Shrimp is the most popular seafood in the U.S., representing more than a quarter of the seafood that America eats in a year. But, sometimes, it's incredible variety can make it an intimidating ingredient to buy. You can find dozens of species, different sizes, preparations that are deveined or not, pre-cooked options and more. And that's not even delving into the confusion surrounding prawns versus shrimp. If you're looking to explore the world of shrimp, Food & Wine's guide will teach you about all the delicious ways to prepare it.

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Kwame’s Pepper Shrimp

Infused with layers of heat from Scotch bonnet chiles and fresh ginger, Kwame Onwuachi’s pepper shrimp are inspired by a beloved Jamaican street food. Deveining the shrimp but leaving the shell on helps protect against overcooking. Onwuachi fell in love with this recipe when traveling in Jamaica.

Gullah Shrimp Burgers

These two-bite wonders, from Johnson’s cookbook Between Harlem and Heaven, hail directly from the history in South Carolina and Gullah cuisine. As Johnson writes, “The Lowcountry Gullah islands (located on the coast of South Carolina) offer a legacy of Africa and the Caribbean on the doorstep of the American South, and their culinary and social richness can’t be captured in any one thing. Which is why instead of trying that, we take inspiration from their cuisine and fly off to Asia.”

This Is the Right Way To Peel Shrimp

We make peeling and deveining shrimp easier in four simple steps.

Shrimp-and-Okra Kebabs with Grilled Peaches and Jalapeño-Bourbon Vinaigrette

A splash of bourbon in the vinaigrette adds a sweet, boozy kick of flavor and helps tenderize the shrimp in 2008 BNC chef Sue Zemanick’s shrimp and okra kebabs. Cutting okra in half lengthwise keeps it big enough to skewer and get charred and crispy on the grill, without falling through the grates. Chef Zemanick recommends salting the okra and cooking at a high heat for the best texture. “Everything about this dish screams summer to me,” Zemanick says. “Being able to cook with ingredients that are in season simultaneously helps to ensure a delicious dish. Although I truly believe fresh is best, feel free to save time by buying peeled fresh or frozen shrimp.”

Honey-Pepper Coconut Shrimp

Although his breading technique at Rocky’s Hot Chicken Shack in Asheville, North Carolina is top secret, chef Rich Cundiff was kind enough to create this special riff on his coconut shrimp exclusively for us. A drizzle of syrupy honey glaze, infused with black pepper and lemon, adds a tart-sweet bite.

Spicy Peel-and-Eat Skillet Shrimp with Garlic

Shell-on shrimp are essential for this recipe; the shells help insulate the delicate shrimp from the heat of the grill so they cook evenly without becoming tough. Give each raw shrimp a quick snip with a pair of scissors along the back for vein removal and easy shelling at the table; you can also look for wild American shrimp marked “EZ Peel,” or ask your fishmonger to tackle the task. In lieu of grilling, the shrimp may be cooked in a skillet over high heat in a well-ventilated kitchen.

