What You Should Do With Freezer Burnt Shrimp

In order to save food from going out of date, there are lots of different types of foods that can actually be frozen so you can still enjoy them at a later date.

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However, when it comes to freezing foods, depending on the type of food that it is, there are some things that you will need to know first.

Due to the risk of food poisoning, shrimp is a high-risk food, and you should take care when cooking, freezing, or preparing it with any meal. 

There are also precautionary steps that you can take when freezing any food to avoid issues like freezer burn or anything that is going to speed up the breakdown process of the food and its flavor and texture.

There are ways to store and maintain your food to help to maintain its original state, and we will explain them all here for you to learn about.

Before we get into avoiding or fixing freezer burn, there are some things that you should know about first.

Handling Shrimp Safely

As we have briefly mentioned previously, shrimp is a high-risk food that can become dangerous if it has not been handled correctly.

It is not capable of being held at room temperature for longer than necessary, and it should always be stored in the refrigerator when possible to stop it from going bad.

It is not recommended by professionals to eat shrimp raw, but there are some types of cultural dishes that use raw shrimp, like types of sushi.

However, you shouldn’t make your own raw shrimp dishes at home due to the high risks that are associated with this type of food.

The main reason that you should avoid raw shrimp is that it is a food that is likely to harbor harmful bacteria and parasites, and these bacteria can multiply and become even more dangerous.

This means that food poisoning is really commonly associated with raw shrimp, and you could be putting yourself at risk by preparing raw shrimp at home.

The reason that food handling companies can be the exception to this is that they follow the correct methods and approaches when catching their shrimp that you cannot guarantee with shop-bought shrimp.

How to Store Shrimp

As with any other type of fresh seafood, you will need to keep your shrimp cool.

If you buy it in the grocery store, you can come prepared with a cooler box in your car, or you can surround it with other cold food items that you have bought to keep it cool. 

If you have purchased your shrimp from a fishmonger, they will often add crushed ice into the bag to help to keep it cool. 

As soon as you get home, you should store your fresh shrimp in the refrigerator to keep it cool and help prevent any unwanted bacteria from taking over.

You shouldn’t keep any shrimp in the refrigerator after four days, and any shrimp that has been refrigerated for longer than this point should be thrown away.

This also applies to cooked shrimp too. If you have made a dish that contains shrimp, you should use it within the four days that it is in the refrigerator. 

How to Tell if Shrimp is Properly Cooked

There are many different methods of cooking shrimp, but there are some things that you will need to know so that you can tell if it has been cooked properly.

Shrimp that has not been cooked correctly can give you food poisoning, and this is definitely something that you should avoid at all costs. 

The temperature of the shrimp once it has been fully cooked should be at least 120 degrees Fahrenheit.

You can use a food probe thermometer to be able to gauge the core temperature of the food, and when using the probe, you should always take the reading from the center of the food.

Undercooked shrimp is never safe to eat, and having a probe thermometer can be really helpful to ensure that it is at the required temperature before you eat it. 

You can easily tell when shrimp is cooked by the coloring that is present. Raw shrimp is a translucent grey color, even when it is still raw. However, when the shrimp has been cooked, it will turn a pink and red color, and it will be completely opaque.

This is probably the most efficient way of testing whether or not the shrimp has been cooked properly, and you should not eat it if it is still grey in color or see-through. 

Another thing that you can look out for is the shape of the shrimp during cooking. When the shrimp is being heated up, the muscles will actually curl up and shrink in size.

It can be helpful to know that when shrimp have been cooked thoroughly, they will become a C-shape, and if it has been overcooked, it can turn into an O-shape.

It is perfectly safe to eat shrimp that has been overcooked, so if you do cook it for slightly too long, you don’t need to worry. 

Can You Freeze Shrimp?

Thankfully, you can also freeze your shrimp so that you can keep it fresh for a longer period of time. This applies to both raw and cooked shrimp, as both of these can be frozen.

As long as you have followed our methods for the best handling of shrimp, you can easily store it in your refrigerator for up to four days.

However, if you do not think that this will be enough time for you to consume your shrimp, you can also store it in the freezer for up to six months afterward. 

