Why You Should Never Toss Your Shrimp Shells
As it turns out, it's SO worth it to buy you shrimp shell-on — here’s why.
Believe it or not, Americans consume over 1,000,000,000 pounds of shrimp a year. (Yes, that’s billion, with a B!) We love them in shrimp cocktail, stir frys, jambalayas and gumbos, with pasta, on polenta, or breaded and deep fried. The list is endless.
I know it’s very convenient to buy pre-cleaned and pre-cooked shrimp, but I’d love to convince you that the bit of extra time and trouble it takes to use raw shrimp with the shells on will pay you back with tons of flavor.
I’m not suggesting that you necessarily need to buy fresh shrimp… partially because unless you live within a few miles of their home body of water, the shrimp you buy were frozen at sea and defrosted by the store. So if you buy good frozen ones, you get to control the method and timing of thawing right before you need them. Plus, you can buy them already cleaned but with the shells and tails still attached.
Why am I going on and on about these shells, you ask. It’s because those shells contain an enormous amount of flavor. And, making a shrimp stock out of those shells and tails will take you no more than five minutes. But the wow flavor factor you’ll be adding to your dish makes it seem as if you’ve worked all day.
All you need to do is put the shrimp shells in a pan with a little water. (You’ll need about ¾ cup water for the shells from one pound of shrimp, or just enough to cover. The amount of water is not an exact science.) Bring this mixture to a boil, and just let it simmer for about five minutes. Strain the shells from the stock, and that’s all there is to it! Unlike with meat and poultry bones, there’s no reason to cook longer than mere minutes. Just replace some of the liquid in your recipe (say in a pasta sauce or a stew) with this quick stock, and be prepared to be amazed. The bump in shrimp flavor is shockingly delicious.
If, for whatever reason, you don’t want to make this stock right away, you can always stash a bag of shrimp shells in the freezer. In fact, I almost always have a bag in my freezer, and I add to it whenever I have extra shells so that I’m never without the only ingredient needed for this powerhouse flavor booster. This is one of those kitchen hacks that will produce oohs and aahs, and it only took you five minutes.