Until machines were invented to process them, rock shrimp were popular only with avid fishermen and divers because getting to the meat through the hard shell was such a chore. Today rock shrimp is readily available, both fresh and frozen, head on or off, split and/or deveined.
Rock shrimp do not grow as large as their shrimp cousins. Like shrimp, they are sorted and sold by count, meaning the number of shrimp it takes to weigh in at 1 pound. The largest commercially-available rock shrimp are 21 to 25 to the pound and are about 2 inches in length (although some have been found measuring up to 6 inches).
If you buy whole or headless unpeeled rock shrimp, the easiest way to split the hard shell is to use kitchen shears to cut through the exoskeleton. If you are brave, you can use a heavy, sharp knife, however the knife can easily slip and cause injury.
Rock shrimp has a sweet flavor, much like spiny lobster. Keep in mind that rock shrimp cook faster than shrimp, so keep an eye on them. To boil, add to boiling water, stir, and remove after 35 seconds. Immediately rinse with cold water to stop the cooking process. Split rock shrimp may be broiled about 2 minutes, until the flesh turns opaque. For sauteing purposes, the shell is usually removed before cooking. If you overcook it, the flesh becomes tough and chewy.
Rock shrimp may be easily substituted for shrimp in most recipes. Storage instructions are the same as for shrimp.
More about Shrimp and Shrimp Recipes:• Shrimp Selection and Storage
• Should shrimp be deveined? FAQ
• What is rock shrimp? FAQ
• Shrimp Cooking Tips and Hints
• Shrimp History
• Shrimp Recipes
Shrimp Photo © 2008 Peggy Trowbridge Filippone, licensed to About.com, Inc.