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A Guide to Shrimp

shrimp - a great Southern food

I'm a southerner who absolutely loves shrimp - grilled shrimp, fried shrimp, and boiled shrimp. Yes, shrimp is a Southern food. In fact, the modern shrimping industry was born in North Florida. Living near both the Georgia and Florida coasts, I’ve learned a thing or two about shrimp. For one thing, these little critters are probably the most popular type of seafood in the U.S. Also, about 95% of American shrimp are harvested off the Southern Atlantic and Gulf states, as wild-caught shrimp.

In the last few years, raising shrimp as part of aquaculture operations has also become popular in some areas, and the farm-raised shrimp are similar – but not quite as good – as wild shrimp. For one thing, wild shrimp eat a different diet, made up of seaweed and animal matter, which gives them a better flavor. And since the wild shrimp get more exercise, their meat is generally firmer.

Shrimp are low in fat and great sources of tryptophan, vitamin D, vitamin B12, protein, iodine, selenium, iron, phosphorus, zinc, magnesium, copper, vitamin B3, and omega-3 fatty acids. Some consumers worry about the cholesterol in shrimp, but studies found that eating shrimp raises good cholesterol more than it does bad cholesterol. The study also found that eating shrimp regularly can decrease triglycerides.

What type of shrimp should you buy? Different species of shrimp taste slightly different, but the most important aspect is freshness. Always choose the freshest variety available. Below, you’ll find a guide to different shrimp species.

white shrimp

white shrimp

White Shrimp

White shrimp can reach a length of eight inches. They have light grey bodies, green tails, and a yellow band on the abdomen. They also have very long antenna and a long horn. White shrimp are caught mostly in the fall months. These shrimp have a mild, sweet flavor. One thing I like about white shrimp is that it's easy to tell if they/ve become discolored because they're not fresh.

Whites can be boiled, steamed, baked, grilled, fried, sauteed, stuffed, or used in casseroles. They're my favorite shrimp to use with tomato-based sauces, like in shrimp Creole.


brown shrimp

brown shrimp

Brown Shrimp

Brown shrimp are brown or olive-green. Their horn has small notches or teeth. Brown shrimp can reach a length of nine inches. Many shrimp connoisseurs feel that this shrimp species has a sweeter, more pronounced flavor than most other popular commercial shrimp.

The browns are good fried, grilled, stuffed, sauteed, and in stir-fries, but my favorite way to eat this variety is steamed or boiled because of their distinct flavor.


pink shrimp

pink shrimp

Pink Shrimp

Pink shrimp have a pink hue and a dark abdominal spot on each side, between the third and fourth segment. The tail flippers usually have a dark blue band. Pink shrimp usually have a clean, ocean-like taste.

 Pink shrimp can be prepared any way, but in my opinion, they're the best for frying of all the shrimp varieties.


tiger shrimp

tiger shrimp

Tiger Shrimp

Tiger shrimp are also called “black tiger shrimp” and “tiger prawns.” Most are captured in Asian or African waters, or they’re farmed. These shrimp are easy to identify because of the black bars or stripes across their back. Tiger shrimp have a very mild flavor and firm meat.

Tigers are excellent for grilled shrimp recipes and for steaming, but many people don't like them fried.

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freshwater shrimp

freshwater shrimp

Freshwater Shrimp

Freshwater shrimp are grown in aquaculture ponds across the U.S. They’re not as firm as other popular shrimp species, and from my experience, they don’t have much flavor. They do absorb other flavors well, however, so keep this in mind when cooking them.

I've tried these shrimp boiled, but they were almost tasteless. I've had much better results frying them and using them in grilled shrimp dishes.

rock shrimp

rock shrimp

Rock Shrimp

Rock shrimp have a very hard exoskeleton. They have a firm texture and taste like a combination of shrimp and lobster. They require extra prep time, but they’re worth the trouble!

Rock shrimp are best broiled or grilled, with lime and butter.


Colossal shrimp is the largest commercial grade.

Colossal shrimp is the largest commercial grade.

Sizes of Shrimp


Shrimp size is determined by how many individual shrimp it takes to make one pound. The following guidelines are generally followed in the U.S.:


10 or less shrimp to the pound – colossal


11-15 – jumbo


16-20 – extra large


21-30 – large


31-35 – medium


36-45 – small


46-100 – salad or miniature

Always buy the freshest shrimp you can!

Always buy the freshest shrimp you can!

How and Where to Buy Shrimp

Shrimp can be purchased fresh, with or without the heads. They can also be purchased frozen – cooked, shelled, and deveined; raw, shelled, and deveined; cooked in the shell; and raw in the shell.

