Too fast pasta, as a soup insert or a fine addition to salads – the shrimp started its kitchen career as an exquisite delicacy, but can now also be found in down-to-earth cooking pots.
But not all shrimp are the same! A labyrinth of possibilities opens up from shopping to preparation: Hot or cold water? Prepared buy or peel yourself? What has to be done, what can be done? And how long do prawns have to fry in the pan?
A guide must come, a shrimp guide!
Shrimp, shrimps and prawns – what’s the difference?
Gambas, prawns, shrimps and in between there is a “prawn” in between. What’s with all the different names? It’s actually quite simple: shrimp are crustaceans with an elongated body. In contrast to crab, crayfish and lobster, shrimp do not have scissors. Typical is the forehead horn with small teeth.
Of over 3000 different species, around 350 are traded on the food market. Shrimp “as a generic term” is often used to divide itself into these terms:
- North Sea crab: The small specimens, which in spite of “crab” belong to the shrimp in the name of the shrimp, are usually sorted directly on board the crab cutter, precooked and cooled until they reach the next port of call.
- Shrimps: Actually only the English name for shrimp, under “Shrimp” in Germany often smaller shrimp species are sold.
- Prawns: Shrimps from 10 cm in length are available as “giant shrimp” or “prawns”. Especially large specimens are called King, Tiger or even Giant Tiger Prawn.
Prawns and shrimps: Shrimp in Spanish or French.
- Scampi: Hardly distinguishable from the shrimp when peeled, but actually belong to the lobster family. That’s why they are a little more expensive.
What should you watch out for when buying shrimp?
Anyone who buys shrimps will soon realize that there are quite a lot of options on offer here. Saltwater or fresh water? Fresh, frozen or precooked? Wildlife or aquaculture? What does all this actually mean and what are the characteristics that speak in favour of quality?
Wild capture vs. aquaculture
A high proportion of the shrimps traded come from aquaculture, i. e. farms where crustaceans grow in ponds or tanks. This protects natural stocks from overfishing. However, the “shrimp farms” do not have a particularly good reputation, depending on the country of origin: too full tanks, unhygienic water systems and, as a consequence, too many chemical “aids” to keep the animals healthy. If you want to make sure that no antibiotics or chemicals have been used in shrimp farming, you should rely on ecologically certified farms. TK-Ware is provided with appropriate organic seals. For fresh produce, you can simply ask your local fish dealer.
At sea, wild catcher shrimp are caught with trawl nets and sorted by size. In order to bring them onto the market especially fresh, many fisheries rely on immediate shock freezing. The shrimps are given a “glaze”, i. e. a thin layer of ice that provides optimum protection against germs.
Shrimp fishing areas
- Cold water shrimp: Typical cold water shrimp originate from the northern hemisphere. The Chilean edgebanded shrimp from the southern Pacific also belongs to this group. Well-known representative of cold water shrimp: the North Sea crab. It is fished along the European coast and often brought directly from the cutter to the man – it can’t get any fresher.
- Hot water shrimp: It is at home in warm waters around Southeast Asia or South America and grows faster than its cool relatives. It comes with a length of 10-13 cm as “giant prawn”,”King” or “Tiger Prawn” on the market. Even larger specimens up to 33 cm in length are offered as “Chinese prawns” or “Hauptmannsgarnelen”.
In addition to this distinction, there is often evidence of salt, freshwater or brackish water shrimp. Brackish water shrimp are at home in river mouths and are surrounded by salt and fresh water.
For shrimp fans, the cold water shrimp in particular is a delicacy. Because it needs more time to grow in its cool environment, it develops a delicate, aromatic taste and an even bite. Hot water shrimp are popular because of their size, but taste less intense.
Tips for buying shrimp
- Quality and freshness: Fresh shrimp do not smell fishy, but only a little salty after sea. Her eyes are shiny and damp, there are no isolated dark spots on the skin. Make sure that TK-Ware has a complete glaze.
- Sustainability: Shrimp from organic farms and MSC-certified (Martha Stewardship Council) catches promise high ecological and social standards.
- Origin: Sweet, salty, warm, cold – it has different characteristics depending on where the shrimp was allowed to grow. If you are not sure what type of shrimp is in front of you, check the proof of origin. You can also get information about the origin from the dealer.
Natural or ready to cook
Fish merchants often offer you the shrimp as a whole, which means with head, bowl and intestine. You can also buy them prepared:
- With no head, but with bowel and skin: shrimps in shell are particularly practical when you want to grill or fry seafood. They remain particularly delicate in their tanks. You only have to remove the intestine in this variant, but you can decide for yourself how deep you want to set the cut.
- Without head, with arms, but in shell: Here too, the great advantage is the protective shell. All other steps have already been taken care of.
