I am a sucker for shrimp and they are a regular menu item at our dinner table. We have been buying two pound bags Costco frozen shrimp (raw, tail on) and cooking them up in a variety of ways.
Stick with me and I will walk you through the pros and cons of the shrimp from Costco, as well as my favorite way of cooking them, so you can decide if they are going to end up in your shopping cart!
Highlights of Costco Shrimp
Costco does a good sales job with the Kirkland Brand packaging highlighting the key features of the shrimp.
The shrimp is frozen and are 21-25 size. The size refers to how many of the shrimp you need to make a pound which, in turn, means that there are 42-50 shrimp in a two pound bag.
As far as “practical size” I call these shrimp, “Medium”
The shrimp is deveined and all of the shell except for the tail has been removed. This makes the shrimp easy to cook and easy to eat.
No preservatives or chemicals have been added to the product to extend shelf life which is something I really appreciate.
The bad is resealable so you can take a pound for dinner tonight, reseal the bag and put it in your freezer for dinner on another night.
The two pound bag currently sells for $15.49 which is a great price.
The biggest thing to be aware of is one of the first things you see on the package. These shrimp are farm raised.
Are Farm Raised Shrimp Good?
The idea of Farm Raised shrimp sounds wonderful! Farms are great..farms are cool!
It turns out that almost all shrimp farms are located in Southeast Asia and, while sweeping blanket statements are not appropriate, many of them are horrible for the environment and laborers.
Shrimp farms take up real estate and to make room for this expanding business many regions in Asia are slashing their mangrove habitats. The mangroves play an essential role in protecting coasts from storm surges as well as mitigating CO2 emissions. According to a report from Oceana.org, farmed shrimp is 10 times worse for the environment than beef.
Another environmental impact from the shrimp farms is that, because the shrimp are raised in highly concentrated environments, producers will use large amounts of chemicals, and sometimes antibiotics, to keep the populations healthy. The chemicals, and the associated waste from the farms, are usually directly discharged into local waterways.
Ties to Slave Labor
A 2014 study from The Guardian showed a direct tie between frozen shrimp sold at Costco and the use of slave labor. Slave labor was used on fishing boats to catch the fish used to make the fishmeal that was being fed to the farmed shrimp as a protein source.
Let me be clear, the Guardian study was for 2014 and involved farmed shrimp from Thailand. Costco does a great job of cleaning up their act when things are brought to their attention and, it is possible (but I do not know), that the Thai company in the article no longer is a Costco supplier.
The shrimp currently being sold at my Costco is labelled as a product of Indonesia and is not from Thailand.
Is Wild Caught Shrimp Better than Farm Raised Shrimp?
I mention environmental impact and labor conditions not as a way to say “This product is bad.” Instead, I hope the takeaway is that “Farmed shrimp from Southeast Asia is not as wholesome as it might sound.”
Here is a more detailed look at the reality of farm raised shrimp by the New York Times.
This begs the question, “Is wild caught shrimp better?”
The quick answer is, “meh?“.
As soon as you start talking about wild caught shrimp you have to acknowledge the tremendous waste of aquatic life that occurs as unwanted bycatch. According to some reports the amount of bycatch for 1 pound of shrimp is 6-20 pounds of unwanted species.
Here is a deeper look at the bycatch problem in “wild caught” fisheries.
How We Cook Costco Shrimp
I look at the pros and cons of the farmed shrimp and I still buy the product.
What can I say, I like shrimp.
Here is how I like to cook them!
The instructions on the bag are explicit that the shrimp should be thawed by placing them in the refrigerator overnight. They should not be thawed by placing them under cold running water.
So, I ignore the packaging and thaw the shrimp under cold running water. It takes about 15 minutes for the shrimp to thaw this way and is super easy. But, hey, if you want to follow the directions then place the shrimp in the refrigerator overnight. Make sure to use a secondary container just in case the bag leaks.
Many nights we just throw the shrimp into a pot of boiling salted water and let them cook through for a few minutes. We drain the shrimp and eat them hot with some sugar free cocktail sauce for an easy and healthy dinner. If I am feeling super lazy then sometimes I will just buy Costco’s ready to eat shrimp cocktail and give myself a night off from even touching a pot or pan.
However, when I want something special then, once the shrimp are thawed, I toss them in a large pan with:
- 3 tbls melted butter
- 2 tbls Cajun Seasoning
- 2 tsp Worcestershire sauce
- 2 tsp Cholula hot sauce
- juice of 1 lemon
Turn the heat up to High and toss/stir the shrimp every few minutes until cooked through (about 12 minutes) and have reached an internal temperature of 145F. You could also do something like this on a pellet grill to make some amazing smoked shrimp.
Serve the shrimp over a bed of rice (or cheese grits!) along with a side Caesar salad, and you will have one heck of a feast!
Costco Shrimp in Cajun Butter Sauce
- 2 lbs Frozen Costco Raw Shrimp (Tail On)
- 3 tbsp melted butter
- 2 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
- 2 tbsp Cholula hot sauce
- 1 large lemon juiced
- 4 tbsp smoked paprika Cajun Seasoning Ingredient
- 1 tbsp black pepper Cajun Seasoning Ingredient
- 1 tbsp cayenne pepper Cajun Seasoning Ingredient
- 1 tbsp chili powder Cajun Seasoning Ingredient
- 1 tbsp cumin Cajun Seasoning Ingredient
- 1 tbsp granulated garlic Cajun Seasoning Ingredient
- 1 tbsp granulated onion Cajun Seasoning Ingredient
- 1 tbsp salt Cajun Seasoning Ingredient
- 1 tsp dried thyme Cajun Seasoning Ingredient
- 1 tsp dried basil Cajun Seasoning Ingredient
- 1 tsp sugar Cajun Seasoning Ingredient
- Thaw the shrimp . Either in the refrigerator overnight or using cold running water.
- Mix the Cajun Seasoning ingredients. This makes a large batch and you will only be using two tablespoons.
- Using a large pot, or oversized wok, combine the shrimp, butter, Worcestershire sauce, hot sauce, lemon juice and two tablespoons of the Cajun Seasoning.
- Cook the shrimp in the butter sauce over high heat.
- Toss or stir every minute for even cooking and to make sure the sauce coats all of the shrimp.
- Cook the shrimp for 10-12 minutes until they reach an internal temperature of 145F.
- Remove the shrimp from the heat and serve with sauce over cooked rice or grits.