dilemma

I've had a simple go-to shrimp scampi recipe that I've used for ages and all of a sudden, the shrimp isn't tasting right. It's so fibrous --- as though it has little threads of gristle all through it.

I always buy Trader Joe's shrimp...whatever is the uncooked deveined product (sorry, don't know the exact "name"). They're a good size but, again, don't know the exact count. My recipe is really basic - saute in butter, olive oil and garlic until opaque about halfway up, flip and saute for an equal amount of time, remove from heat and toss with as much parmesan as I feel is necessary on any given day.

This method has never disappointed me until the last few times.

So my questions are:

1. Is it me....am I not cooking them long enough? Or is it the shrimp....can shrimp be "gristly" like a four-legged protein?

2. Is there something I can do with this now-leftover pound of scampi - maybe a soup or something? I hate to toss it in the bin but at this point, I even took a bite of it cold and it would be tasty except for the noise that it makes. It's like nails on a chalkboard to me.

I'll appreciate any help that anyone can give.

  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
  1. Not sure about the gristly texture, but regarding the leftover shrimp, if I were you I would try to either chop it very finely, or whiz it in a blender/food processor, and then make some croquettes, shrimpcakes, or even toss them in an omelette.

    4 Replies
    1. re: kmanihot

      Thanks for this idea. I have a shrimp mold recipe that will work just fine for that.

      1. re: Harts52

        They'd be handy for a shrimp patty that is a nice fall/winter treat: (got via chow a few years ago but can't locate the recipe right now): mix roasted sweet potato and garlic with chopped shrimp and chopped cilantro. Dredge lightly in flour and fry; can be kept warm and/or cooked further on baking sheet w/rack.

        Lime-enlivened creme fraiche is a nice sauce.

        1. re: ellabee

          I think I found the recipe on Epicurious. I have nearly a pound a shrimp to use so I'll use half for this and half for a small shrimp mold.

    2. Sounds like they weren't cleaned properly...

      1 Reply
      1. re: foodslut

        They were as clean as clean could be. I never accept deveined shrimp as "good to go." I always remove the tail shell nd slice open that piece because invariable there are still intestines lurking. I even remove the nerve on the inside curve - I know what it is and that it isn't poopy but some people don't and I'd rather just take it out that have to have a discussion over the meal.

      2. I would say try remaking a small batch with shrimp from whole foods or a local fish market and see if there is a difference, its possible your trader joes has a new vendor or that the shrimp is coming from a different location

        11 Replies
        1. re: Ttrockwood

          This makes all the sense in the world. I wasn't able to find it in the freezer case for a month or 2, and then all of a sudden it reappeared. It has to be the new vendor/different location issue. When it wasn't available, I asked the sales clerk and they said they had stopped getting it because they location was over-fished.

          1. re: Harts52

            sounds like a contract issue with whatever farm co-op they had been using.

            op: make shrimp toast.

            1. re: hotoynoodle

              They weren't using a farm, hope they didn't sink to that level. I will look at the package closely tomorrow before I buy any.

              1. re: coll

                found this from trader joe's, dated 7/17/13


                "Farmed Shrimp—
                We are in the process of developing a set of standards for our suppliers of farmed shrimp to cover concerns ranging from environmental impact of the aquaculture to the use of antibiotics to safety and traceability from the farms to our stores."

                they do indeed sell farmed shrimp.

                1. re: hotoynoodle

                  Last I bought was last Christmas, oh well. Not a big staple in our diet. Nothing stays the same I guess.

                  I'll save some money tomorrow it looks like. I can buy farmed shrimp right here where I live, instead of driving an hour. I'll let you know what I find tomorrow, I was going to stock up for the holidays.

                  1. re: coll

                    I got gulf shrimp there recently, but they did have some from Thailand, too.

                    1. re: mcf

                      I always try to avoid shrimp from Thailand. Wrote a research paper on shrimp trawlers in Thailand for a "Geography of Populations" class last semester, and the majority is caught by migrant slave labor and a result of human trafficking. Good, multi-piece story about it by NPR.. here is part 1 if anyone is interested:

                      1. re: OhioHound

                        I'm avoiding shrimp from any farms at this point, since all I see seems to be from Thalian, Viet Nam or Indonesia.

                  2. re: hotoynoodle

                    Well that's a bummer. That got me googling and I was able to find the specific product that I bought is "uncooked wild blue shrimp." Maybe they called it wild and it's not?!?! Maybe it is wild...dunno. Just know it was not yummy the way it should have been.

                    1. re: Harts52

                      although i do shop at tj's i don't think i have ever bought any seafood other than canned there, so i'm sorry i'm not much help otherwise.

                      1. re: Harts52

                        Those are gulf shrimp, I believe, what I bought.

            2. Trader Joe's definitely changes suppliers a lot, it is part of their business model. To me, it sounds overcooked. Perhaps, though, the quality of the shrimp is just bad.

              1. I find that Black Tiger Shrimp are Tough and Stringy.
                They are a very common variety to find P&D and Frozen.
                For a better quality Product seek out American or Mexican Green, White or Pink Shrimp.

                4 Replies
                1. re: chefj

                  That's what Trader Joes has always had, pink gulf shrimp, not Black Tiger farmed. I'm going today to pick some up for the holidays, and will look at the label before purchasing.

                  1. re: coll

                    OK I think I solved the mystery. They still have the wild shrimp, but they also have Argentine red shrimp which I assume are farmed. Didn't catch the price difference unfortunately, since I wasn't shopping around!

                    1. re: coll

                      The Argentine Red shrimp are only wild caught, sustainably fished, never farmed. But Trader Joe's Red Argentine shrimp aren't always transported well. i have had problems with them. As opposed to other sources.

