A closeup of shrimp with their shells on.
Elevate The Flavor Of Shrimp By Keeping The Shells On
By Garth Clingingsmith
It's probably tough for most Americans to wrap their head around the idea of cooking shrimp with their shells on, but it's a pretty common practice worldwide.
Shrimp shells are made out of a tough substance called chitin. The chitin of shrimp shells is loaded with savory flavor compounds that transfer to the meat.
Some of those compounds are the key components of umami called glutamates. Umami is the tough-to-describe, meaty fifth taste that we find so irresistible.
Shrimp shells are also full of protein and sugar, which are key to the Maillard reaction — the chemical process of caramelization that food undergoes at high temperatures.
However, you will encounter shrimp recipes that require shelling. In these cases, be sure to save the flavor-packed shells because they are perfect fodder for shrimp stock.
Compared to beef and poultry stock, shrimp stock is ready in minutes and is key for flavorful chowder or any other seafood soup, bisque, or stew.