When It Comes To Shrimp, Size Matters

The no-fail way to ensure you're buying the right amount of shellfish for your next batch of Shrimp Cakes.

When we were learning about oxymorons in school, teachers would point to "jumbo shrimp" and get a few easy laughs. Little did we know that jumbo shrimp was just the beginning. Turns out there's "extra jumbo shrimp," "colossal shrimp," and even "super colossal shrimp." These aren't just even more examples of oxymorons, but a way that shrimpers categorize their catch when setting their price—and a useful guide for buying the right amount of shellfish the next time you're whipping up a batch of Shrimp Cakes.

While labels like "medium" or "extra jumbo" are evocative, they aren't regulated and can vary greatly from seller to seller. To set some semblance of a standard, most sellers measure shrimp sizes by pound (i.e. the number of individual shrimp it takes to make up a pound). So if you need a pound of shrimp to make shrimp and grits you will need a different number of shrimp depending on what size you're buying. For example, if you need a pound of large shrimp to make a double batch of Cajun shrimp kabobs, you'll need to buy around 35 large shrimp. If you only have small shrimp, you'll need 50 of those shrimpy shrimps. That's because it generally requires 32 large shrimp or 51 small shrimp to make a pound.

Frozen Shrimp
Getty/PCbang

There's no need to guess these amounts, though, because depending on where you buy your shrimp, that information is frequently right on the package, as Fine Cooking points out. The number comes from a handy seafood industry shrimp size chart. If the label reads 26/30, you know there should be from 26 to 30 shrimp in each pound. Sometimes you'll see a letter U as well, as in U12, which means under 12 of those shrimp make up a pound. Fine Cooking has the chart for reference. The easiest way to remember all this is that the smaller the number on the package, the bigger the shrimp. Keep that in mind the next time you're stocking up on jumbo shrimp.

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