Bobby Flay's Shrimp Shell Hack Creates A Delicious Stock

When you're looking for tips to amp up the flavor of your dishes or make the most of food parts that might otherwise be tossed out, it's always helpful to look to the big names of the food world. Celebrity chef Bobby Flay is undoubtedly one of them, and those cooking seafood should pay careful attention to one of his best tricks.

It involves shrimp shells, which many diners think of as inedible waste to be thrown away. While you can't eat them directly, they're still packed with incredible, shrimpy flavor. This can be extracted by making a tasty, easy-to-craft seafood stock. Flay's method involves adding shrimp shells to a pot of water with a bit of tomato paste, bay leaf, and onion. Those looking for a lighter, alternative flavor profile can try this simple shrimp stock recipe. After 30–45 minutes of simmering to meld and integrate the flavors, the mixture is strained and can be used immediately or frozen for later recipes.

Flay recommends adding ½ cup to the sauce in recipes like shrimp fra diavolo for an extra punch of fish flavor, but the versatile stock can be used in a variety of dishes that range from gumbo to shrimp risotto to tom yum and many more. 

More than just flavor benefits

Buying your shrimp shell-on offers other benefits, too. For one, they're typically cheaper than their shelled, deveined counterparts, allowing you to stretch your food budget even further. Shells also act as a protective barrier to the delicate shrimp flesh inside, helping keep them fresher and in better shape than their pre-peeled counterparts. It's helpful to note that shrimp heads also provide delicious flavor in a part of the animal that would otherwise be thrown out. Those who purchase shrimp with the heads still on should save them and use them similarly to or alongside the shells when making stock. 

However, others argue that, when you should buy your shrimp with the shell on, it shouldn't be removed before cooking. They say deshelling is one of the biggest mistakes you're making when cooking shrimp, as the shell helps prevent shrimp from drying out, particularly when grilling. Even if you follow this guidance, don't throw out the shells afterward. Though the flavor will be weaker, you can also still use them for stock. Simple, effective tricks like these are among the many that famous chefs like Flay have in their back pockets, and they often serve as the unsung heroes of big-time kitchens — and now yours, too.