When boiling shrimp, it’s critical to use the correct length of time. Otherwise, the shrimp will turn rubbery and difficult.

So how long should frozen shrimp be cooked? Shrimp should be cooked for 2 to 7 minutes until they float and the flesh turns opaque with pink highlights. Their size mostly determines the length of time it takes to boil shrimp.

Based on their size, the usual time to boil frozen shrimp is as follows:

  • 30 seconds to 1 minute for little shrimp
  • 1 to 1 1/2 minutes for medium shrimp
  • 2 to 3 minutes for large shrimp
  • 3–4 minutes for jumbo shrimp
  • 4 to 5 minutes for extra jumbo shrimp

Frozen shrimp

When it comes to shrimp, the decision between frozen and fresh is rarely one of them because nearly all of the shrimp offered in our markets has been frozen before.

There are two exceptions:

Fresh Maine shrimp are available in many of our east coast seafood stores in the spring, which is a seasonal delight. These delicious and sensitive small fresh shrimp are a headache to peel due to their size, but the flavor and low price make an effort worthwhile.

Fresh wild shrimp, generally collected off the coasts of Georgia or Louisiana, can occasionally be found if you have access to a truly good seafood market. This kind sells not just to home cooks but also top restaurants. For example, fresh wild shrimp, sometimes from the Louisiana or Florida gulfs, and other times collected off the coast of Georgia, are frequently available at The Lobster Place’s flagship store in Chelsea Market in New York.

Wild shrimp that have never been frozen are more expensive than those that have been frozen, but their superior flavor makes them desirable.

But let’s get back frozen because that’s what most of us buy.

When you stand at the fish counter and gesture to a mound of shrimp to make your order, know that it’s been frozen and then defrosted, regardless of whether you choose medium or jumbo, farmed or wild, skinned and cleaned or with the head and tail still on.

The fishmonger buys enormous amounts of shrimp and then defrosts them as needed before selling them. So the shrimp you buy was most likely defrosted that day after being caught and frozen three or so months before.

This is perfectly fine. It’s critical to the shrimp industry’s ability to collect and commercialize a delicate invertebrate. Unfortunately, some people avoid shrimp because of religious beliefs or allergies. Shrimp, on the other hand, can be quite a city kitchen-friendly for those of us who do.

Purchasing frozen shrimp

buying frozen shrimp

Bags of frozen shrimp are sold in many of our main markets, including most supermarkets. The shrimp should be labeled as farmed or wild, as well as the country of origin, on the package.

Look for the letters “IQF” on the bag. This means the shrimp weren’t frozen in a large block of ice and are more likely to have superior flavor and texture. Also, shrimp should be the only ingredient stated, with no preservatives, additives, or salt.

The bag will also state if the shrimp have been peeled or cleaned, as well as the shrimp’s size. I aim for wild shrimp with their shells and tails still attached because the natural casings provide some protection throughout the freezing process.

And I buy giant or jumbo shrimp because cleaning smaller shrimp takes much longer to acquire enough for whatever I’m preparing. Shrimp also shrink when grilled or cooked, so what started out as a medium-sized shrimp will become a small one when cooked.

In general, wild shrimp is more expensive than cultivated shrimp. So go ahead and buy farmed shrimp if you’re happy with the country of origin. 

However, several public publications and FDA studies on the toxicity of imported farmed shrimp and all the antibiotics added to the shrimp pits have long concerned me.  As a result, I never buy anything other than wild. There are two more reasons to buy frozen shrimp in bags: they are usually much less expensive. You also have control over when they are defrosted. 

Defrosting frozen shrimp

frozen peeled cooked shrimp

Shrimp can be eaten either cooked and heated or cold, as in a shrimp salad. However, before we begin cooking, the shrimp must first be defrosted. And how you thaw them affects the texture.

If you bought frozen shrimp from Costco, Whole Foods, Fairway, or any other supermarket with a frozen seafood section, follow these steps to defrost them:

  1. Take the shrimp out. Return the bag to the freezer after resealing it.
  2. Place the shrimp in a fine-mesh sieve or colander and set it in a big dish of cold tap water. This makes lifting the shrimp into and out of the water much easier.
  3. Allow for 10 minutes of submersion. Then, remove the colander from the water, as well as all of the shrimp. Re-submerge the shrimp in cold tap water and change the water in the bowl.
  4. Allow another 10 to 20 minutes for the shrimp to thoroughly defrost while remaining chilly. Before cooking, make sure they’re completely dry.

You may also thaw shrimp in the refrigerator overnight. Simply place them in a basin with a lid. Before cooking the next day, give them a good rinse with cold water and wipe them dry with a paper towel.

