The Biggest Mistake You Make While Buying Shrimp At The Grocery Store

Shrimp makes some of the easiest, tastiest meals you can throw together in your kitchen, but biting into a mealy piece of shrimp scampi is a misfortune that can happen to the best of us. Shrimp is subject to confusing labels that don't mean much to the average shopper, which can lead you to neat piles of it over ice in the grocery store that hold the promise of high quality and fresh flavors. However, this is where you make your biggest mistake: The shrimp you get from a seafood case are often worse than frozen and set you up for that dreaded mushy bite.

The reality is that the unfrozen piles of shrimp in the seafood section were most likely previously frozen, which means they were probably sitting out for awhile before you ever came along. They are no different than the frozen shrimp you can get at the same store, except they are even less fresh. 

Considering frozen shrimp are best cooked with 48 hours of defrosting, they may already be subpar, and that's not counting the time they'll spend in your fridge before getting cooked. And if you see those head-on, whole shrimp, these actually turn into a gloopy texture more quickly because of a reaction from enzymes that are inside of the head.

Fresh shrimp at the grocery store are usually just defrosted

Fresh shrimp will only last a couple days once they've been sold, making it almost impossible to ship them too far from where they're caught. If you do have a fresh seafood market or a tank where you can buy them, that's great, but if not, your best bet is frozen shrimp. Because of their perishability, shrimp are usually frozen by fishermen within hours of being caught, preserving their quality and flavor. 

If you cook them not long after defrosting, you're getting something close to fresh catch taste. If you still don't want to bother with defrosting frozen yourself, look out for shrimp from the case that are slimy, limp, or have developed black spots, as they are likely well past their prime.

The best shrimp at most grocery stores is individually quick frozen (IQF), which are easier to thaw and generally less affected by the freezing process. Avoid shrimp with freezer burn as it's a sign they've been mishandled, which damages the texture and flavor.  Overall, shrimp is one of the few foods where the frozen option really is best.