Everything You Ever Wanted to Know About North Carolina Shrimp
What exactly is a shrimp?
Not to get to technical, but shrimp are a type of decapod crustacean (meaning they have 10 legs and an exoskeleton). They live near the floor of whatever body of water they inhabit.
Most variety of shrimp, unlike prawns, are found in salt water (although some shrimp can live in fresh water).
Shrimp carry their eggs underneath their bodies, beneath their tails. You can tell you are eating a shrimp and not a prawn by the way the body curls. Prawn do not curl up like shrimp because of their plate-like gills.
Fun facts you never knew about shrimp
A vital industry- Shrimp are the second most economically important fishery in North Carolina. Tar Heel fishermen catch on average 4.9 million pounds of shrimp, worth around $9 million.
How are they caught?- Most shrimp are caught with trawl nets in our sounds, and in the brackish waters of our coastal rivers.
A short life- Shrimp only live a maximum of 24 months, with many only making it to 18 months. For this reason, they are considered an annual crop.
Weather affects everything- The amount of shrimp we have from year to year varies depending on the weather. If we have a very cold winter, then we will have a small shrimp population the following spring. If we have lots of rain, the shrimp will move out into the ocean before they are fully grown.
How to Peel and Devein Shrimp
For many people there is a bit of a mystery about how to clean, peel and devein shrimp. However, there doesn't have to be. Peeling and deveining shrimp is actually rather easy and with a few tricks you can be cooking fresh caught North Carolina shrimp like a pro. Check out the video above to learn everything you need to know about peeling and deveining shrimp.
Tips for buying shrimp
A lot of people have seen frozen shrimp at the store, but for those visiting Topsail Island, there is the delicious joy of fresh caught North Carolina shrimp on the horizon. Of course, there are a few things that you should know when looking to purchase fresh shrimp. Here are a few tips to help you find the freshest shrimp during your Topsail Island fall beach vacation.
1. Fresh off the boat is best- There is, of course, a gold standard for shrimp, and that is "fresh off the boat". This shrimp is best purchased at a local fish market. One secret is to talk with the owner or manager and find out when the deliveries come in each day. Armed with this information, you are sure to get the best and freshest shrimp around.
2. Bad shrimp- If you are at a seafood market and see piles of what look like fresh shrimp sitting on piles of ice be wary. A lot of shrimp is frozen (which isn't always bad) but that shrimp you see on the ice is probably shrimp that has been frozen and is now thawing. Which is not a good thing. So, how can you tell if shrimp is bad? Glad you asked.
Bad shrimp has a distinctive odor. If you smell an ammonia odor that is a sign that the shrimp is stale and not what you want. Another sign is limp or slimy shrimp. If either of these signs is evident, move on. You just dodged a bullet.
3. A word on frozen shrimp- Local, fresh shrimp that was instantly frozen is a good option if you can't find fresh off the boat, and in fact, a good quality local frozen shrimp will taste great, cook easily and be much easier to find in the off-season.
4. Read the label- Wild caught shrimp have a cleaner, sharper, more shrimp-y flavor than their farmed counterparts. Looking for that designation on the package is key. If the shrimp aren’t wild-caught (i.e. local North Carolina shrimp), you'll want to make sure they’re raised sustainably and responsibly.
Now that you know a bit more about shrimp and where to get the best specimens, let's take a moment and look at a simple and delicious shrimp recipe that anyone can make. For many people cooking any seafood seems like an intimidating task, but it doesn't have to be and the grill is one of the easiest ways to prepare any seafood. So, go ahead and fire up the grill, grab the skewers and shrimp – you're about to make a delicious grilled shrimp recipe. Find it in the video above!
Are you ready to book your fall or holiday Topsail Island beach vacation? If you are, now is the perfect time to give one of our friendly reservationists a call at 800-497-5463 or click the button below to see all of our current vacation homes.