Avoid using warm water since the shrimp will defrost unevenly; if the outside appears defrosted but the inside isn’t, the shrimp will cook unevenly.

Shrimp, like other seafood, is highly perishable, and you’ll want to keep them refrigerated until you’re ready to prepare them.

Avoid using the microwave as well. Shrimp cook quickly in the microwave, and you’ll go from frozen to defrosted to cooked in no time, making a mushy mess.

Fresh vs. frozen shrimp

Shrimps are either still frozen or have already thawed when bought raw. While I can purchase fresh shrimp in some places where I reside, it is mainly frozen. This is fine because frozen shrimp can still be prepared into peel-and-eat shrimp with excellent flavor and texture.

If you’re using frozen shrimp, ensure it’s completely thawed before boiling. Thawing should only take a few minutes, and you can speed things up by putting the shrimp in a strainer and pouring cold water over them. After that, it won’t take long for it to defrost!

Signs of completely boiled shrimp

  • The meat of the shrimp splits from the shell, and the shrimp float to the top of the pot.
  • The shrimp meat turns a little reddish or bright crimson on the surface.

Steps for boiling shrimp properly

  1. Fill your saucepan with 64 ounces of water per pound of fresh or thawed shrimp, then season with salt and pepper as needed for your recipe. 
  2. After the water reaches a boil, add your shrimp and set your timer.
  3. Place the shrimp and water in a mesh strainer or colander to filter them.
  4. Place the shrimp in a dish of ice or run them under cold water. This prevents them from becoming overdone after boiling.

Factors that influence shrimp boiling time

It’s good to have a guide on how long to boil your favorite crustacean. However, as you may know, the actual boiling time of shrimp depends on several factors. Let’s have a look at the three of them:


The issue with classifying shrimp by size is that the names do not have a clear definition. For instance, medium for one brand could equal huge for another. That is why purchasing them by weight rather than size is preferable.

Check the frozen shrimp’s box for a label. The letter “U” is followed by a series of numerals, as you can see. U/10 and U/15 are good examples. The “U” indicates that the number of shrimp per pound is “under” or “less than.” U/10 denotes that there are fewer than 10 shrimp per pound.

Keep in mind that the larger the shrimp, the lower the count per pound. Let’s calculate the boiling time for shrimp based on the “shrimp per pound” label.

Cooking equipment

Another crucial consideration is your burner, such as electric, natural gas, or propane stovetop. Many professional cooks prefer gas stoves because they heat up considerably faster. Is it, however, the best option? We put three cooktops to the test:

  • A cooktop with an induction element
  • A stove with an electric coil
  • A gas stove

The induction cooktop was the clear victor among the three options. It boils water faster and uses less energy, making you cook at lower temperatures and for shorter periods.


The amount is significant for various reasons. One of these reasons is because when you boil frozen food, in this case, frozen shrimp, the temperature of the water drops. Therefore, boiling them will take some time. Boiling time is also affected by the amount of water and heat transported.

shrimp soup

When boiling frozen shrimp, the more water you use, the more heat you’ll need to get the water to the appropriate temperature and keep it there. How long do frozen shrimp take to cook? If you have 35 large shrimps, the boiling time will be around 6-8 minutes. The boiling time is proportionate to the shrimp size per pound.

Is it okay to boil frozen shrimp without thawing?

On this subject, there are a variety of viewpoints. According to the USDA, cooking raw items directly from frozen is perfectly safe. However, this would necessitate cooking them for 50% longer than usual.

Other food safety groups, on the other hand, recommend that individuals thaw frozen food before cooking it correctly. Failure to do so risks promoting the growth of potentially hazardous germs in food.

Always read the package instructions before thawing frozen shrimp. Any frozen food can be safely thawed in one of three methods. The best procedure will largely rely on how much time you have before you need to prepare your shrimp.

Thawing in the refrigerator overnight

The best way among the three is to defrost in the refrigerator. The only drawback is that it necessitates planning because frozen food takes so long to defrost in a refrigerator set at a constant temperature of 40°F to 41°F.

The location of your frozen shrimp in your refrigerator will determine how long they take to thaw. Some regions of this appliance are colder than others, notably the lowest parts of the chamber. Therefore, it will take longer for your frozen shrimp to defrost if you put them in the coldest region of the refrigerator.

In cool water

Frozen shrimp can be thoroughly submerged in cool water to speed up the process. If you like, you can also rinse them with cold tap water. Depending on the size and number of shrimp, the complete procedure can take anywhere from 10 to 45 minutes. If you want to use this strategy, keep the following in mind:

  • Frozen shrimp should not be submerged in warm or hot water. However, they may cook within the bag.
  • The chilly water should be at least 70 degrees F or lower to prevent bacteria from growing and increasing.
  • Place the shrimp in a leak-proof plastic bag to avoid infection and change the cool water often, preferably every half hour.

