There are many ways of describing shrimp sizes such as jumbo, large or medium as well as with counts such as 21-25 or 26-30. Here we explain the differences and how to choose the right shrimp for your recipe.
Shrimp Size Designations
We often hear shrimp qualitatively described as “jumbo”, “large”, “medium” and “small”, etc.
Unfortunately, shrimp sizes are not standardized, meaning a “jumbo” sized shrimp might have different sizes at different stores.
Shrimp Count Designations
In the U.S., shrimp are sized according to the weight, and a count is used to indicate how many shrimp are in one pound. Shrimp counts are a more accurate way to calculate how many shrimp you need for your recipe.
For example, 16-20 count means there are 16 to 20 shrimp per pound. The fewer shrimp per pound, the larger they are (and the more expensive). The chart below works both for fresh and frozen shrimp without heads:
|Extra Colossal||Under 10 shrimp per pound|
|Super Colossal||Under 12 shrimp per pound|
|Colossal||Under 15 shrimp per pound|
|Extra Jumbo||16 – 20 shrimp per pound|
|Jumbo||21 – 25 shrimp per pound|
|Extra Large||26 – 30 shrimp per pound|
|Large||31 – 35 shrimp per pound|
|Medium Large||36 – 40 shrimp per pound|
|Medium||41 – 50 shrimp per pound|
|Small||51 – 60 shrimp per pound|
|Extra Small||61 – 70 shrimp per pound|
Note: You will see “U10”, “U12” and “U15” on the package for the first three shrimp sizes. “U” stands for “Under”. For example, U15 means under 15 shrimp per pound.
Shrimp Sizes for Different Dishes
Each recipe calls for specific shrimp sizes, and there is an element of personal preference. For example, when making Coconut Shrimp you may prefer making them as one-bite appetizers with medium shrimp or as two-bite appetizers with jumbo shrimp.
Just bear in mind to adjust the cooking time according to when using different size shrimp in a recipe, i.e. larger shrimp will necessitate additional cooking time, whereas smaller shrimp will require less cooking time.
How to Buy the Right Shrimp
Supermarkets sell frozen shrimp, defrosted previously-frozen shrimp and “fresh and never frozen shrimp” (which is rare and much more expensive).
As shrimp is highly perishable, I generally recommend buying frozen shrimp and defrosting them at home before cooking. If there is any chemical or ammonia smell, they have spoiled.
When you try to buy the right shrimp for your recipe, they should have a fresh sea smell with shiny and translucent shiny flesh.
How to Thaw Shrimp
You can take the shrimp out from the freezer the night before cooking to thaw in the fridge. Or you can thaw them fast by placing them under running cold tap water. Here are some tips on how to thaw shrimp.
Popular Shrimp Recipes:
- Honey Garlic Shrimp
- Shrimp Pad Thai
- Shrimp Boil Foil Packets
- Teriyaki Shrimp
- Honey Garlic Shrimp Stir Fry
- Bang Bang Shrimp
- Coconut Shrimp
- Shrimp Lo Mein
- Shrimp Chow Mein
- Garlic Butter Shrimp Pasta
- Shrimp Fajitas
- Blackened Shrimp
- Garlic Butter Shrimp with Parsley
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