How To Properly Thaw Frozen Shrimp

A method for those who plan ahead—and those who don't.

Buying frozen seafood is like giving a gift to your future self—a delicious, fresh dinner, ready in minutes. We're major proponents of stocking the freezer with frozen seafood, which affords you flexibility in cooking and unexpected entertaining.

But our number one freezer MVP is frozen shrimp. Shrimp freezes so well that, once cooked, you won't be able to tell it was ever frozen. Did we mention that it cooks in a matter of minutes? Talk about convenience.

Stocking your freezer with frozen shrimp is a smart way to prepare for weeknight dinners, but it also requires some foresight. You've got to defrost that frozen shrimp before you can cook and eat it. So what's the best way to thaw frozen shrimp? And what happens if you forget to defrost the shrimp until just before it's time to make dinner?

Here, find out the best ways to thaw shrimp, whether you need it tomorrow or right now.

frozen shrimp

Emily Laurae / Southern Living

How to Defrost Frozen Shrimp Overnight

If you're planning ahead, the best way to thaw shrimp is to transfer it from the freezer to the fridge the day before you plan to cook it. This allows the shrimp to thaw gradually.

Place the bag of frozen shrimp on a paper-towel lined baking sheet or platter so that any leaks from the bag are soaked up. Frozen shrimp needs at least 12 hours to thaw, possibly more depending on the size of each shrimp and how large the bag is.

bag of frozen shrimp on a sheet pan

Emily Laurae

You'll know the shrimp is thawed if the exterior becomes translucent and the shrimp is pliable without any stiffness from interior ice.

Place the thawed shrimp on a paper-towel lined baking tray or platter. Soaking up excess moisture will help the shrimp cook and prevent any soggy situations in the skillet.

How to Thaw Frozen Shrimp Fast

If you need a quicker fix for thawing frozen shrimp, here's an easy way to thaw your shrimp in under 30 minutes.

  1. Fill a large bowl with cold water.
  2. Remove the frozen shrimp from their packaging, and seal them in a zip-top bag.
  3. Submerge the bag in the cold water, placing a plate or lid over to ensure it remains fully submerged.
  4. Let sit for 20 to 30 minutes, until shrimp are fully thawed. Remove shrimp from bag.
  5. Place thawed shrimp on a plate lined with paper towels and pat to remove excess water.
thawing shrimp in water

Emily Laurae / Southern Living

Your shrimp will be thawed and cooked before you have all dinner ingredients gathered. That's what we call a weeknight winner.

Need the shrimp even faster?

If you need the frozen shrimp thawed right now, take the shrimp out of the bag and place them directly into the cold water. Leave them in the water for 10 to 15 minutes. Stir the water and shrimp to break up frozen clumps every three to five minutes.

frozen shrimp in water

Emily Laurae / Southern Living

Once shrimp are thawed, place them on a paper-towel lined baking sheet or platter. The shrimp can absorb some moisture while in the water, so this step will help remove water so the shrimp brown and cook better.

shrimp on paper towels

Emily Laurae / Southern Living

Tips for Properly Thawing Frozen Shrimp

Before you take the seafood from the freezer, keep these tips in mind:

1. Don't leave the shrimp at room temperature. Shrimp (and all proteins for that matter) can quickly develop potentially harmful bacteria if they're left sitting at room temperature for too long. These shrimp thawing methods are so fast—and safe—there's no reason to risk making anyone sick by leaving the shrimp at room temp.

2. Don't use hot water. When you need something to go from frozen to thawed, it might make sense you'd use warmer water. But doing so could encourage bacteria growth, the kind of bacteria that can make you sick. Plus, hot water could begin to cook the shrimp. That will result in a chewy, stringy texture.

3. Don't microwave frozen shrimp to thaw it. Thawing shrimp in the microwave could make it bouncy and chewy and partially cook it. Skip the microwave and thaw shrimp with one of the methods described above.

How Long Can Thawed Shrimp Stay in the Fridge?

According to the United States Department of Agriculture, defrosted frozen shrimp will keep for one to two more days in the fridge before it needs to be cooked. But don't try to go past 48 hours.

What to Make With Thawed Shrimp

In search of recipe inspiration? Try our Shrimp Étouffée, Shrimp with Honey-Garlic Sauce, or Easy Shrimp Scampi with Basil. And there's plenty more where that came from.

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