Use a microwave

Microwaving frozen shrimp to thaw is typically safe, but there are some drawbacks. It can cause uneven heating patterns in addition to promoting bacteria to proliferate. If you want to cook your shrimp right away once they’ve thawed, use the microwave.

The advantage is that it is easy and quick:

  1. After removing the frozen shrimp from the container, place them in a microwave-safe bowl.
  2. Defrost the shrimp in 30-second (for tiny shrimp) or 1-minute (for large shrimp) segments, inspecting them after each segment.

Points to bear in mind when thawing frozen shrimp

  • Never thaw frozen shrimp at room temperature as they begin to defrost and enter the dangerous temperature zone between 40 degrees F and 140 degrees F—potentially deadly bacteria existing before freezing will grow quickly.
  • Ensure that the water temperature does not exceed 70 degrees F.
  • Thaw frozen shrimp in cool water for no more than 2 hours and defrost frozen shrimp in the refrigerator for 24 hours as much as possible.

How long should frozen shrimp be cooked? It will take two to seven minutes to boil frozen shrimp until they are fully cooked. Then, when the shrimp turn pink or opaque, you know they’re done.

Is it safe to cook frozen shrimp?

Shrimp are so little and quick to prepare that it’s difficult to undercook or serve them underdone, unlike chicken or salmon, which must be cooked to a specific temperature to assure their safety. Cooking them from frozen prevents overcooking, producing more juicy, tender shrimp.

Recipes for overboiled shrimp

You won’t be able to undo shrimps in an overcooked state. But hold off on throwing them just yet. You might be able to utilize them in this delectable dish:


  • 2 cups short-grain white Japanese rice or medium-grain California rice
  • 1 medium peeled and sliced cucumber 
  • 1 small or medium peeled and sliced avocado 
  • 1 cup boiled shrimp cut into strips)
  • 6 sheets of nori wrappers 
  • 9 teaspoons rice wine vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon wasabi powder or 6 teaspoons of wasabi paste
  • Bamboo mat
  • Nonstick baking sheet or aluminum foil
  • Cold water


  1. Short-grain Japanese rice should be soaked for at least 30 minutes to 1 hour. It will turn watery and flavorless if you cook your rice for more than 8 hours.
  2. Drain the rice and cook it with 16 ounces (2 cups) or 20 ounces (2 1/2 cups) of water in a rice cooker.
  3. Rinse and dry the cucumber thoroughly before slicing it into thin strips about 1/4-inch thick.
  4. Dry the boiling shrimp and cut them in half lengthwise.
  5. Remove the avocado’s seed before slicing the flesh into strips.
  6. If you’re using powdered wasabi, get it ready first. You must combine 3 tablespoons of wasabi powder with a teaspoon of water, then let the rice cool. Because you’ll be adding rice wine vinegar, make sure it’s a touch dry.
  7. On a bamboo mat, nonstick baking sheet, or aluminum foil, place a sheet of nori wrapper. Spread a thin layer of cooled rice on top, leaving at least 1/2 inch of room around the borders to make sealing easier later.
  8. Arrange all ingredients on top of a dot of wasabi paste on the rice.
  9. Using a small amount of chilly water, wet the nori wrapper (the parts without rice) and roll it slowly. Ensure there is enough tension in it so that no components fall out.
  10. Cut the rolls into smaller pieces, then continue with the remaining rolls.


What’s the deal with my shrimp being rough and rubbery?

Overcooking is the most common cause of rubbery shrimp. Cook until no more gray is visible, then plunge them into the ice bath to cease the cooking and preserve the softness.

How many calories are in boiling shrimp?

Shrimp is a calorie-dense food. The following is a list of the calories in cooked shrimp:

  • 7 calories per medium shrimp
  • 14 calories per large shrimp

What can I do using frozen pre-cooked shrimp?

  • Combine all ingredients in a salad or grain dish.
  • Toss into soup.
  • Make lettuce wraps and spring rolls.
  • Make cold pasta and noodle meals more filling.

Is it possible to fry frozen shrimp that have already been cooked?

Yes, you certainly can! However, for this recipe, raw shrimp is far superior in terms of flavor.

Final thoughts

Any shrimp dish is always a good idea. But to make a great one, of course, that entails a good and tested cooking process. We have highlighted how to boil frozen shrimps which you can use to your advantage. Enjoy!