Shrimp are the most popular shellfish in the world. There are thousands of species and they can be found throughout the world in both fresh and saltwater. The largest producing areas in the United States are the Gulf of Mexico and southern California. They are crustaceans like lobsters and crab but with some major differences. They do not have a very long life span, usually less than 2 years. They have very thin legs and spend their lives swimming instead of walking. On the other hand crab and lobster, which have legs that are strong and meaty, spend their life walking instead of swimming. Shrimp use their legs more for perching. They actually resemble a lobster in shape only with a much thinner shell. They can elude their prey by swimming backwards very fast using a quick flip of their abdomen and tail. This is called lobstering. Most shrimp have a thin outer shell that ranges in color from white to bright red. Raw, they are often referred to as green , not because of their color but because they are not cooked. The raw meat is translucent gray and turns opaque white with pink highlights when cooked. All varieties can generally be interchanged in recipes, with just a slight difference in taste and texture. They are very nutritious being high in protein and omega 3 fatty acids. There are 3 types that make up most of the shrimp caught in the United States, the brown, the pink and the white. Most of these come from the Gulf of Mexico and the South Atlantic coast. It is hard to tell the difference among these varieties if they are not whole because the color of the raw meat is the same, translucent gray. The color of the cooked shrimp is also the same, white with pink highlights.
Brown are found from North Carolina to Texas with the vast majority coming from the Gulf of Mexico near Texas and Louisiana. They can also be found under names such as brownies, green lake, red tail, golden, native and summer shrimp. The tails of the brown usually have a purple to reddish purple band. The browns are firm and flavorful and have a very slight iodine taste.
can be found from North Carolina to Texas with the largest population on the Florida coast. Also known as spotted , hopper, red or skipper the pink is tender with a relatively sweet flavor. The color of the shrimp can range from gray, bluish to red-brown. The pink shrimp received it’s name because of the fact that they turn pink when they are cooked.
White shrimp can be found under the names gray, lake, green, common, Daytona and southern shrimp. They have a mild sweet flavor and are a little more firm than the pink variety. They can be found in waters from North Carolina to Texas, being most abundant in the Louisiana to Texas area.
Other shrimp caught in U.S waters include the northern pink and the rock shrimp. Although not as popular as the three gulf varieties, they are still important commercially. Northern pink have more flavor than the gulf variety but they are very small, 2-4 inches. Because of this they are often called salad or sometimes cold water shrimp. They can be found from Maine to Massachusetts.
Rock shrimp are a deep water cousin of the common pink, white and brown. They can be found from North Carolina to Texas, mostly in the Florida area. They get their name from their rock hard shell which makes them hard to clean. They are small with a taste similar to lobster. It takes 21-25 to make a pound.
Today there are more of them farmed than caught in the wild of which China and Thailand are the largest producers in the world today.
BLACK TIGER SHRIMP
Black Tiger Shrimp leads the list of farmed shrimp in today’s market. It is one of the larger shrimp and can grow to 13 inches but is usually marketed when in the 9-11 inch range. It has a softer texture and a flavor that is bland compared the gulf variety.
CHINESE WHITE SHRIMP are mostly farmed in cooler water and are marketed at about 7 inches. They have a softer meat than the gulf shrimp and are a bit watery.
FRESH WATER SHRIMP
have about 200 different species that are important commercially. The majority of them are farmed in Hawaii and a few southern states. They have a delicate sweet flavor, not as rich as the gulf shrimp with a softer meat. They are harvested around 12 inches and are usually sold only as tails.
Tips for cooking shrimp