Size matters when you're cooking shrimp.

By Southern Living Editors
August 06, 2020
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All shrimp turn pink when cooked, but that doesn’t mean that they’re all exactly the same. Size is the most important thing to keep in mind when shopping for shrimp, and the size that you choose will depend on your recipe.

The tricky thing about shrimp sizes is that there is no real industry standard. "Jumbo shrimp" at one seafood counter might be labeled "large" at another. Shrimp are sold by weight with a number or set of numbers attached that indicate about how many you'll get in a pound. If the label says "U" followed by a number like 10, that means you'll have under 10 shrimp in a pound. (This generally applies to larger shrimp.) If the label says 16/20, you'll have anywhere from 16 to 20 shrimp per pound.

Credit: Caitlin Bensel

For Pasta, Soups, Stews, and More

If you’re cooking shrimp to put in a pasta, soup or stew, or salad, medium to large shrimp (anywhere from 41 to 35 shrimp per pound) are the best size because you can easily fork or spoon them up.

For Shrimp Salads or Shrimp Rolls

For shrimp salads or shrimp rolls, you can also opt for “salad shrimp”, the littlest ones (51 to 70 per pound), which don’t require any chopping.

For Peel-and-Eat

Larger shrimp, often labeled jumbo, extra jumbo, or extra-large (anywhere from 13 to 30 per pound), are ideal for simple peel-and-eat preparations. For a dish where the shrimp stand alone, like shrimp cocktail or fried shrimp, bigger is better. For a shrimp boil, which includes other ingredients like corn and potatoes, you can go for a slightly smaller size.

For Stuffed Shrimp

If you like stuffed baked shrimp, look for ones labeled colossal or super colossal (U 10 or 12). They’ll be large enough to hold stuffing and won’t immediately overcook in the oven.