Along with tuna, shrimp are consumed more than any other type of seafood. In many regions, the larger varieties are also called prawns, which is actually a different species.

A large portion of shrimp is wild-caught, but fisheries from around the world are gaining in production.


  • Among the hundreds of species, the types we see at markets and in restaurants are identified as coldwater or warmwater shrimp. Either of these can be wild-caught or farm-raised.
  • The majority of shrimp sold in the U.S. are harvested in the warm waters off the Gulf of Mexico. Imports come from South America and Asia. Several states in the U.S. also support thriving shrimp operations.
  • Warmwater shrimp include pink, brown, white, rock shrimp, and freshwater. They are generally medium to large in size, while freshwater, or Malaysian, prawns can weigh up to a pound.
  • Coldwater shrimp are smaller but more firm and tend to have a sweeter taste. Coon, spot, sidestrip, and Northern pink shrimp fall in this group and are sold as “fresh.”
  • Shrimp is available as head on, head off, deveined, peeled, unpeeled, precooked, raw, and frozen. In non-coastal regions, “fresh” shrimp have been previously frozen and must be labeled as such.
  • Shrimp are also frozen, packaged on trays, and canned.

Buying Tips

  • Purchase fresh shrimp on the day they are going to be prepared. Once thawed, the flesh breaks down, so it is preferable to buy them frozen. Frozen shrimp can remain in the freezer for about four months. Thaw overnight in the refrigerator.
  • Some shrimp can develop melanosis, which is indicated by black spots. Avoid these as well as any that smell like ammonia. 
  • Shrimp may be sold in ice blocks. This is an excellent choice as they remain separated. A block can remain in the freezer from 4 months (refrigerator-freezer) to 18 months (deep-freeze).
  • All shrimp are sold according to size. A labeling of 16/20 means there will be that approximate amount (from 16 to 20) in a pound of jumbo shrimp. Small shrimp may have a count of 51/60, medium may average 41/50, and large may range from 31/35 to 26/30.
  • Small, medium, large, jumbo, and colossal labeling may accompany the count. Larger shrimp can also be counted as “under” (U or UN), as in U/10 (under 10). 
  • When selecting pre-cooked shrimp, be sure they were prepared on the day of purchase.

Storage Tips

  • Refrigerate fresh or frozen shrimp on a raised rack over ice and cover lightly to allow for some air circulation. Use within two days.
  • Raw shrimp should be cooked before freezing. Since they have already been frozen (at the time of the catch) the texture and flavor will degrade by re-freezing.