Shrimp Questions Answered

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North Carolina Sea Grant

I was recently preparing for a class on summer food safety and I had some questions. I reached out to members of North Carolina Sea Grant for an update and a few “talking points” related to shrimp. The Sea Grant team is part of N.C. Cooperative Extension and they are dedicated to preserving the integrity of our coast and its many resources.

Barry Nash, North Carolina Sea Grant’s Seafood Technology and Marketing Specialist from the office in Morehead City was quick to respond and provided me with research-based facts and information. 

Deveining Shrimp?

My first question was about the need to devein shrimp before eating. Is this a food safety concern? Nash’s response: “The dark line that runs along the back of the shrimp just below the surface is the digestive tract of the shrimp and it is sometimes called a vein.” Knowing what it really is, may cause some people not to want to eat it. But according to Nash and the NC Food Code, “cooking shrimp to a minimum internal temperature of 145°F for a minimum of 15 seconds will eliminate any harmful microorganisms in the digestive tract of shrimp.” You might want to take it out just because it looks better, sometimes it’s prominent and at other times it’s hardly noticeable. 

To Freeze Shrimp

I also wanted to recommend the best method for freezing our local fresh shrimp. Nash directed me to an article he wrote earlier this year for the Sea Grant’s Mariner’s Menu on How to Freeze Your Fresh Seafood. The article talks about freezing all fresh North Carolina Seafood including fin fish, shellfish, and crabmeat, not just shrimp.

Shrimp frozen in freezer safe container

Photo by Vanda Lewis from NC Sea Grant. Freeze shrimp covered with water in a solid freezer container. Avoid using freezer bags because the shrimp shells can puncture the bag causing leaks.

Remove the head from the whole shrimp, but leave the shell on. Place the shrimp in a freezer container and cover with ice water. Leave enough headspace for the water to expand when frozen. Use small or medium-size containers so the shrimp will freeze more quickly. He offered a good piece of advice: avoid using freezer bags, because the shrimp tails can puncture them, causing leaks and a real mess.

Other Shrimp Tips

He offered these other tips to consider when purchasing and storing shrimp: 

  • Always buy seafood from a reputable retailer – meaning one that is subject to regulatory inspection.
  • Make sure shrimp is transported to the home in a cooler, covered in ice to keep its temperature as close to 32 F as possible.
  • Hold seafood refrigerated below 40 F but ideally as close to 32 F as possible until ready to use.
  • If you buy head-on shrimp from a local fisherman you will get approximately 60% by weight of headless shrimp (still in the shell) once the heads are removed. This means you lose 40% of the weight when removing the heads.
  • An easy way to estimate the weight of headless shrimp you buy is to multiply 0.6 by the total weight of heads-on shrimp you purchase. You can determine the price per pound of headless shrimp by multiplying 1.67 times the head-on shrimp price.
  • Fresh shrimp should have translucent shells, moist appearance, firm flesh, and a mild scent.
  • Avoid shrimp that have blackened or red edges and a strong sour or “fishy” odor.

Mariner’s Menu

Many consumers love seafood, but they tend to enjoy it only at restaurants. Research by North Carolina Sea Grant shows that consumers would purchase more local seafood to eat at home if they were confident in their cooking skills. To help with these skills, Sea Grant has put more than 200 recipes on their online resource Mariner’s Menu. These recipes were developed and crafted by a former Sea Grant extension educator and her hand-picked volunteers using seafood harvested by North Carolina fishermen. 

Carteret Catch

Nash’s expertise helped to develop Carteret Catch (which is similar to our Brunswick Catch), a joint venture between the local fishing and local restaurants to generate greater visibility for local seafood. As part of his role within NC Sea Grant he assists seafood businesses with commercializing new products, regulatory compliance, seafood safety, quality enhancement, and market development.

Contact Us

Cheryle Syracuse wrote this article and more similar ones for the Family and Consumer Sciences Column in the Brunswick Beacon. Syracuse is an FCS team member and can be reached at N.C. Cooperative Extension, Brunswick County Center, 910-253-2610 or by email at