How to know if shrimp is spoiled?

In this article, we will answer the question “How to know if shrimp is spoiled?”, what is the shelf-life of shrimps, and how to thaw frozen shrimps.

How to know if shrimp is spoiled?

Following are the telltale signs that the shrimp is spoiled.

Take a whiff of the shrimp

Before buying the shrimps, you must ensure they smell fresh. The smell should be giving off seawater or seafood. It should be pleasant and not fishy. If the shrimps emanate a sharp ammonia-like smell, they are done for. 

A foul smell in fresh shrimps signifies bacterial contamination and spoilage. Drop your purchase immediately because eating bad-smelling shrimps cause food poisoning. 

Observe what the shell looks like 

Shells are the index of the freshness of the shrimps. Ideally, the shells should have a pearly white color with an attractive, and clean look. The shrimp body should tightly adhere to the shell and the shell should have a slight sheen to it.

If the shrimp shells look dull, drabby, slimy, or have a spotted appearance, do not purchase the shrimps. Note that you can only inspect the shells if the shrimp is being purchased at the supermarket or the wet market. 

Pay attention to the color of the shrimp 

As mentioned above, shrimps should have a pearl white color with no spots on the shells or shrimp heads. If we are talking about cooked shrimps, the hue may be shifted towards pink. Raw or fresh shrimp should not have a pink color. If it does, the shrimp is bad. 

If the shrimps exhibit a yellow hue with a spotty or grainy appearance, they are not worth the purchase. The yellow hue is a telltale sign of the previous treatment of the shrimps with sodium bi-sulfate.

Sodium bi-sulfate is an acid that finds its applications as a bleaching agent. The use of sodium bi-sulfate is a foul attempt at making the not-so-fresh shrimps look fresh.

Check the freshness of the eyes 

If you are buying whole shrimp, which we also recommend you do, pay attention to its eyes. The eyes of the shrimps can tell you a lot about the quality. If they are shiny, clear, and intact, the shrimps are fresh.

On the other hand, dull-looking bulging eyes, or the absence of eyes is a telltale sign that the shrimps are not fresh.

Inspect the quality of the frozen shrimp 

Freezer burn is the most obvious and frequently occurring threat to the quality of frozen food and frozen shrimps are no exception. 

Improper storage and/or prolonged storage promotes the occurrence of freezer burn. It causes the flesh of the shrimps to dry out and lose color, taste, texture, and overall appeal. Although freezer burnt shrimps are not unsafe to eat, you can discard them for quality purposes. 

How long does the shrimp last?

The following table shows the estimated shelf-life of different types of shrimp under refrigeration. Note that the shell-on shrimp lasts longer than the shelled shrimp. The reason is pretty obvious is that the former has its shell intact which serves as a protective layer. 

Similarly, cooking inactivates various enzymes and kills the spoilage microbes which ultimately contributes to a longer shelf-life. If you want your shrimps to last longer than just a few days, consider freezing them. 

Correctly frozen shrimps, cooked or raw, stay fresh for up to 3 months. The sooner you finish the shrimps, the better it is. The longer you store these perishables, the poorer the quality gets. 

Types of ShrimpShelf-life in the fridge 
Raw, shelled shrimp1-2 days 
Raw, shell-on shrimp2-3 days 
Cooked shrimp 3-4 days 

How to thaw frozen shrimp?

Thwing frozen food on the counter is a very common and equally unsafe practice. It is not just a food safety problem but it also degrades the quality of frozen food, especially frozen perishables. 

The ideal way to defrost shrimps is to leave them in the fridge overnight or for several hours until they loosen up. If you have a time restraint, you can turn to other hasty methods of thawing such the microwaving, dumping in the water, and the over-the-counter method. 

Shrimps are very fragile, like all other seafood. If you want your shrimps to preserve their freshness and quality, reposition the shrimps from the freezer to the fridge.

Make sure to place the frozen package of the shrimps on a plate before refrigerating. Keep it away from the cooked products in your fridge, preferably on the bottom shelf of the fridge. 


In this article, we answered the question “How to know if shrimp is spoiled?”, what is the shelf-life of shrimps, and how to thaw frozen shrimps.


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