Fun fact: When you buy shrimp, you’re likely buying it frozen. Yes, even when you go to the seafood counter. It’s a standard practice to preserve the bounty of shrimp, one that, when done properly, shouldn’t affect the taste and texture.
Even with a bag of shrimp from the freezer section, you may wish to make an impressive shrimp cocktail for a dinner party or throw together a stunning scampi. And that’s why you might be wondering how to make frozen shrimp taste good.
Here, you’ll find out everything you need to know to give it that restaurant-quality flavor while avoiding those common pitfalls.
Tips for Making Frozen Shrimp Taste Good
If you love seafood, keeping shrimp in your freezer is a smart idea. Shrimp cook up very quickly, making for a healthy and delicious dinner that comes together in minutes. Now you’ll know the secrets for making frozen shrimp taste so good; everyone will swear it came from a restaurant.
Start with Quality
While you can go with off-brands here and there to stock your pantry, we don’t recommend you forgo quality when it comes to the main ingredient. Especially something like shrimp! Before you chuck a bag of frozen shrimp into your cart at the supermarket, take a closer look.
You want the bag to be labeled with “IQF,” which stands for “individually quick frozen.” This tells you the shrimp weren’t all frozen together in a massive ice block. As such, bags of frozen shrimp with this abbreviation on them tend to have a far better quality in both texture and flavor. Additionally, read the ingredient list. There should be nothing listed on there except for shrimp. Don’t choose any frozen shrimp that contains salt, chemicals, or preservatives.
Buy Shrimp with Shells On
If you’re buying thawed shrimp, you can save yourself the hassle of peeling off those shells. But when it comes to frozen shrimp, it will taste better if you buy it with shells and tails on. This provides a little extra protection during the freezing process.
Go Wild and Go Big
Wild-caught shrimp is a better choice because it’s not coming from an unethical market somewhere on the other side of the earth. Additionally, the bigger the shrimp you choose, the easier it is to peel, clean, and prep for your recipes.
Remove the Vein
Depending on the type of shrimp you buy from the frozen section, you may need to remove that black vein-like thing from each shrimp. It’s not harmful to eat it, though it is the digestive tract, and that thought alone may make you run from the kitchen to the bathroom. Plus, it doesn’t look pretty when you’re serving any dish, especially a shrimp cocktail, to have that grossness served along with it. Check your shrimp for that black vein. You can use a toothpick to easily pluck it out of there before cooking for the best results.
Always Thaw Shrimp First
If your frozen shrimp doesn’t taste good, it could be that you haven’t let them thaw out before you’ve tossed them into your recipe. The best taste will come from stashing the bag of frozen shrimp in your fridge the night before. When they are fully thawed, they will cook more evenly too.
If you completely spaced and got home from work to find your shrimp are still tucked in their frozen confines, grab a strainer, put it in the sink, and add the shrimp. Run cold water on the shrimp until they’re no longer frozen solid. It won’t take long. Then you’ll want to move those shrimp to a plate lined with paper towels. This will soak up the excess water to keep it from ruining your recipe.
Pay Attention to Timing for Every Cooking Method
Shrimp cooks fast, so once you add it to your recipe, you need to keep a watchful eye. It really only takes a couple of minutes before they are ready. You’ll see them go from opaque to pink. They should also curl up a bit too. However, if they curl into tight balls, then you’ve overdone it. Shrimp should be tender to the bite and never chewy. If you have been wondering how to make frozen shrimp taste good, a huge part of it is nailing the cooking time so that you don’t wind up with overcooked shrimp.
Try a Flash Cook
Top chefs will tell you a flash-cook method is the way to go with frozen shrimp. You’ll want to thaw them first and then toss them in a large pan on high heat. Only do this for about 2 minutes, as your goal here is to let them release some of the liquid they’re holding. Tempting as it is, don’t stir for a minute; then, for the second minute, stir them quickly. They will slightly shrink in size, but that excess moisture will be gone, making them easier to throw in your recipe.
Boil Them Up
If you want to make a classic shrimp cocktail, make a shrimp salad, or try your hand at rolling shrimp sushi rolls, boiling is the method to use. Again, you’ll want to make sure your frozen shrimp is thawed first, then you’ll add them to a pot of boiling water. They should only cook for 1 to 2 minutes until they turn pink. Once they do, take them off the heat and drop them into an ice bath. This will stop the cooking and keep them at the perfect texture and hue for your chilled dishes.
Make the Perfect Peel and Eat Shrimp
You can use boiling to make frozen shrimp taste better by priming the water with flavor. Infuse the water with Old Bay seasoning, bay leaves, and lemon. Only boil for 2 minutes until pink, and then you can serve them hot or cold for that perfect raw bar flavor.
Sauté or Stir-Fry Your Shrimp
If you want to make a delectable shrimp scampi or an Asian stir-fry, using the flash cook method will help. Then you can drop in butter, minced garlic, and white wine for the scampi with a generous squeeze of lemon. For stir-fry dishes, you can remove the shrimp and add the veggies to cook. You’ll set those aside, make the sauce in the same skillet or wok, and then add them all back in, stirring to coat before serving.
