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Types of Shrimp & How to Cook Them

written by: Kumara Velu • edited by: Donna Cosmato • updated: 5/19/2011

What types of shrimp are commonly available? What nutrient content and health benefits do they have? Should you be worried about the cholesterol content in shrimp?

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    There are five types of shrimp, harvested in Florida, which is well-known for quality shrimp. Four are categorized by shell color – pink, brown, royal red and white. The fifth type is called the rock shrimp, owing to its shell, which is as hard as a rock.

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    Pink Shrimp

    The pink shrimp comprise the majority of shrimp harvested off the Florida waters. Pink shrimp can grow up to 11 inches. They come with pink shells and their texture is pearl-like. The shells, when cooked, turn to pink of a deeper shade. The flesh is whitish-pink, with texture that’s firm. Cooked pink shrimp have a mild flavor. They are a favorite among chefs owing to their sweet, creamy flavor.

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    White Shrimp

    This is a shrimp variety that is a favorite among chefs for their sweet taste and firm, crunchy meat. It blends well with the majority of shrimp recipes. White shrimp are not truly white. In their raw form, their shells are more of greenish or bluish gray. They turn pink when you start cooking them.

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    Brown Shrimp

    They are named after their brownish shells. They can grow up to nine inches. Their flesh is firmer than that of the white shrimp. They have a higher iodine content which makes their flavor stronger than that of the white and pink shrimp.

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    Royal Red Shrimp

    Royal red shrimp or royal reds as they are popularly known have a deep red hue. However, their texture is soft and delicate. No other shrimp can rival them when it comes to taste.

    Royal reds have a higher salt content than other shrimp. As such you should refrain from adding salt when cooking them. They are excellent for most shrimp recipes.

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    Rock Shrimp

    Rock shrimp is also known as small lobster because their meat gives you the firm texture of a lobster, while retaining the flavor of shrimp. More often than not, you can find them fresh or frozen in your local seafood market.

    Apart from the sweet taste, they have a tender texture of the chewy sort. Their smaller size allows them to be cooked faster than other kinds of shrimp. Rock shrimp combine well with rice and pasta and are mostly used with salads. Don’t be surprised if you find the peeled and deveined variety in the market. Their tough shells are removed before they hit the market to save customers the trouble of shelling them.

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    Nutrition Content

    According to the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, 4 ounces (114 grams) of shrimp (edible) contain 120 calories, 15 calories from fat, 1.5 grams of total fat, no saturated fat, 155 mg of cholesterol, 170 mg of sodium and 23 grams of protein.

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    Health Benefits

    From the nutrition content above, we could see that shrimp is an excellent source of protein. Four ounces of shrimp provides you with half the RDA for protein.

    You would already have known that meat and dairy products are excellent sources of protein. However, they come with high calories and what’s worse, saturated fat. So, shrimp is an excellent source of protein for those weight watchers out there who worry about calories.

    On top of that, shrimp is an excellent source of omega-3 fatty acids, which is helpful for reducing the risk of heart and circulatory diseases. They also contain important nutrients like vitamin B12, zinc, iodine, potassium, selenium, iron and also calcium, magnesium and sodium. These nutrients play an important role in the maintenance of healthy bones, skin and teeth.

    Shrimp does have cholesterol, which worries some dieters. However, shrimp is low in saturated fat, which is the type of fat that raises cholesterol levels in the body. Consuming saturated fat is more harmful than the cholesterol level in food. In moderation, shrimp can be a very healthy addition to your diet.

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    Storage & Cooking

    To ensure cooking shrimp that are fresh and uncontaminated, follow these selection and storage tips.

    When buying fresh, make sure you are able to consome it in a few days or put it in the freezer. Choose shrimp that have firm bodies with their shells intact. Avoid shrimp that have black spots on the shell. This is a sign that it is losing its freshness. Also stay away from shrimp with yellowing shells, which is usually an indication of chemical being used to bleach the shell.

    Another good way of determining freshness is by smell. Shrimp with a saltwater smell are fresh. Avoid buying shrimp that smell unpleasant. Avoid buying shrimp that are prepackaged, as you would not be able to get a good indication of its freshness through smell.

    Frozen shrimp comes in two forms – cooked and uncooked. Cooked frozen shrimp are pink, uncooked shrimp is usually grey-colored.

    Frozen shrimp, both cooked and uncooked, come in the forms of whole shrimp and the deveined variety. They are also available with the tail on, peeled or those that could be peeled easily.

    If you want to ensure your frozen shrimp are fresh, avoid buying them at a supermarket. Shrimp sold at supermarkets are those that have been thawed and placed on ice. Such frozen shrimp could lose their freshness and when cooked would be robbed of its flavor.

    One easy way to detect whether frozen shrimp has been thawed and refrigerated is to look into the bag. If you see signs of ice crystals in the bag, you should avoid buying such shrimp. It’s a sign that the shrimp is of the thawed-and-refrozen variety, which aren’t going to be fresh by the time you cook them.

    If you’re selecting frozen shrimp, stay away from those that have been peeled. Though it saves you the hassle of peeling before or after cooking, it loses much of the flavor.


    Refrigerate the shrimp soon after buying it. If that’s not possible, and it would take you hours before you could refrigerate them, ask for a bag of ice for temporary storage. Otherwise, place them in a cooler if you have one in your car.

    One way of extending the freshness of shrimp is by freezing them. To do this, wrap the shrimp nicely and place them in the coldest part of the refrigerator (not too close to the door).

    To defrost shrimp, place them in a bowl of cold water or defrost them in the refrigerator itself. Avoid defrosting at room temperature or by placing them in a microwave oven. Doing so could lead to a loss of nutrients through the loss of moisture.

    Proper defrosting allows for evenness in cooking and keeps out bacterial contamination. It would also kill any bacteria when the shrimp is cooked.


    After defrosting, both frozen and fresh shrimp can be cooked in a multitude of ways. The head and shell can be left on and removed after cooking. Cooking with the shell on allows you to enjoy the full flavor of shrimp via the shell, which traps taste-giving moisture.

    Healthy ways of cooking shrimp include baking, boiling and grilling. If grilling is your cup of tea, opt for a charcoal-based grill if you would like to enjoy the full flavor of your shrimp. An important point to note is to keep the shell on when grilling. The shell will help trap the flavor of the shrimp. It’s also advisable to keep the shrimp tail on, too.

    To further enhance their flavor, you should consider marinating them with lemon juice, orange and vinegar, among others. You can also use minced garlic, chopped parsley and olive oil to make your grilled shrimp a healthier dish.

    To boil shrimp, immerse them in rapidly boiling water and add salt to measure. The next step would be reduce the heat and cover the work or pan, Simmer it until the shrimp flesh turn opaque in the centre.

    Small and medium-sized shrimp take about 3 to 4 minutes to boil. A large shrimp would take from 5 to 8 minutes and a jumbo shrimp would take above seven minutes. If you’re not going to eat your boiled shrimp right away, after combining with another recipe, you should immerse them in cold water after boiling. This is to prevent them from cooking further and turning tough.

    Large shrimp are suitable for grilling and baking. Marinating them first for a few hours would be a good idea. An oven temperature of 350 degrees Fahrenheit would be suitable for baking, but would take a few minutes longer than grilling.

    If you must lightly fry shrimp, use olive oil.

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    References – health benefits – selecting and storing shrimp – storing frozen shrimp