More Shrimp

Venetian Shrimp with Polenta

Years ago, while appearing with the Royal Shakespeare Co. in London, I had a week off and decided a treat was in order. Charlie, my other half, met me in London, and we took a ridiculously cheap flight to Italy. Of course Venice was on the agenda, and especially a restaurant recommended by all of my friends at Food & Wine—Osteria Alle Testiere. Upon arrival, we tried to book a reservation, but no luck. I was crushed, but I was in Venice, so I couldn’t really feel that bad. We took the advice of friends who were seasoned Venice visitors and let ourselves get lost. I believe that’s the only way to see Venice. It was magical. And then, late in the afternoon, we somehow found ourselves outside the shuttered doors of Alle Testiere. I started to feel sorry for myself again, and when I turned to share my sorrow with Charlie, he was nowhere to be found. And then I saw him, on his hands and knees, crawling underneath the metal security gate! As I watched in horror ... nothing happened. I waited, sure that he was about to be arrested. Then he appeared, slithering out from under the gate, looking both a mess and immensely pleased with himself. If we agreed to eat very, very early, and to not linger endlessly after our meal, they graciously agreed to let us be the first customers that night. We raced back to our hotel, showered, changed, and raced back. We then proceeded to have one of the best meals we’ve ever had. I had Schie con Polenta: tiny Venetian brine shrimp with white wine and garlic served over soft polenta. It was a meal and an evening I will never forget, thanks both to Charlie and a wonderful restaurant crew. Since flying to Venice for dinner isn’t possible for most of us, this magical meal is easy to, if not replicate, at least approximate. I say that because I’m pretty sure you won’t be able to find the famous Venetian gray brine shrimp stateside. These shrimp are seriously tiny and sweet. But we all have access to great shrimp at our fishmongers. All you need to do is make a batch of polenta, which isn’t hard at all; it just requires some stirring. And while the polenta simmers away, all you’ll need to do is cook some garlic and white wine and stock, add butter, and, literally two minutes (at most) before you want to serve, toss in the shrimp. The cardinal sin when preparing shrimp is overcooking them, so cook until they’re mostly pink, then toss in the butter, the lemon zest, and about half of the parsley. The remaining moments of heat while you plate is enough to finish the cooking. Complete the picture with the rest of the parsley, and let yourself dream of canals, and San Marco, and the Rialto, and … ah, La Serenissima!

Mexican Shrimp Cocktail with Saffron

A funny thing happens when you marry a pata salada (Spanish for salty foot—the endearing nickname given to people who are raised on the beaches of Puerto Vallarta, Jalisco): You become a mariscos snob. Since meeting my wife Paola, my seafood consumption has spiked to near-ridiculous levels. Fortunately, I’ve been able to keep up with her Neptune-like appetite for anything from the sea. As a result, I can tell you if a shrimp cocktail is made properly or not. Meaning, if the broth is made from scratch with shrimp shells and aromatics versus just throwing a bunch of tomato cocktail mix, ketchup, and hot sauces together in a bowl. Coctél de camarón (you may know it as Mexican shrimp cocktail) has a special place in our life. It has become our welcome meal as soon as we land in Puerto Vallarta, usually famished. We arrive at Paola’s family’s home where a bowl of her mother’s replenishing coctél awaits. It always starts off our trip to paradise on the right foot. One day back home in Los Angeles, I called my mother-in-law and asked her to coach me through her coctél process to surprise Paola. (She was mad at me that day, and I needed all the help I could get to get out of the doghouse!) The idea was to surprise her with one of our favorite dishes that we associate with so many great memories. While the shrimp shells were simmering away to make the broth, I spotted our Spanish saffron container out of the corner of my eye and figured, what the hell? I grabbed a fat pinch of the stuff and added it to the broth. As the broth chilled to room temperature—the way to properly eat a Mexican coctél de camarón, so you can taste all of the delicate flavors and fresh shrimp—I took a sip, and my eyes grew big. It was so good. Her mother’s coctél is perfect as-is, but with a pinch of Spanish saffron, it became a revelatory experience. It did the trick and we forgot what we argued about after a couple of big spoonfuls. In this recipe, Paola amplifies the flavor even more by charring the vegetables a bit before using them to build an umami-filled stock. Combined with the saucy shrimp and all the cucumber, tomato, onion, cilantro, and avocado, this dish is suitable for a complete lunch. Eat it with some good tostadas or saltine crackers to complete the Puerto Vallarta experience.

Grilled Gulf Shrimp with 
Comeback Sauce

Comeback sauce, a Southern condiment traditionally served with fried seafood, makes its way west in this dish from Voyager in Ferndale, Michigan. They pair the sauce with smoky peel-and-eat shrimp that are marinated overnight with garlic and Old Bay seasoning before hitting the grill. Slideshow: More Shrimp Recipes