prepared shrimp

Cooking a shrimp dinner is easy. These small crustaceans just need a few minutes in the pan to transform into a juicy, delicious meal. Choosing shrimp can be a bit more confusing. You’ll find a plethora of shrimp options at your local grocery store. Jumbo, colossal, peeled, frozen, and fresh—purchasing one bag of shrimp can require a lot of decision making. Read on to learn how to buy and prepare shrimp for cooking. 

What’s the difference between jumbo and colossal shrimp? 

Labels like small, large, jumbo, and colossal refer to the size of the shrimp for sale. Shrimp are measured by weight, and the size refers to the number of shrimp it would take to make up a pound. It takes 16-25 jumbo shrimp to reach a pound. For colossal shrimp, there will be fewer than 15 shrimp per pound. 

Larger shrimp aren’t necessarily better, but they may be better suited for some dishes. If you’re grilling whole shrimp, a jumbo or colossal shrimp is less likely to slip through the grates. For a seafood pasta, large or medium shrimp will do nicely and cost less. 

Fresh or frozen shrimp 

The vast majority of shrimp for sale in U.S. supermarkets are frozen or have been frozen at some point. Shrimp are very perishable. To extend their shelf life, most shrimp are flash frozen as soon as they’re caught. The “fresh” shrimp in the seafood case at the grocery store is no exception. Most often, the shrimp in the seafood case is the same shrimp that they’re selling in the freezer aisle, just thawed and displayed. Once frozen shrimp have been thawed, they should be used quickly. Unless you’re planning to cook immediately, it’s better to buy the frozen shrimp and thaw them yourself. 

Make sure your frozen shrimp are thoroughly thawed before cooking. To speed up this process, place the frozen shrimp in a colander and run them under cold water (don’t use warm).

Do I need to devein shrimp?

prepare shrimp vein
This is is the digestive tract, which should be removed

Shrimp are available in several states of processing. You can find pre-cooked, pre-peeled, deveined with shell on, or whole shrimp. Blue Apron sends peeled, deveined shrimp for quick and easy preparation. If you buy whole shrimp, you’ll need to remove the what’s colloquially known as “the vein.”

Just scrape away with a knife

Shrimp have a long black ‘vein’ running across their back. Although we call it the vein, it’s actually their digestive tract, and it should be removed. Yes, it’s full of shrimp poop. It’s not dangerous, but it can have a gritty, unpleasant texture. To remove the shrimp vein, just use a paring knife to make a slit down the back of the shrimp, and then scrape or rinse the vein away. 

This is a true vein, nothing to worry about here

Some shrimp may also have a visible vein on their belly. This is a true vein, and does not need to be removed. Deveined shrimp will still have this vein. It will dissolve during cooking and will not be noticeable. 

Try some of our 10 favorite shrimp recipes.