How to Cook Frozen Shrimp With the Shell on the Stove Top

Shrimp are a nutrition powerhouse, offering plenty of protein, vitamins and minerals. Frozen shrimp have all the nutrition of fresh shrimp and are just as simple to prepare. There are a wide variety of shell-on shrimp recipes, some of which call for cooking on the stovetop.

Shrimp are a nutrition powerhouse, offering plenty of protein, vitamins and minerals. Credit: Diana Taliun/iStock/GettyImages

Preparing Frozen Shrimp

There are plenty of reasons to cook shrimp with the shell on rather than peeled, as is the norm. The shell can help seal in the juices, so the meat stays moist. Most people opt to peel off the shells before eating the shrimp, but when cooked quickly over high heat on the stovetop, the shell becomes crispy enough to eat, which adds a pleasing texture. If you season the shrimp before cooking, the shell is a vehicle for all that salty, flavorful deliciousness from the plate to your mouth.

Using fresh shrimp gets this tasty dish on the table a whole lot quicker, but stashing frozen shrimp in the freezer means you always have some on hand. You have two choices for thawing your frozen shrimp:

Overnight: Take the shrimp you need from the freezer and place them in a container or on a covered plate in the refrigerator the night before you're going to cook them.

Quick thaw: If you need the shrimp ASAP, place the frozen shrimp in a bowl of cold water in the sink. Turn on the faucet and let a trickle of cold water fall into the bowl while excess water runs over the sides. Your shrimp should thaw in about 15 minutes, depending on the size.

To devein or not to devein? It's a personal preference. There's nothing wrong with eating the small black vein that runs across the back of the shrimp, but some people choose to remove it for aesthetic reasons.

You can often find frozen shrimp that have already been deveined. If you can't, and you want to DIY, take some kitchen shears or a sharp knife and slice through the shell along the back of the shrimp to expose the vein, then remove it.

Read more: The Best and Worst Frozen Foods

Stovetop Cooking Instructions

Start with your seasoning. There are endless combinations, from simple salt and pepper, to bay seasoning or cumin and paprika. Place your seasoning ingredients in a bowl, add the shrimp and toss to coat them.

Place a pan on the stove over high heat. Use one big enough to hold the shrimp in a single layer. Add about 2 tablespoons of oil to the pan — avocado and olive oils are good choices for high-heat cooking. Allow the oil to get hot, then place the seasoned shrimp in the pan.

Cooking time depends on the size of the shrimp. Smaller shrimp may take only a couple minutes, while larger shrimp will need an extra minute or two. It's a little harder to tell when shell-on shrimp are ready because you can't see the flesh as easily. However, look for the flesh to turn from a translucent gray to an opaque pink, with tails that are bright red.

After removing the shrimp from the heat, serve them as is, or toss them in a bowl with a squeeze of fresh lemon or lime juice to add a bit of bright acidity.

Benefits of Eating Shrimp

Want to impress your dinner guests? Give them the low-down on all the nutrition and health benefits the succulent seafood on their plate has to offer.

Assuming you keep the cooking oil to a minimum, shrimp are a low-calorie food with only 106 calories in a 3.5-ounce serving, according to the USDA. If you're watching your weight, this is one of your lowest calorie protein choices. Top a salad with your sauteed shrimp and dress it with a light citrus vinaigrette for a nutrition-packed, waistline-friendly meal.

Speaking of protein, you get a solid 20 grams per serving of shrimp. That's almost half of your daily recommended intake of 46 grams if you're a woman, and about 35 percent of your daily needs if you're a man. Protein supports the health of all your tissues — bones, muscles, teeth — as well as your immune system. A higher protein diet may also aid weight loss and maintenance, according to a review published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition in June 2015.

As for the other macronutrients — carbohydrates and fats — shrimp has less than a quarter of a gram of both per 3-ounce serving. The small amount of fat shrimp do have is primarily unsaturated fat that can improve cholesterol levels and heart health. Shrimp itself contains a lot of cholesterol — more than red meat. However, according to Harvard School of Public Health, the cholesterol in shrimp has minimal effect on blood cholesterol levels.

Shrimp are also an abundant source of vitamin B12 and the mineral phosphorus. According to NIH, a 3-ounce serving provides 1.6 micrograms of vitamin B12, which is more than 50 percent of the recommended daily intake. B12 is required for your body to make healthy red blood cells that carry oxygen throughout your body.

With 200 milligrams per serving, according to the USDA, shrimp provide almost 30 percent of the recommended daily intake of phosphorous for all adults. Phosphorous is the the second most abundant mineral in the human body behind calcium, reports the U.S. National Library of Medicine. Like calcium, its primary function is the formation of bones and teeth. It also plays a role in carbohydrate and fat metabolism, protein synthesis and in the production of a type of molecule the body uses to store energy called adenosine triphosphate, or ATP.

Read more: Your Ultimate Guide to Fats and Why Your Diet Needs Them

Shrimp May Fight Disease

Antioxidants don't have a daily recommended intake, but they serve an important purpose in human health by preventing oxidative stress and the production of free radicals. Your body naturally forms free radicals when you exercise and when it converts food to energy; but you may also be exposed to free radicals in the environment from pollution, cigarette smoke and sunlight.

Free radicals can damage cells and contribute to the development of diseases including heart disease, diabetes, Alzheimer's, Parkinson's, eye diseases such as cataracts and age-related macular degeneration and cancer.

Fruits and vegetables are typically the richest sources of antioxidants in the human diet. Crustaceans — shrimp, lobster, crayfish and crab — are unique in that they naturally contain an antioxidant called astaxanthin, a xanthophyll carotenoid that is responsible for the pink/red hue of shrimp and other crustaceans, as well as salmon. According to a research review published in Marine Drugs in January 2014, astaxanthin may have antioxidant properties many times stronger than those found in fruits and vegetables, including vitamin E.

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