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Shrimp Taste Explained: Cooking Techniques and Flavor Tips

Shrimp Taste Explained: Cooking Techniques and Flavor Tips

Did you know that one BILLION pounds of shrimp are claimed to be eaten every year by Americans?

The global shrimp market is expected to be worth $24.1 billion USD by 2026 with the United States leading the way as the largest shrimp consumer.

It’s said that shrimp is so popular in the United States because of its “ready-to-eat” and “ready-to-cook” ease of consumption. Plus, it’s low in carbohydrates, low in fat, low in calories, and rich in protein which all seem to be highly sought after American seafood qualities. 

While Americans might be the largest shrimp consumers, almost 90% of the shrimp in grocery stores and restaurants in the United States are actually not from the US.

The countries of India, Indonesia, Vietnam, Thailand, and Ecuador are the top shrimp-producing nations, and there is a range of farm-raised and wild-caught shrimp operations. 

As an ode to the most popular seafood consumed, we’ve put together a fun Shrimp FAQ, so get excited to learn more than you ever thought you would want to know about shrimp! 

Shrimp FAQ

Here are our favorite frequently asked questions about shrimp.

Are shrimp fish?

Shrimp

No. 

Shrimp are shellfish and are a species of crustaceans from the phylum Arthropoda. They are invertebrates, which means they do not have a backbone, but what’s really cool is that shrimp actually have no internal skeleton at all.

They are mostly made up of proteins and water. Shrimp has an external shell or exoskeleton for protection that is made of protein and a calcium-based material called chitin. 

Shrimp are labeled seafood or shellfish and should not be labeled fish. Getting the label right is particularly important for people with special dietary needs or religious dietary restrictions.

What does cooked shrimp taste like? 

Shrimp is a favorite seafood for a lot of people because they do not feel it has an overwhelming fishy taste. It has a mild flavor compared to a lot of other seafood and is often described as a little sweet and a little salty. Shrimp is slightly chewy and firm as well. 

Shrimp goes well with a variety of flavors and spices and is a very versatile ingredient. 

If you ever think that a piece of shrimp is rotten or tastes bitter or sour do not eat it! Unlike some other crustaceans, they aren’t really cooked alive.

What do shrimp taste like raw? 

Raw Shrimp

For this question, we first want to clarify that just because you can eat shrimp cold does not mean that shrimp is raw. 

Raw means something has not been cooked. 

A shrimp cocktail, for example, is a cold shrimp dish, but the shrimp should be completely cooked first and then chilled. For a shrimp cocktail, shrimp might be cooked, then frozen, and then thawed, but it is never a raw dish.  

The only way we can think of shrimp being served raw is maybe in a sushi bar, but even then most crustacean options are still cooked. 

In doing some research it looks like a type of prawn called Amaebi is used in sushi and is known for its sweet flavor. Amaebi are a cold-water species native to the Canadian Pacific waters and they are caught early in their life cycle which is when they are said to be at the peak sweetness. Prawns are actually not even shrimp, so that just goes to show how rare raw crustacean meat is. 

Fun fact: the name for raw shrimp is “green shrimp.”

Why should I be cautious about eating shrimp raw?

Shrimp, just like any other meat, should be cooked and prepared correctly to avoid foodborne illnesses. It is recommended that shrimp be cooked all the way through to ensure there are no bacteria or parasites lingering. 

Raw shrimp can cause a host of issues when consumed by humans:

  • Vibriosis 
  • Cholera
  • Parasites
  • Salmonella
  • E. coli

Most of these issues cause gastrointestinal issues, meaning of or pertaining to the stomach and intestines. Symptoms can include diarrhea, stomach cramps, vomiting, nausea, and greater infections that lead to fever, swelling, and pain. 

If you are interested in eating the raw prawn sushi dish described above, we highly, highly suggest ensuring you go to a restaurant with high cleaning and sanitation expectations. Then you can understand exactly where the prawns come from, how they were stored, and how they are prepared. 