- Without head, unarmed and peeled: These ready-to-cook shrimps can be thawed and transported directly into the pan or into the cooking pot, without any time-consuming peeling.
- Without head, cut into arms, peeled and pre-cooked: the prawns only need to be prepared in this way for a short time and not fried. All it takes is hot water from the kettle and a few minutes of cooking time.
Peeling and cleaning shrimp – step by step
Peeling is not a must, but you can save yourself and your guests from the annoying chatter at the table.
First remove the head. The easiest way to do this is by hand: grasp the shrimp on the head and remove it with a slight twist.
Then you can break open the shell on your stomach and pull it off all around. If she is persistent, simply cut open the bowl with a sharp knife or kitchen scissors on the stomach side. Remove the peel either completely or save the last limb with the tail tip – this looks chic when you put it on the plates and the shrimp can be easily touched.
Remove the shrimp’s intestine. Cut the back lengthwise with a sharp knife. Be careful not to cut too deep. With the knife tip you can raise the intestine carefully and simply pull it out.
For most shrimp fans, gutting is an absolute must, as the taste and appearance of the fine seafood are not affected afterwards. Shrimp prepared with the intestines can taste a bit bitter, but the work step is fiddly and confusing: even on the stomach side of the shrimp there is an elongated strand that can look bluish light or dark. What often passes through as a “slipped” intestine is actually the central nerve cord of the shrimp. It is not necessary, but if it bothers you, you can also make a small incision on the abdominal side and detach it. Finally, clean your prepared shrimp thoroughly under running water and dab dry.
A little coarse salt, freshly ground pepper and a splash of lemon – that’s all you need to spice up the shrimp. Garlic, thyme and rosemary are good for a Mediterranean taste. Or you can give your shrimp an Asian flavour with ginger, finely chopped chillies and a little coriander.
Depending on how you prepare the prawns, you can season them before or after heating. Especially marinades give them an intense, full taste. Just put the prawns overnight in oil, herbs and a few spices and let them soak.
Or why not try a flavored breadcrumb coating? Simply mix the starch with salt and pepper. Roll peeled prawns first in starch mix, then in egg white and finally in coconut flakes or breadcrumbs. Fry until golden brown or fry briefly and serve on plates.
The seafood can be prepared in different ways. In sushi quality, you can even eat them raw if they have been thoroughly cleaned beforehand. But also grilled, roasted, boiled or fried prawns are a delicious affair.
In almost all cooking methods, less is more. Depending on the size, shrimps, prawns and the like usually only need a few minutes. Overcooked meat decomposes or becomes rubbery and tough.
- Boil prawns: Boil up salted water, add prawns and reduce heat to medium heat. After about 2-3 minutes the meat is light pinkish and tender.
- Fry or grill the prawns: Shrimps remain particularly juicy when you fry them in a bowl or put them on the grill. 2-3 minutes from each side and they shine in rich orange or pink. Either put them on the table like this or take some work off your guests and peel them. Of course, you can also throw prawns into the pan without a bowl. Reduce the cooking time by about 30 seconds per side.
- In the wok: Popular in combination with crispy vegetables and a few soba noodles – the shrimp from the wok. Thanks to the special pan shape, the sea creatures are roasted on the bottom and kept warm at moderate temperatures.
- Steaming shrimp: With a steaming attachment or steaming basket you can prepare shrimp in a particularly gentle and calorie-conscious way. Depending on the size of the shrimp, 5 to 10 minutes are sufficient to cook them through.
- Bake prawns: In the oven, shrimps take 10-15 minutes longer than any other shrimp, but they are also crispy without much fat. Depending on the recipe, 200 to 230 °C is sufficient. Simply spread some oil on the prawns, season them and bake them in the oven.
- Fried prawns: And finally a special treat – the fried shrimp. It is cooked in hot oil after about 30 seconds and can be fished out with a skimmer.
Store shrimp: How long do shrimp stay fresh?
Fresh shrimp should be processed on the same day. In the refrigerator, they can be kept for a maximum of 2 days, after which the protein begins to decompose and becomes poor. TK-Ware stays in the freezer for a few weeks, but must be defrosted before preparation.
Depending on the size, shrimp take about 3-6 hours to thaw in the refrigerator. First, rinse the glaze under running cold water. Fill the shrimp into a sieve, so that they do not later lie in their own condensation water. Hang the sieve in a bowl and let the shrimp defrost completely in the refrigerator. By the way: Shrimp should not be frozen again once thawed! This affects quality, freshness and taste.
What are the nutritional values of shrimp?
Lots of protein, hardly any fat – that’s what makes the small shrimp so popular not only among gourmets, but also fitness bodies. With a protein content of around 18%, shrimp provide your body with plenty of building blocks for brain and muscles, beating just 90 kcal per 100 grams.