I have relatives down in the South of our beautiful country, and I love visiting them whenever I have the opportunity, not only to enjoy their famous southern hospitality but also to gorge on their super-tasty food. There is no doubt that southern folks are blessed with some of the best meals in the whole world!
My personal favorite is shrimp and grits, and I would like to try and remake its southern flavor in my cold northern home. To do that I need two things- a good shrimp and grits recipe, and a bit of knowledge on how to tell if shrimp is cooked.
The recipe part was a breeze- I called my auntie, and she dictated me all the details. (If you stay tuned to the very end, I`ll share it with you too!)
The later part, answering the question of how to tell if shrimp is cooked, took a bit more trouble as I wanted to make sure that my shrimp will come out not only perfectly cooked but also safe to eat.
If you want to hear all the advice and information I have managed to gather on this subject, simply continue reading!
Related Article: How to Reheat Shrimp.
Why Eat Shrimp?
Shrimp may be small in size, but they are gigantic when it comes to their nutritional value. In fact, shrimp offer an array of health benefits.
To be more precise:
1. Shrimp can help you lose weight
Being carbohydrate-free (their GI rating is 0), low in calories (only 28 calories per ounce) and packed with protein, zinc, and vitamins D and B3, shrimps can aid you shed the extra pounds this summer. It will not only make you feel sated for a long time but also increase the levels of leptin– a hormone that regulates fat storage and helps you eliminate food cravings.
Shrimp is also rich in Iodine which regulates the function of your thyroid gland. If your thyroid gland is not functioning as it should be, it can seriously hinder your basal metabolic rate, and thus lead to weight gain issues.
2. Shrimp contain important beauty nutrients
Astaxanthin, a carotenoid found in shrimp, provides them with their pink color but also helps protect your skin from premature aging.
Zinc is also essential for beautiful skin and hair as it boosts the production of new cells.
Copper is present in shrimp as well, and it too will help your hair stay healthy and look divine by preventing hair loss and intensifying its color.
3. Shrimp provide you with cancer-fighting minerals
Selenium is a mineral that is known to reduce the risk of death from cancer, and the good news is that shrimp is loaded with it. This cancer-fighting mineral acts in two ways: first, it constitutes an enzyme with antioxidant properties called the glutathione peroxidase which protects you from damaging free radicals; second, selenium hinders the tumor growth by boosting your immunity and preventing the development of blood vessels to the tumor.
Word of Caution:
If you have a problem with a high cholesterol level, eat shrimp with caution as they have a relatively high cholesterol level (approx. 200 milligrams in 3.5 ounces).
How to Tell When Shrimp is Cooked: The best advice out there
Shrimp are, in essence, easy to cook. The trick is to remove them from the heat in a timely manner so that they are neither undercooked nor overcooked, and you can enjoy them in numerous dishes such as shrimp gumbo, shrimp creole, shrimp-kabobs, shrimp soup, shrimp salad, shrimp stew, shrimp burger, shrimp sandwich and, of course, my all-time favorite shrimp and grits!
So, how can you tell if shrimp is cooked and ready to serve?
My auntie advised me that I should pay close attention to how the shrimp look, while they are cooking as their change of shape and color, will tell me when it is time to remove them from the heat.
Here is what she said:
1. The Shape
When you buy the fresh shrimp, they are more or less straight, but while you cook them, you will notice that they start to curl up and form a C shape. The trick is to remove them at this point- if you leave them for longer, they will transfer into an O shape, and that will be a sure sign that you have irreparably overcooked them.
If you, on the other hand, take them off the heat while they are still straight, they will remain uncooked and represent a potential health hazard as well.
So remember C = cooked, and O = overcooked, easy peasy isn’t it?
2. The Color
When raw, shrimp have grey shells and almost see-through flesh. While you cook them, their exterior will start to turn pink, and their tails will turn red.
However, your focus should not be on the shell but rather on their interior. You need to pay special attention to their translucent flesh. Namely, when shrimp are properly cooked the meat will turn from transparent into slightly opaque and sort of whiteish.
Let me warn you though- do not wait for the flesh to become bright white as that will mean that you have made a mistake and overcooked them. Also, remember that removing the shrimps from the heat will not stop the cooking process, you need to transfer them on a cold plate immediately or give them an ice bath to make sure they do not overcook.
I know that it will take a bit of practice to train your eye to recognize the right shade of white and get the shrimp just right, but the palate-pleasing taste and texture of the perfectly cooked shrimps are worth a little bit of trouble for sure!
3. Additional advice:
- If you are worried that the shrimp are undercooked and do not want to risk any food poisoning, you can rely on a 100% bulletproof method- using the thermometer and checking the internal temperature of your shrimp. Ideally, the internal temperature of the fully cooked shrimp should be 165 F.
- My aunt advises cooking the shrimp in their shell- it might take a bit longer, but they will taste much better. Shells will lock in all the flavor and juices so whenever possible (some dishes require shells off) keep them on.
- If your shrimp differ in size, you might need to adjust the cooking time accordingly and remove the smaller ones earlier as they are sure to cook more quickly.
- When cooking shrimp on high heat, for example, grill or fry them, it is easy to keep track of their shape and color and remove them from the heat at the right moment. However, if you are slow-cooking shrimp in a crockpot recipe, applying these techniques might be impossible. My aunt’s advice is to add the shrimp last. Shrimp cook fast and adding them right at the end lowers the risk of getting them overcooked and rubbery.
My favorite Shrimp and Grits recipe
This recipe will easily feed a company of four, but if you are anything like me you will want to keep it all to yourself!
1. The Grits
You will need:
- Two cups of water
- Two tablespoons of butter
- Two chicken bouillon cubes or two teaspoons of granules
- Half a cup of quick grits or polenta
- One cup of shredded cheddar cheese
- Bring the water to the boil
- Add bouillon, butter, and grits
- Reduce the heat and simmer for about 6-7 minutes
- Remove from the heat
- Stir in the cheddar cheese
2. The Shrimp
You will need:
- One pound of peeled and deveined shrimp (no tails!)
- A quarter of a cup of thinly sliced scallions
- Cajun or Creole seasoning
- Four thick slices of bacon
- One tablespoon of lemon juice
- One minced garlic clove
- Place the bacon on a rack and then the sheet pan
- Put it in a cold oven and turn it on to 400 degrees F.
- Cook for approx. 15 minutes (or until it turns crispy)
- Once done, chop it up in bite-size pieces
- Use the bacon grease for cooking the shrimp over a medium-high heat
- Season the shrimp with Cajun seasoning
- After a minute or two, lower the heat and add the bacon, garlic and the lemon juice
- Leave it for another two minutes or so
Pour some grits into a bowl and top it up with the shrimp! Bon Appetite!
If you prefer your shrimp crispy, check out this recipe!
As you can see, there is a very thin line between perfectly cooked and utterly ruined shrimp, but do not let that intimidate you! You are now armed with knowledge and with a little bit of practice, you will build enough confidence to become a real shrimp-cooking expert!
I bet that in no time you will get the shrimp cooked just right and serve them tender and juicy every time. Share this article so that everyone can learn the same and be as successful as you!
Once you cook the shrimp, make sure you know how long does the cooked shrimp last in the fridge!