                  2. re: chefj

                    I used to buy Black Tiger shrimp at H Mart and ultimately decided after a while that for some reason I just didn't like shrimp anymore. Then, one late winter night, when I needed more shrimp for guests I ran to the local Whole Foods and alas...I do still like shrimp, in fact I love shrimp just not those Tiger shrimp.

                  3. Have you spoken to anyone in management at Trader Joe's about the problem? If you do, you probably need go higher up than just at the store level. They would probably appreciate your feedback.

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: Sam D.

                      Good idea. I'll send them an email today and see what happens.

                    2. If you're buying your shrimp from Trader Joe's, I have to guess that it could very well be the shrimp. If you read up on farmed shrimp that comes from Asia or South America (as I'm guessing yours is), you will never eat it again! Always try to buy wild-caught American shrimp.
                      Also, do you clean the vein out of the back of the shrimp? Sometimes they come de-veined and sometimes they don't. If you don't have them de-veined, they will definitely have that gristly crunch you are describing. It is, after all, their intestinal tract! Yum!
                      Hope this helps!
                      Oh, and don't overcook shrimp! It also makes it tough and chewy.
                      Good luck!

                      2 Replies
                      1. re: Livethelive

                        As I mentioned above, Trader Joes sells only wild caught shrimp.

                        1. re: Livethelive

                          As Coll said, TJ's only sells wild, and as I mentioned earlier, I'm manic about cleaning. I also always have a tendency to undercook rather than overcook. As soon as the translucency is gone, their done. I used to take them off the heat before they were 100% opaque on the outer curve, thinking they would continue to cook while they rested, but I ended up with some non-opaque centers when I did that.

                        2. if it were me, i'd take the whole mess of it back to trader joe's.
                          they have always stood behind their products in my experience.

                          4 Replies
                          1. re: westsidegal

                            Yeah, they do. I haven't had many reasons to complain but, when I have, they have always been emphatic in their encouragement to return an item. The trouble with returning something already cooked/opened is that my TJs is about an hour from me. I always have multiple stops to make beforehand and then shop there last, pack everything in unsulated bags and make a beeline for home. I can't imagine what that shrimp would smell like after a few hours in the car. The insulated bags (the big zipper ones) that I have from them are wonderful but I think this might test their limits.

                            1. re: Harts52

                              I've heard you don't have to bring the product and can just take a picture or just tell them.

                              OT and btw, how do you keep those darn insulated bags cool. Mine are always the same temperature as the car or hotter after just a 2 hour trip home. Perhaps I'm expecting too much of them.

                              1. re: fldhkybnva

                                I usually just keep them in my trunk buried under a quilt. I only have an hour distance, though. I didn't do anything special and was able to keep ice cream frozen solid once! Of course, it wasn't in the dead heat of summer and it was surrounded by other frozen foods. At the time, I was big on their crab-stuffed flounder and would buy 20 at a time and those buggers are like little bricks of ice. I got a bad one once (like in the bathroom bad within minutes of eating it) and haven't been able to buy them again.

                                Maybe there's something else in their freezer section that is hard as a rock that would work for you? Otherwise, maybe those "blue ice" hard-as-rock containers that come with Igloo coolers? I've seen them sold separately at Wal-Mart, etc.

                                1. re: fldhkybnva

                                  I have done exactly that- i took a photo of the frozen cucumbers (6 of them!) that were half icy when i got home and they refunded me- non issue

                            2. It is incredibly easy to overcook shrimp, and the texture that you describe is classic for overcooked shrimp! If I'm boiling mine, I never go over 3 minutes, maximum, for extra large shrimp. Salad shrimp just barely get blanched. If you want intense shrimp flavor in a sauce that takes longer to cook than the shrimp, you can use the shrimp shells to make a stock and use that as a flavor boost, then just add the shrimp at the very last minute, pre-cooked also works and then just barely enough time to warm them through. Good luck!

                              And yes, some shrimp do cook faster than others. Depends on whether they're wild caught or farm raised, how cold the water was, all sorts of variables.

                              9 Replies
                              1. re: Caroline1

                                Fairly recently (within past three weeks) I bought cleaned raw shrimp from the freezer section of Trader Joe's for the first time. I used them in a recipe I've made umpty-ump times and was startled at how badly it came out. I concluded that it was the quality of the shrimp --- and now reading your account, I'm sure it was. I didn't buy the Argentine red, I bought the other ones, whatever they were.
                                When I buy fresh from Whole Foods, which I don't do a lot because they're so expensive, the quality is always excellent.
                                After this experience though, I had decided to stick to the shrimp from Whole Foods, and just eat less!

                                1. re: BerkshireTsarina

                                  We're they the wild blue? That what I bought...they were just soooo bad. :-(

                                    1. re: BerkshireTsarina

                                      I had been buying them for a long time with no problems at all but now they are just awful. A shame, since I don't know that I'll ever be able to trust them.

                                      1. re: Harts52

                                        Crap, that may be what's in my freezer.

                                        1. re: mcf

                                          Just checked, that's what I just bought for the holidays too. 2 bags of that, and 2 bags of Red Argentina. The reds are more like langostino that shrimp, OK in a pasta sauce or soup. Hoping the wild are better than tiger shrimp at least.

                                          1. re: coll

                                            You might want to take one out and give it a test. For the scampi that I make, I cook it in a skillet just to the point where it is opaque about half way up, then flip it over and don't let the opaque-ness reach all the way up since I know it will continue to cook a bit when it rests. The mouth feel (teeth feel is more like it) is like nails on a chalkboard. Kind of an inner gristle-crunch. UGH!

                                            1. re: Harts52

                                              Wonder if they'll give me a refund if they're that bad?

                                              1. re: coll

                                                Yes, TJs always will, no questions asked.