Before you do freeze your shrimp, you should note that you should never store your shrimp at room temperature for more than one or two hours.

Even if it has been cooked, you shouldn’t leave it uncovered or at room temperature. This is because these temperatures are ideal for bacteria to grow and spread.

If you have cooked your shrimp, you should put it in either the freezer or refrigerator as soon as it has cooled down.

How to Freeze Shrimp

Freezing your leftover shrimp really couldn’t be any easier. If you are using cooked shrimp, you will need to make sure that it has cooled down completely before you freeze it.

However, if you are using raw shrimp, you are good to go. All you need to do is find a sealable freezer bag to place your shrimp inside.

If you do not have any freezer bags available, you can use an airtight container instead. If you use a container, you should wrap the shrimp inside foil before putting it in the container for freezing.

Once you have your shrimp inside the freezer bag or container, you can go ahead and store it straight in the freezer.

You can store it in the freezer for up to six months, which gives you plenty of time to get around to eating it.

If you aren’t good at remembering things, you should write a label with the date of freezing and stick it to your chosen container. This way, you won’t keep it in the freezer for too long accidentally.

After six months, the quality of the shrimp will start to break down, and the flavor and texture will not be as delicious as it was before. 

You should throw away any shrimp that you still have after this amount of time. 

How to Defrost Shrimp

Properly defrosting shrimp is just as important as properly freezing it.

If you plan exactly when you are going to be using up your shrimp, the best way of defrosting it is actually to take it out of the freezer the night before you intend to use it. 

When you do remove it from the freezer, you should place it straight into the fridge to allow it to thaw out. This will make sure that it cools down gradually instead of all at once.

You should never leave it out on the side to defrost, as this can lead to a build-up in bacteria that can cause food poisoning. In order to be safe, you will need to put it straight into the refrigerator. 

If you have forgotten to defrost your shrimp the night before and are in need of a quick way to defrost it before mealtime, you can actually follow our second method.

Thawing overnight will give you the best results, but you can also fill a big enough bowl with cold water, put the shrimp into a sealable bag if they are not already in one, and place the bag of shrimp into the water to defrost. 

You can also place a plate on top of the bowl to keep it underwater and make sure that it is evenly defrosting. After around half an hour, your shrimp should be fully defrosted and ready for use.

If it has not fully defrosted, replace the water with fresh cold water, and repeat the process until it has. Now your shrimp will be ready to use, and you can cook it the same day. 

How Long Can You Keep Defrosted Shrimp?

Once your shrimp has been defrosted, you can keep it in the refrigerator for a further 1 to 2 days before it will start to go off.

You shouldn’t keep it for any longer than this in case it goes bad.

To avoid this issue, only defrost your shrimp when you plan to use it straight away.

How to Tell if Shrimp Has Gone Bad

The best way to tell if shrimp has gone bad is by looking at it and smelling it. If it has an unpleasant or sour smell, then you should dispose of it straight away.

Similarly, if the shrimp is particularly slimy in texture or looks off in any way, you will need to throw it away.

If you are ever unsure, then it is better to be safe than sorry, and you should not use the shrimp just in case it has gone bad.

What is Freezer burn?

Freezer burn usually occurs when air is able to reach your food inside the freezer.

The air will end up causing the food to become dehydrated, and it will start to oxidize, which can cause many negative effects on your food. For some foods, this could be a build-up of ice, but for others, this could cause an odd discoloration. 

The best way to reduce freezer burn is to make sure that you follow our methods of freezing by using either an airtight container or freezer bag to store your shrimp in before freezing.

These types of storage containers will create a seal around the food that prevents any air from being able to penetrate the container and make its way to the food. 

Signs of freezer burn can include a build-up of ice around the food that is not normal or even spots of grey on fish and meats that indicate that the food has been exposed to air.

Usually, the packaging that food comes in will be airtight to avoid this issue, but this might not be the case for all manufacturers. Freezer burn can just affect small parts of the food that can be exposed to air, or it can also affect the entire item of food. 

You might think that freezer burn will result in your food being unsafe to eat, but this isn’t actually the case at all.

