Mild, sweet and firm, Pacific white shrimp are among the most widely cultivated shellfish in the world. They grow quickly with little maintenance, and may be harvested in as little as 120 days. Two species, Panaeus vannamel and P. stylirostris, are both harvested at sea by trawlers or farmed in ponds. Pond-raised domestic shrimp are typically high in quality due to strict controls and the lack of at-sea time.
Mild and versatile, Pacific white shrimp can be simmered, skewered and grilled or sautéed with equally delicious results. They pair well with garlic, cilantro, lemon or white wine sauces and also make an excellent ceviche.
Most tiger shrimp is farmed, though a significant amount is harvested from the wild by trawlers. While black tiger shrimp is available year-round, farmed shrimp peaks in February and September. A native of warm, tropical waters, the tiger grows exceptionally quickly; these shrimp can reach up to 13 inches in length, but harvest sizes typically average 9 to 11 inches long.
Large tiger shrimp tails make excellent hors d’oeuvres, such as shrimp cocktail or grilled shrimp on skewers. They’re also good with pasta or in casseroles, because they can withstand tossing with other ingredients. Because their thick shells hold heat, black tigers cook more quickly than the other varieties of shrimp or prawns, and they toughen if overcooked. Once thawed, they will last three to four days when properly refrigerated, but are best when eaten within two days of thawing.
Gulf shrimp varieties include brown, white and pink shrimp. Although their name suggests they come exclusively from the Gulf of Mexico, they are also found as far north as Maryland and along the southeastern coast. Pink shrimp are the largest Gulf species, reaching 11 inches in length, while whites grow up to 8 inches long. Brown shrimp are concentrated off the Texas/Louisiana coast; males reach 7 inches in length, while females grow to up to 9 inches long.
Few seafood items are enjoyed by as many people and in as many ways as Gulf shrimp. Flavorful and firm, Gulf shrimp can be breaded, stuffed, boiled with spices, sautéed or barbecued. The greatest danger in preparing shrimp is overcooking, which toughens the meat. Always be aware of cooking time; shrimp cooks in just 60 to 90 seconds at a rapid boil. When the meat turns opaque, it’s ready to serve!