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The Best Way To Tell If Shrimp Has Gone Bad

Shrimp, like most seafood, can be truly delicious when fresh and prepared properly. However, one thing to bear in mind when cooking with shrimp is that you should absolutely never take chances if you think it has spoiled. 

The Best Way To Tell If Shrimp Has Gone Bad

Spoiled shrimp can cause serious food poisoning, as is the case with other types of shellfish. Because of this, it’s important to be able to tell when shrimp has gone bad (see also “How To Tell When Salmon Has Gone Bad“). 

If you’re not sure how to tell the difference between shrimp that is good to eat and spoiled shrimp, read on. We’ll be sharing our top tips for spotting shrimp that’s gone bad. 

How To Tell When Shrimp Is Bad 

1. Smell The Shrimp 

The most reliable way to tell if shrimp has gone bad is often to conduct a quick sniff test (see also “How To Tell If Ground Beef Has Gone Bad“).

Assuming that the shrimp is fresh and uncooked, whether it’s been shelled or not, it shouldn’t have a strong smell. It should only noticeably smell like seawater. 

If you’re noticing an ammonia-like smell, that’s because bacteria has started to grow on the shrimp, and eating it will probably result in food poisoning. 

If you’re wondering whether pre-cooked shrimp is bad, smelling the shrimp can give you your answer as well. Cooked shrimp that is past its best will smell sour.

2. Check The Color

If you like to eat shrimp a lot, you’re probably familiar with the color of fresh, raw shrimp. It should be somewhere on the spectrum between white and light gray, and the shrimp should be translucent. 

If the color seems to have faded compared to when you first purchased the shrimp, or has changed in any way, it’s best to assume that it has gone bad (see also “Have Your Mushrooms Gone Bad?“). 

Now, if we’re talking about cooked shrimp, the ideal color is white with some patches of red and pink. You shouldn’t see any gray areas on cooked shrimp. If you do, throw it out.

When shrimp is still inside its shell, look for any black spots or discoloration on the shell since these are clear indicators that you should not eat the shrimp. 


3. Look For Cracks 

If you notice that there are any cracks in the shells of your shrimp, assume that they are not safe to eat.

Broken shells are signs of unhealthy shrimp and you could get sick from eating shrimp that comes out of a damaged shell. 

Before cooking shrimp, examine the shell thoroughly to make sure it’s free from discoloration and doesn’t have any cracks. 

4. Use Your Fingers 

If you’ve smelled and looked at the shrimp in your refrigerator or freezer and still aren’t sure whether they’re okay to eat, use your fingers to physically feel the shrimp.

This is a reliable indicator of whether the shrimp has gone bad, inside or outside the shell. 

When you’re feeling the shrimp, pay close attention to whether they feel slimy or not.

They may be wet if they have recently been in water or have been taken out of the freezer, but they shouldn’t feel slimy. If they do, they’re bad and should be thrown away. 

5. Pay Attention When Eating

When eating shrimp, it’s always a good idea to pay attention to how it tastes. This way, you can tell if it tastes off and stop eating it immediately. Bad shrimp will taste bitter and acidic. 

However, you should always try to use other methods to check if shrimp is bad. If shrimp tastes sour, it will definitely smell sour as well.

If you use the methods above to see if shrimp is bad and still aren’t sure, it’s best not to take chances and just throw it away.

Frequently Asked Questions 

What Are Symptoms Of Shellfish Poisoning?

If you’ve clicked on this article because you think you might have eaten bad shrimp, you need to know the symptoms of shellfish poisoning. These are similar to the symptoms of general food poisoning.

If you have consumed bad shellfish, you’ll likely experience abdominal pain and nausea, maybe accompanied by vomiting or diarrhea. 

If your symptoms do not clear up within a few days or get progressively worse, you should seek medical attention. 

How Long Does It Take To Get Food Poisoning From Shrimp?

You’ll know whether you have food poisoning from bad shrimp within 24 to 48 hours of eating the shrimp.

Can Bacteria Be Cooked Out Of Shrimp?

Some bacteria such as Salmonella (which often occurs on raw seafood) can be cooked out of shrimp but some cannot. If you think your shrimp is contaminated with bacteria, do not eat it.

Final Thoughts 

It’s usually easy to tell if shrimp is bad because it will have a sour smell, be discolored, have a cracked shell, or feel slimy to touch. 

Bad shrimp also has a distinctive sour taste, but you should never use taste to test whether your shrimp is bad.

Justin Roberts