Shrimp flesh deteriorates quickly, so it’s important to handle the shrimp in a timely manner. When buying fresh shrimp, use your senses. They should feel firm and not “mushy.” They should smell like the sea and not like ammonia. Unless you’re buying pink shrimp, raw shrimp should never be pink. Also, the eyes should be prominent and the shells glossy.

You can almost always buy "fresh" shrimp at your local seafood market and at many grocery stores. But how fresh are they? How far are you from where they're caught? I try whenever possible to buy shrimp straight from the shrimp boats or from individual shrimpers who have roadside stands near coastal waters. These are the freshest - and often the cheapest - shrimp you'll find. We usually fill up our coolers whenever we make a trip to the coast.

For those unfortunate readers who live far from the ocean, this isn't a luxury you can enjoy, except for perhaps when you're on vacation. You might be better off to purchase shrimp that have been flash frozen instead of trying to buy shrimp that are supposedly fresh.

 If you're interested in catching your own shrimp, read the article below entitled "Beach Seining."

When to Buy Shrimp


Shrimp season opens in the spring, but there’s no set annual date. The opening of the shrimping season is determined each year by governmental agencies after researching the shrimp population of a given area.


If you’re interested in purchasing fresh American shrimp, take advantage of the supply-and-demand rule. White shrimp are most abundant in the fall. Brown shrimp are usually most abundant from June until October. Pink shrimp are most abundant in the winter and early spring.


Tiger shrimp and farm-raised freshwater shrimp are available year round.


Shrimp freeze well.

Shrimp freeze well.

How to Store Shrimp

Get your shrimp from the market to your refrigerator or freezer as soon as possible. If you have a long trip home, ask that the shrimp be placed in a bag with ice. Once you’re home, rinse fresh shrimp under cold running water and place in a bowl of ice. Store in the refrigerator for up to two days.

I’ve had very good luck freezing fresh shrimp. Remove the heads first, then rinse the shrimp and drop them into a gallon milk jug. Fill the jug with water and freeze. The shrimp will retain their flavor and texture better if they’re frozen in the shell. Use frozen shrimp within six months for the best results.

Lean to clean and devein shrimp by watching the following video.

For some wonderful shrimp recipes, click the links below the video!


How to clean shrimp

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Rachel L Alba from Every Day Cooking and Baking on July 02, 2015:

Hi Holle, Shrimp is one of my family's favorite seafood, next to lobster. Shrimp any way at all. Thanks for sharing all of this information and recipes. I voted up and interesting.

Blessings to you.

Holle Abee (author) from Georgia on June 17, 2010:

I love all of them, Nancy!

Holle Abee (author) from Georgia on June 17, 2010:

Granny, it hasn't hit the FL shrimping waters yet.

Holle Abee (author) from Georgia on June 17, 2010:

Pam, you've made me hungry for rock shrimp!

Holle Abee (author) from Georgia on June 17, 2010:

Billy, whatever we call them, they're delish!

Holle Abee (author) from Georgia on June 17, 2010:

Funny, Buckie!

Holle Abee (author) from Georgia on June 17, 2010:

Prawns, shrimp...I love 'em all, Eth!

Holle Abee (author) from Georgia on June 17, 2010:

charan, thanks for the kind comment!

Holle Abee (author) from Georgia on June 17, 2010:

Sam, we eat shrimp every chance we get!

nancy_30 from Georgia on June 09, 2010:

Great hub. I learned a lot from it. I myself love pink shrimp.

Granny's House from Older and Hopefully Wiser Time on June 07, 2010:

Thanks for the recipes. You know I like shrimp too.

Is the oil spill making it bad for the shrimp fishermen there?

Pamela Oglesby from Sunny Florida on June 06, 2010:

Habee, Living in FL we get shrimp quite often. You covered the varieties very well. I love rock shrimp and this is just about the right time of year to get some. Thanks for a good hub.

billyaustindillon on June 05, 2010:

Habee Science Smience lol Actually in Australia a Shrimp is a tiny little see through crustacean that you fins around the reefs - looks just link a tiny tiny prawn - a shrimp :)

Holle Abee (author) from Georgia on June 05, 2010:

Austin, I love 'em, too!

Holle Abee (author) from Georgia on June 05, 2010:

Kaie, sorry about the lack of shrimp boats! lol

Holle Abee (author) from Georgia on June 05, 2010:

True, Billy - but scientifically, shrimp and prawns are two different critters! lol

Holle Abee (author) from Georgia on June 05, 2010:

Best of luck, Sheila!

