It’s Not a Contradiction: Frozen Equals Fresh When It Comes to Wild American Shrimp

September 1, 2021

While it may seem like a contradiction, buying frozen shrimp in the grocery store or online is actually the best way to have confidence that your shrimp are as fresh as possible. That’s because every minute a shrimp is not frozen, it is losing freshness.

Among the other factors to consider when buying shrimp, such as finding the right size of shrimp for your recipes to how important it is to read labels to avoid farm-raised imported shrimp, the fresh vs. frozen question is a common one.

In this post, we shed some light on why buying frozen shrimp is most often the best way to ensure the freshest taste and quality.

Most people don’t realize that almost all raw shrimp available to consumers are frozen at some point in time. When wild-caught shrimp are caught in the waters of the Gulf or South Atlantic,  they are, more often than not, immediately quick-frozen in order to preserve their freshness. Some smaller boats may not freeze them, but they certainly put them on ice to hold them until they get to land. If those shrimp are then processed (sorted, de-headed, peeled, deveined, etc.), they are quickly packaged and re-frozen immediately to lock in that same freshness.

Fresh (unfrozen) shrimp sold off of a shrimp boat for example or those in a seafood counter, could be straight from the water or recently thawed, but either way, if they are thawed, these shrimp are losing freshness the longer that they are out. Frozen shrimp provide consumers with the highest confidence that they are getting the next best thing to fresh shrimp right out of the water.

In terms of how shrimp are frozen, they are typically prepared either Individually Quick Frozen (IQF) or block frozen (typically a 5 lb. box). IQF is the most common freezing method for shrimp found in the grocery store and through online shrimp companies. IQF shrimp are literally frozen individually and are loose, frozen shrimp in a bag – typically 1- or 2-pounds. Both IQF and block are excellent choices in terms of freshness being “frozen in.” The great thing about IQF shrimp is that because each shrimp is frozen separately, you can take out as many as you need for your recipe and then put the rest back in the freezer. They are also quick and easy to thaw (typically just a few minutes under room temperature tap water).

Block frozen shrimp are typically sold in 5 lb boxes, and lend themselves well to making larger quantities. Ideally, it’s best to thaw a 5 lb. box in the refrigerator over 24-48 hours and to separate the quantity you want once it is easy enough to break it apart. Then, you can refreeze the unused portion immediately. To quote the USDA directly on this:

If raw or cooked food is thawed in the refrigerator, it is safe to refreeze it without cooking or heating, although there may be a loss of quality due to the moisture lost through thawing.”

No matter which option you go with, for the best and easiest way to thaw shrimp, consult our handy blog post on the subject with videos!

If you purchase your shrimp from a grocery store, always be sure, first and foremost, to read the labels and packaging. Wild-caught shrimp from American waters should be labeled as such, so take a close look at the bag to be sure that it includes keywords such as “wild-caught” and “Gulf of Mexico” or “Atlantic.” (There are Gulfs in foreign countries as well, so make sure it’s the Gulf of Mexico). Always make sure that the packaging does not list another country, as some foreign processors will even attempt to trick consumers by labeling them as “Made in USA” or “Product of USA” while actually being farmed in a foreign country.  If you’ve got a true-blue American product, the wording on the packaging is key to determining that they are from U.S. waters. If there’s ever any doubt, ask anyone who works in the seafood section.

Following these guidelines should help you pick out the freshest shrimp every time! To order wild-caught American shrimp that are guaranteed fresh for yourself or your business, click HERE!