In The Know: Buying Shrimp & Scallops


Briny shrimp and sweet tasting scallops are delicious, quick cooking and very good for you. Both are high in protein and low in fat have a wide array of minerals and are rich in B-complex vitamins, particularly shrimp. Despite having high dietary cholesterol, shrimp are now considered heart healthy by the American Heart Association.

The downside is that unless you know what you’re looking for, buying shrimp and sea scallops can be daunting if you don’t know what you’re looking for. Is it fresh or isn’t it? Nobody wants to buy the bad batch that makes you sick. Here are some simple rules of thumb when going for these two particular items.


  • If you don’t live near the sea or an area where these delicious foods are caught, always buy shrimp or scallops frozen. Defrost slowly in the body of your fridge the day before you want to eat them.
  • Always eat supermarket bought seafood the day you buy it. The seafood on display at your supermarket most likely thawed from frozen, considerably shortening its shelf life.
  • The Monterey Aquarium Seafood Watch guide is useful for finding out which fish, and fisheries, are the most sustainable.


There are many different kinds of shrimp, from giant grey Tigers from Asia and fat white shrimp from the Gulf, to tiny brown shrimp from Maine that you eat shell and all.

  • When buying shrimp, we recommend you buy either USA caught wild shrimp from the NW coast or from the Gulf, or US farmed shrimp.  Buy the count that works best for you, the count being the number of shrimp to the pound.
  • Buy shrimp with the shell on. It’s more flavorful less processed, and is particularly good on the grill. But if you need convenience, or want to quickly add shrimp to a stew or pasta, peeled is fine.
  • Raw shrimp should be firm, and have no black spots along the edges of their shells; peeled raw shrimp should also be firm, and not mushy. If they are, the shrimp are past their sell-by.
  • Shrimp should have no more than a sweet briny smell. Beware any with a fishy odor.


Scallops are bi-valves. The part we most commonly eat is the muscle that opens and shuts the shell. When sold on the shell, this muscle is surrounded by orange roe, or coral, which is also good to eat, though you don’t see it much in the US.

  • Sea scallops are large and chunky while bay scallops are smaller, about as big as the tip of your index finger. I am lucky enough to live in New York to be able to buy ultra fresh local Long Island sea scallops from my Greenmarket.
  • When scallops are fresh, they are a pearly white with an almost opalescent pinkish tinge. If they are a creamy yellowish color, they are either not so fresh or have been thawed from frozen, and I tend to avoid buying them.
  • Like shrimp, scallops should have no more than a briny smell. Any strong odor should raise an alarm.
  • Scallops cook fast, and are great additions to seafood stews. They are delicious marinated in oil and lemon and quickly seared on each side in a hot pan.

Click here for our best shrimp recipes- you won’t regret it!

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