Classic Crustaceans: Simple Tips for Buying the Best Shrimp for Your Restaurant

From prehistoric times to the present, humans have consumed crustaceans such as lobsters, crabs, and shrimp. Crustaceans are a popular food delicacy all around the world, with over 10,700,000 tons collected in 2007. Crabs, lobsters, shrimp, crawfish, and prawns account for the largest majority of this output. Shrimp and prawns account for more than 60% of all crustaceans collected for human food, and nearly 80% are produced in Asia, with China alone supplying nearly half of the world’s total.

Seafood is a high-quality protein source that also has health benefits for growing bodies. Consumers are consuming more fish and shellfish than they did a year ago, which is an increasing trend. There are numerous methods for cooking seafood, and the method employed frequently relies on the type of seafood and the cultural preferences of the locality. Say if you were visiting Maine, you’d be remiss not to try the Lobster roll prepared in their style with fresh lobsters that are sourced locally.

And speaking of popular seafood delicacies, let’s talk about shrimp. Shrimp is a restaurant staple, and diners never seem to tire of this tasty crustacean that gets consumed by the boatload every day, especially in the summer months. This is why it pays to know how to source the best stock for your restaurant and keep your customers happy.

Here is a look at how to get your buying strategy spot on and put shrimps on your menu with confidence that they will be a big hit time and time again.

Getting it right

If you are offering seafood on your restaurant menu, shrimp has to take pride of place on that list as it is what diners want when they are looking for a taste of the sea, and it accounts for about 25% of all seafood consumed each year.

If you are enticing diners with fresh shrimp for sale it is really important you find a reliable supply source and know which species of shrimp to buy.

There are dozens of shrimp species available and they all come with a variety of names and ways of preparing and serving them, all of which can be a bit confusing when you are trying to make the right choice for your restaurant.

You can buy shrimp that come with the shell and head on or off, and you can buy them with the veins removed and with or without a tail. That’s before you even decide which category of shrimp you want to stock and prepare for your diners.

A working partnership

The key to maintaining a good reputation for your restaurant is to offer customers a fresh and varied menu that is always consistently good whenever they book a table and decide to dine with you, so the challenge is to find a way of achieving that level of consistency.

Sourcing the best quality seafood and knowing what you are looking for with each catch can take years of experience and even specialist knowledge.

There is no reason why you can’t venture into your local fish market and find what you are looking for using your own eyes and nose to work out what should be on the menu that night, but it would also be a smart move to develop a relationship with a reputable seafood supplier.

Getting to know some trusted suppliers and working closely with them will help you to tap into their wealth of knowledge and get guidance on what to buy. Having a good working relationship with your supplier will also help to ensure they look out for you and let you bag the best of the catch.

Size matters

When you are buying shrimp it is worth getting to know the sizing chart that is widely used.

If you see shrimp labeled as small you can expect to get about 50 shrimp per pound, medium means you will get somewhere between 35 and 50 to the pound, and large shrimp will often average somewhere around 25 to 40 per pound.

It is simple to calculate what you are getting by working on the basis that the smaller the number, the bigger the shrimp. You might occasionally also see a labeled as U10, for example, which tells you that they are a decent size because there are less than ten per pound in weight.

Finding the freshest shrimp

Freshness is a big selling point with diners and you want to know that you can deliver on your promise of providing them with really fresh and tasty shrimp when they place their order.

Shrimp is a highly perishable food so you have to be on the ball about picking the freshest available, mainly because it will be the safest to eat and the taste and texture will be just right.

Use your nose to detect a problem with a batch of shrimp. There is a very distinctive sign of spoilage that your nose can detect, which is when you notice a smell similar to ammonia.

Along with the basic sniff test to confirm freshness, you don’t want to be buying shrimp that look limp, have a slimy texture, or fall apart too easily, all of which are telltale signs that the shrimp is starting to decay and won’t pass the taste test when cooked.

Fresh but frozen

A lot of shrimp is sold frozen but is still described as fresh, which is down to the technology used in commercial fishing where the catch is deep frozen at sea.

This process can capture and lock in the freshness and as a restaurant owner, it can be an appealing option as you can stock quantities of shrimp without worrying so much about wastage.

There are many chefs who are more than happy to use fresh-frozen seafood as a way of planning and meeting diner’s demands and expectations.

Fresh or frozen, if you know how to get your hands on the best shrimp, your customer’s will keep coming back for more.

Katherine Rahman works her magic as a family restaurant chef each day. She also enjoys writing about her experiences and posting them on small business and startup websites.