Get Out the Air Fryer
Another wonderful way to make frozen shrimp taste good is to fry it. If you love fried shrimp, this is the best method. Skip all that greasy oil and mess. And the best part? To make air-fried shrimp, you don’t need to thaw them. You can simply get the air fryer preheated to 400F and put your shrimp in the frying basket. If the shrimp was cooked prior to freezing, only cook it for 5 minutes. For raw frozen shrimp, you need to double that to 10 minutes, flipping them halfway through the cooking time to make sure they’ve cooked evenly all the way through.
Adding the Best Flavors to Frozen Shrimp
Once you have mastered thawing your frozen shrimp and pay attention to the cook times for each method, from baking to broiling and boiling to sauteing, it becomes so easy to know how to make frozen shrimp taste good.
But how do you know what flavors go best with shrimp? Here’s a rundown.
Pair with Fat
Whether it’s butter, olive oil, or even bacon pan drippings, shrimp is a lean protein and benefit from a little fat. It helps them cook when you’re sauteing, too, and adds more richness to your dishes.
Squeeze Some Citrus
A little lemon goes a long way when it comes to making shrimp taste good. Along with those cooking fats, it definitely elevates the flavors and makes your shrimp dish have that essential umami. You can even use it in a marinade, though do be careful…shrimp shouldn’t marinate for longer than 30 minutes.
Herb It Up
Shrimp and its naturally sweet flavors are a match for so many seasonings in your spice rack as well as fresh herbs too. You can make it a bit spicy with chili powder or cayenne pepper. Toss it with garlic and Italian seasoning. Make it feel more Mediterranean with rosemary and oregano. Tarragon, sage, thyme, cilantro, basil, dill, and curry are other seasonings that work beautifully to make frozen shrimp taste good. So good, in fact, that you’ll forget they were ever frozen!
Make Frozen Shrimp Taste Good with These Recipe Ideas
Still feel like you’re lost at sea when it comes to making frozen shrimp taste good? Just remember the cooking basics by thawing them first and not overcooking them. Then the rest is easy!
Add Asian Flair
What can you make with frozen shrimp? If you want to give leftovers a new lease on life, make shrimp fried rice or stir-fry. Adding aromatics like ginger and garlic will infuse the shrimp with a beautiful flavor. You can use whatever seasonal veggies you like too. Make a sauce with soy sauce, sesame oil, rice wine, and cornstarch, and everyone will think you ordered takeout!
Use Marsala Wine or a Marsala Wine Substitute
Feeling an Italian vibe? You can make shrimp scampi. All you need is plenty of butter, white wine, minced garlic, and lemon. Serve it over pasta for a full meal that is perfect for a weeknight or an elegant dinner for two. Another option if you’re not feeling that garlicky-buttery vibe is to make it Marsala style with mushrooms and marsala wine.
Don’t have Marsala wine on hand? Here are some Marsala wine substitutes:
- Dry Sherry: This is a fortified wine that has a similar flavor profile to Marsala. It is a good substitute for cooking.
- Madeira: This is another fortified wine with a slightly nutty flavor that is similar to Marsala.
- Port: This is a sweet, fortified wine that can be used as a substitute for Marsala in some recipes.
- Red or White Wine: You can use red or white wine in recipes that call for a dry Marsala.
- Brandy: Brandy is a distilled spirit that can be used as a substitute for Marsala in some recipes.
Keep It Cool and Simple
You can always go with a classy shrimp cocktail as a starter for an evening among adults. But if you need a side for a potluck or want a light and refreshing lunch, make shrimp salad. In addition to boiling the shrimp properly, you’ll also want to use top-quality mayonnaise. Don’t forget to add chopped celery and red onions to the mix!
And that’s just the start of how to make frozen shrimp taste good! Here’s more:
- Make paella with shrimp (just put add it toward the end to avoid overcooking it.
- Instead of just frying shrimp in your air fryer, add shredded coconut to the breadcrumb mixture for coconut shrimp.
- Cook up some grits and season your shrimp with Cajun seasoning for shrimp and grits.
- Put your shrimp on skewers and brush with barbecue sauce or teriyaki.
- Throw shrimp into Thai curry with lemongrass.
- Or make a tikka masala with shrimp. Like choosing quality with your shrimp, the garam masala should also be top tier too.
How to thaw frozen shrimp
- Put the frozen shrimp in a colander.
- Rinse the shrimp under cold running water to remove any ice crystals or frost.
- Soak shrimp in cold water until it is thawed.
- Drain the water and use the shrimp as desired.
- Note: Avoid using warm or hot water to thaw shrimp, as this can cause the shrimp to cook partially and affect its texture and flavor.
How long is frozen shrimp good for?
A bag of unopened frozen shrimp can last in the freezer for 6 to 8 months.
One Last Thing About Those Frozen Shrimp…
Before you throw those shrimp shells away, put them to use for making a creamy and luscious shrimp bisque. You can also create a stock that you can use for making risotto or other seafood soups.
When you know how to make frozen shrimp taste good, all your shrimp dishes will be a delight. It all starts with quality shrimp, along with taking care not to overcook them. Once you nail that, you can explore all these flavors to make amazing meals with shrimp!