Holle Abee (author) from Georgia on June 05, 2010:

True, Mulberry, but frozen is better than no shrimp at all!

Holle Abee (author) from Georgia on June 05, 2010:

HH, they're cheap here right now. I just bought 3 pounds of jumbo shrimp for $12!!

Holle Abee (author) from Georgia on June 05, 2010:

Pearldiver, do you prefer snapper to grouper and flounder??

Holle Abee (author) from Georgia on June 05, 2010:

Deb, many thanks to you, my friend!

Holle Abee (author) from Georgia on June 05, 2010:

Chris, I love tiger, but it's not my fave.

Audrey Kirchner from Washington on June 05, 2010:

Another of my favorites.....shrimp and prawns - love making Japanese soup with prawns. You really covered this subject up one side and down the other....glad I didn't pick it!

Ethel Smith from Kingston-Upon-Hull on June 05, 2010:

A very comprehensive guide Habee. I prefer prawns these days but loved shrimps as a child.

charanjeet kaur from Delhi on June 05, 2010:

I am a non vegetarain who only has chicken and fish. But your hubs are really informative and well presented. I never knew you had so many types of shrimps in the market. kudos for all the gr8 hubs.

samboiam from Texas on June 05, 2010:

All this talk about shrimp has made me want some. Guess it is time to visit my favorite seafood place.

Lela from Somewhere near the heart of Texas on June 05, 2010:

Great minds think alike! Shrimp is my fav.

Kaie Arwen on June 05, 2010:

So unlike animals, shrimp in their natural habitat have better flavor than those that those that are farm raised? If I thought about that in comparison to game I would have believed the opposite, but then I had never known that it was available.......... might have picked it up by mistake.

When I buy......... I buy frozen............ no shrimp boats here! :-D

billyaustindillon on June 05, 2010:

Great recipes for shrimp here - Just to answer a few of the questions - from my understanding they are simply called shrimp in America and prawns in Australia and other English speaking countries. I have lived most of my life in Australia and America and that would be the best way I could think of summing it up. Oh the Paul Hogan 'Shrimp on the barbie'' was purely for tourism - it would be prawn on the barbie in Australia. Tiger Prawns or tiger shrimp - doesn't matter when they are grilled on the BBQ does it? :)

sheila b. on June 05, 2010:

The information you've given has encouraged me to try something other than pink shrimp. Now I'll go read some of your recipes and try cooking it in a new and different way.

Christine Mulberry on June 05, 2010:

I live far from the ocean so generally I just enjoy shrimp when I travel closer to the shore. I've had frozen on occasion, but the fresh is always better.

Hello, hello, from London, UK on June 05, 2010:

I love them but at the moment they are a bit too expensive for me.

Rob Welsh from Tomorrow - In Words & NZ Time. on June 05, 2010:

Excellent tour of Shrimp Duty Holle. I'll trade you 5 kilos of Tigers for a Red Snapper. Thanks for sharing.

Elder DeBorrah K Ogans on June 04, 2010:

Habee, Nice hub! I really enjoy shrimp as well! Thank You for sharing this great "guide to shrimp" Peace & Blessings!

carolina muscle from Charlotte, North Carolina on June 04, 2010:

I love that tiger shrimp... man I could eat some of dat!!!

Holle Abee (author) from Georgia on June 04, 2010:

Fetty, we can get shrimp from other countries. What's really going to be missed is the oyster production!

Holle Abee (author) from Georgia on June 04, 2010:

Andy, I love every size of shrimp!

Holle Abee (author) from Georgia on June 04, 2010:

Drbj, shrimp and prawns are actually 2 different species, but the terms are interchanreable as far as most people are concerned. Shrimp farmers call the saltwater citters "shrimp" and the freshwater ones prawns. Some restaurants reserve the word "prawn" for very large shrimp. In the UK, shrimp are usually called prawns - unless they're the little brownish critters.

fetty from South Jersey on June 04, 2010:

Very thorough, inviting and educational hub, Habee. I wonder how long shrimp will continue to be so readily available now that that the oil spill has occurred ? Hope I am wrong about my hunch.

Ign Andy from Green Home Office on June 04, 2010:

Fresh shrimp is very sweet and delicious, I love small shrimp since the smaller the sweeter. Tempting hubs :). I need to buy some shrimps.

drbj and sherry from south Florida on June 04, 2010:

Hi, habee. nice hub. :) Also educational.

My favorites are the rock shrimp and the tiger shrimp. You have mentioned prawns - are they simply larger shrimp or something else? You have become my go-to knowledgeable person for matters shrimp or crab related.

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