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 Sizes

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:

Shrimp SizeCount
Extra ColossalUnder 10 shrimp per pound
Super ColossalUnder 12 shrimp per pound
ColossalUnder 15 shrimp per pound
Extra Jumbo16 – 20 shrimp per pound
Jumbo21 – 25 shrimp per pound
Extra Large26 – 30 shrimp per pound
Large31 – 35 shrimp per pound
Medium Large36 – 40 shrimp per pound
Medium41 – 50 shrimp per pound
Small51 – 60 shrimp per pound
Extra Small61 – 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.

How to Cook Shrimp

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: