Does Frozen Shrimp Expire or Go Bad?

by Charlie
Frozen shrimps

Shrimp is often frozen to allow it to survive longer and preserve its taste, texture, and color. While the quickness with which it’s frozen will affect the quality, it won’t (usually, more below) make it go bad faster.

Does frozen shrimp expire or go bad? Yes, frozen shrimp can certainly expire or go bad. Shrimp can absolutely spoil if not used quickly enough – even if frozen. This is especially likely if it’s been frozen and thawed multiple times. In most cases, frozen shrimp only lasts between 3-6 months.

Here is everything you need to know about frozen shrimp: how to preserve shrimp, spot bad shrimp, and when to throw it away.

How Does Shrimp Spoil – And How Fast?

Shrimp spoils rather quickly after being thawed. Often, fishers will flash freeze shrimp directly after catching it to preserve and sell it, which means that there’s a lifespan on it as soon as it hits above 40 °F. Generally, this lifespan is roughly 2 days – so use your shrimp as quickly as possible after thawing, especially if you buy it refrigerated rather than frozen.

Frozen shrimp will generally last three to six months after freezing, with variations depending on how quickly it’s cleaned and frozen after being caught. This is, unfortunately, rather difficult to determine when buying from a supermarket, as it isn’t usually marked. 

If shrimp is left out in the “danger zone” (40-140 °F), it will spoil after two hours (if not less). This is where repeated freezing and thawing come into play. 

Say you buy a large bag of shrimp and pull it from the freezer to cook a small portion. If you leave the bag sitting on the counter while you cook, eat, and clean up, you run the risk of spoiling all of your delicious shellfish. 

This means that it’s generally best to pull what you need shortly before cooking or thawing rather than pulling randomly from a bag that’s sitting beside you. It prevents you from forgetting to put it away and increases the lifespan of the rest of your food.

How to Tell if Shrimp Has Gone Bad?

In order to detect any spoiled shrimp, you first need to thaw it. As with any frozen food, be sure to throw away any unsealed (airtight) containers and anything with frostbite. After this, look (or smell) for one or more of the following indicators:

  • Smell it – If you smell any overly unpleasant smells, especially ammonia, it’s time to chuck the shellfish. While shrimp tend to have an “oceany” smell like many types of seafood, it shouldn’t be overwhelming. 
  • Check the shell and flesh – If your shrimp still have the shell, examine them for any with the shell falling off. Loose shells are a sign of bacterial growth and potentially spoiled meat. If the heads are removed, look for pink flesh – this is another sign of spoiled meat. A healthy shrimp will have white meat, a firmly attached shell, and be smooth to the touch.
  • Check for goop – Your shrimp shouldn’t feel slimy. Wet is okay – but if they feel slimy, this is a sign of over-processing or being spoiled. 

The final, most obvious step is to check your shrimp’s sell-by date. If it’s more than three or four days past the marked date, it’s better to throw it away. There’s a lot of factors that can make food go bad, and some of them simply can’t be detected by your average joe. I know it sucks, but it’s better to be safe than sorry here – food poisoning sucks.

What if I Think I Ate Spoiled Shrimp?

First and foremost – you’ll likely know pretty quickly if you ate bad shrimp. Eating any type of spoiled meat, including shellfish, can be miserable and potentially dangerous. If you’re vomiting, have severe stomach cramps, abdominal pain, or diarrhea, you likely have food poisoning. This results from eating meat (and really any food in general) that harbors viruses or has spoiled due to harmful bacteria growth.  

While food poisoning generally can be ridden out, if it lasts for more than 48 hours or you begin to run a fever, it’s time to see a doctor. As stated above, spoiled meat can harbor harmful bacteria and viruses, and you may run the risk of infection. 

Do not induce vomiting or try to solve this on your own. Listen to your body, drink lots of water, and call your doctor for advice. It’s not worth risking medical complications over a few shrimp.

How to Correctly Preserve Shrimp?

As stated above, a shrimp’s lifespan can vary greatly depending on how you store it. If you plan to eat fresh shrimp the same day you purchase it, keep it refrigerated in the airtight container that you purchased it in. Be sure to store it away from other produce (preferably in its own drawer) where any juices can’t leak and contaminate other food. 

If you’re planning to store frozen shrimp, there are other steps to take – though the process remains mostly the same. It’s important when storing any type of meat that it’s in a truly airtight container. 

This means that if it comes in a resealable bag, you should be okay – assuming you properly reseal it every time it’s opened. However, if it comes in a bag or container you need to cut open, it’s time to transfer the remaining shrimp to a new container. 

It’s better to over-wrap your shrimp than get lazy. Airtight containers prevent bacteria from growing, entering, or leaving the container. This prevents food contamination of both the shrimp and other produce near it – frozen or not.

Final Thoughts

All food will go bad at some point, with a few exceptions for highly processed foods or drinks, and things like honey (which is its own enigma). To tell if your shrimp has gone bad, it’s best to check the marked date and examine for discoloration or unpleasant smells – and if you’re unsure, throw it out. 

To help with keeping track of your food and how long you’ve had it in the freezer, I recommend using tape and a sharpie (or just marking the bag). This way you know how many times it’s thawed, as well as when you froze it. If you follow these steps, you’ll be sure to cook delicious and safe seafood feasts!

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