Shrimp is, without question, the most popular seafood in the United States, and it has been for years. Yet it can be the most confusing type of seafood to buy.
No wonder. It comes in all types of preparations: head-on, headless, peels on, peeled and deveined, white, pink, wild-caught, farm-raised — the list goes on. You can buy it cooked or uncooked, fresh or frozen, seasoned or unseasoned. It's a lot to absorb in the two seconds you have to shop for dinner on a busy weeknight.
While there is a lot to consider, and a wealth of information for anyone willing to do a deep dive (pardon the pun), here is a quick glance at the ins-and-outs of buying shrimp.
Almost all the shrimp you buy at the supermarket was frozen at the time it was caught or harvested. That means the thawed shrimp at the fish counter is the same shrimp you can find in bags in the freezer section. The only difference? You have no way of knowing how long ago the shrimp at the fish counter has been thawed.
Also, shrimp is often treated with chemical solutions to keep it looking good and/or to cause it to absorb water. That's like putting a finger on the scale, as it can increase its weight by up to 10%. One easy way to tell if chemicals have been applied is to look at the ingredient list on the bag of frozen shrimp. It should include one word: shrimp.
Shell on or shell off is up to you, but I buy mine with the shell on. If I'm not cooking the shrimp directly in the shells, I'm saving them in the freezer for stock, which gives my soups, chowders or sauces an extra hit of seafood flavor.
Sustainability is a huge and important issue in the seafood industry. Should you buy wild-caught? Is farm-raised bad for the environment? The answers are not always obvious, so do a little research before buying your shrimp. One good resource is the Monterey Bay Aquarium Seafood Watch (seafoodwatch.org). It's also worth asking the person behind your local fish counter if they are relying on organizations like Seafood Watch when it comes to sourcing their seafood.
One last thing: Precooked shrimp is almost always overcooked, flavor-free and rubbery. Don't buy it. Shrimp is quick and easy to prepare, so do it yourself. You'll be happy you did.
Speaking of quick and easy to prepare, once you've made your purchase, whip up a quick batch of Sheet Pan Chipotle Shrimp and Pineapple Tacos. So easy and delicious, these tacos, with their spicy chipotle shrimp, sweet pineapple filling and a variety of fresh toppings, bring an array of tantalizing flavors and textures in every bite.
Sheet Pan Chipotle Shrimp and Pineapple Tacos
Note: Smoky shrimp, lightly charred pineapple, crisp cabbage and a squeeze of lime bring a delightful combination of flavors and textures together in one perfect taco. From Meredith Deeds.
• 1 1/4 lb. medium (31 to 40 per lb.) shrimp (thawed, if frozen), peeled and deveined
• 1 chipotle chile, finely chopped, plus 1 tbsp. adobo sauce (from a can of chipotles in adobo), divided
• 1/4 c. mayonnaise
• 1/4 c. sour cream
• 2 tbsp. lime juice, divided
• 1 tsp. honey
• 2 c. cubed (1/2-in.) fresh pineapple
• 2 tbsp. olive oil, divided
• 1/4 tsp. salt
• 8 corn tortillas, warmed
• Shredded cabbage
• Sliced jalapeños
• Cilantro leaves
• Lime wedges
Place a rack about 4 inches away from the broiler element; heat broiler. Spray a large, rimmed baking sheet with cooking spray.
Pat shrimp dry with paper towels.
In a medium bowl, whisk together 1 tablespoon of adobo sauce (from chipotle chiles), mayonnaise, sour cream, 1 tablespoon lime juice and honey. Set aside.
Place the pineapple on the baking sheet and drizzle with 1 tablespoon oil. Toss to coat. Arrange the pineapple in a single layer. Broil for 6 to 8 minutes, until lightly charred in spots. Stir pineapple and move it to one side of the baking sheet.
Meanwhile, in a medium bowl, combine remaining 1 tablespoon oil, 1 tablespoon lime juice, chopped chipotle chile and salt. Add the shrimp and toss to coat. Arrange in a single layer on the other side of the baking sheet and broil for 1 to 2 minutes, or until the tops look opaque. Turn the shrimp over and broil for 1 to 2 minutes more or until just cooked through.
Spoon shrimp into warm tortillas and top with pineapple, cabbage, sliced jalapeño, cilantro leaves and a drizzle of the chipotle mayo sauce, as desired. Serve with lime wedges.
Meredith Deeds is a cookbook author and food writer from Edina. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Instagram at @meredithdeeds.