It’s very obvious if raw seafood like shrimp or prawns have spoiled, so pay attention to rancid smells. 

Can I tell if a shrimp is not cooked?

Two nice aspects about shrimp are that (1) it is very easy and quick to cook and (2) the difference between raw and cooked shrimp is very noticeable. 

Raw shrimp is gray and translucent, meaning it’s semi-transparent. They are also not as curled when they are raw. 

Cooked shrimp is a white to pink color and it will curl as it cooks. You’re looking for your cooked shrimp to make the letter “C.”  

Shrimp should be cooked to an internal temperature of at least 145 degrees Fahrenheit and they should be firm to the touch. If your shrimp looks or feels fleshy, keep cooking it. 

Most frozen shrimp is actually already cooked and you will notice in the frozen package that the shrimp is pink. For frozen shrimp, it’s important to thaw them correctly before consumption.

It’s recommended to defrost shrimp in the refrigerator which usually takes about 12 hours or so. Defrosted shrimp should be consumed within a few days. 

If you are in more of a hurry and cannot wait 12 hours to defrost the frozen shrimp in the refrigerator, you can thaw the frozen shrimp in the sink under cold water. It should be dethawed in under an hour, but make sure the water stays cold. 

We also really suggest that you should not attempt to defrost your frozen shrimp in the microwave or with hot or boiling water. You don’t want to overcook the shrimp, making it tough or rubbery.  

Is it nasty to eat shrimp? 

A lot of people think different foods are good vs. bad, and shrimp is subject to those options as well. 

Shrimp is extremely popular, and many people like it, but there are others who do not like shrimp or do not eat it due to health issues, or religious or diet preferences. 

Shrimp are invertebrates which means they are often compared to insects, even though a lot of people around the world eat insects on a regular basis (sort of like crab). 

While we’re going to leave it up to you whether or not you ultimately decide to eat shrimp, it’s worth noting that shrimp, like any other food, varies greatly in quality. 

Why is shrimp tasty? 

While considered not as flavorful as crab or lobster, a lot of people love shrimp because it’s a little milder. Shrimp has a great texture and is a non-fatty piece of protein. 

We think the reason shrimp is so tasty though is because it can be used with so many other foods and flavors. Shrimp can also be prepared in a wide range of ways:

  • Boiled
  • Grilled
  • Pan-friend
  • Steamed
  • Sauteed
  • Deep fried 

Shrimp is eaten around the world and is found in many regions. It’s been a popular food for generations across cultures. Fun fact: Marco Polo even wrote about shrimp during his travels to China in 1280. 

What is the tastiest shrimp?

There are THOUSANDS of shrimp species and their habitat ranges from the tropics all the way to the Arctic (and the other way to the Antarctic). 

Shrimp can also range in sizes from teeny tiny (less than ½ inch) to over a foot in length. The tiger shrimp, for example, can have more tail meat than the average lobster. 

All that to say that shrimp tastes vary greatly as well. Food, environment, water temperature, wild-caught vs. farm-raised, etc. all impact how the meat tastes. Then everyone has their own opinion.  

Just take this blog about the 10 best tasting shrimp in the United States whose author states, “The 10 best tasting shrimp listed on this article all taste great. Now, which is the best mainly depends on who you are asking.” We agree (and this guy just talked about United States shrimp). 

In fact, we think it would be a lot of fun for you to seek out the best shrimp places in your location and try them out. Ask for recommendations, try different dishes, and have some fun date nights determining what YOU think is the best shrimp. We’re sensing an epic road trip coming on or an “around the world shrimp tasting tour.” 

You’re welcome. 

Is shrimp kosher?

No

Remember that part above when we said that shrimp is extremely popular and many people like it, but there are others who do not like shrimp or do not eat it due to health issues, or religious or diet preferences? Being kosher is one of those religious-based diet restrictions. 

Shrimp and other crustaceans do not have scales that fall under the kosher rule specifics, so they cannot be consumed by people on a kosher diet.