The food will still be edible, but the taste and texture will be slightly altered. If you store your shrimp properly before freezing it, you should be able to avoid freezer burn, but it can still happen sometimes anyway.

Signs of Freezer Burn on Shrimp

There are some specific signs of freezer burn that you can look out for when it comes to freezing your shrimp that may differ from regular foods.

Most people think that the layer of ice surrounding the shrimp is a sign of freezer burn, but this is not actually true.

Any shrimp that you store in the freezer will gain a layer of ice that surrounds it, and this layer doesn’t mean that the shrimp has been freezer burnt. This coating of ice can even help to avoid freezer burn, so it can be a good sign. 

For the majority of the time, you can defrost your shrimp, and this layer of ice will melt away and won’t cause any difference in the shrimp.

The ice will actually help to preserve the natural flavor and texture of the shrimp so you can enjoy it after it has been defrosted.

The layer of ice can sometimes be an indicator of freezer burn when coupled with other issues, but it is not the case most of the time.

There are many other signs that you can look out for that will indicate if freezer burn has occurred. 

If your shrimp is opaque or it has any spots of white discoloration, then it could have been freezer burnt.

Other signs can include a hard or tough appearance, single spots that have become dry or discolored, or an uneven coloring across the shrimp.

Don’t forget that this doesn’t affect your food in terms of safety, and the shrimp will still remain safe to eat even if it has been freezer burnt. 

You can continue to defrost and cook shrimp with freezer burn, but you might notice some subtle or significant changes in the taste, like a lack of flavor or even in the consistency.

The shrimp can often lose its moisture due to freezer burn, making it much drier than it was before.

There are also some things that you can do when preparing your shrimp to make it taste better and restore its natural consistency.

Cooking Shrimp That Has Been Freezer Burnt

Even if you have done your absolute best to try and store your shrimp in a suitable container before freezing, and you have followed all of the recommended advice, there is still a chance that your shrimp can get freezer burn.

However, even if it has been freezer burnt, you can still use the shrimp for cooking, and there are certain methods that work better than others in doing so. 

One of the most noticeable changes in freezer burnt shrimp is that it can become very dry due to a lack of moisture. This can make it tougher to chew than normal, but there are some things that can help you here.

You should probably avoid cooking it to eat on its own, as the changes present may be unpleasant, but you can use it in many other dishes that can mask these issues and make it totally edible again. 

The best thing that you can do with any freezer burnt shrimp is to cook it into a dish. There are so many different recipes available online or in recipe books that you can choose from, and these will help to hide the changes from the freezer burn and help you make a delicious meal.

There are also many different sauces that you can use to help bring some moisture to the meal and make up for where the shrimp is lacking. This will also add some much-needed flavor to the dish. 

Sometimes, only a small amount of the shrimp will be affected in parts where the air has managed to breakthrough. In this case, you can throw away the affected parts and enjoy what you are left with.

You might not always need to do this, but it is an option for severe freezer burn in smaller areas. 

Some dishes that you can make using shrimp that has been freezer burnt or just normal defrosted shrimp are shrimp pasta, shrimp soup, curries, and even marinated shrimp.

You can even use it to add something extra to a stir fry or rice dish.

It isn't recommended to fry freezer burnt shrimp due to the lack of moisture that cannot be saved through frying. Cooking frozen shrimp is not recommended. It's better to use thawed shrimp rather than frozen raw shrimp in your shrimp cocktail or shrimp recipe.

Splash with a little olive oil, garlic, and lemon juice for some garlic butter shrimp, yum. Baked shrimp are also awesome. Make sure you properly thaw frozen shrimp. Frozen cooked shrimp is not the hardest frozen seafood to deal with though.

However, there are many other methods using sauces or other flavorings that can work to conceal the taste and texture changes that have occurred through freezer burn. 

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Cassie brings decades of experience to the Kitchen Community. She is a noted chef and avid gardener. Her new book "Healthy Eating Through the Garden" will be released shortly. When not writing or speaking about food and gardens Cassie can be found puttering around farmer's markets and greenhouses looking for the next great idea.
Cassie Marshall
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