How to Thaw Shrimp

~ Wondering how to thaw shrimp quickly, easily and safely? It’s simple! Even if they’re frozen solid right now … don’t worry … you can have those shrimp thawing in a jiffy, so dinner’s ready in no time! ~

Closeup of a white bowl filled with raw, thawed shrimp, with other ingredients for a recipe at the edges of the photo.

Three Options for How to Thaw Shrimp

There are basically three different methods for thawing shrimp, while keeping them safe and maintaining their texture and quality: overnight thawing, a slow thaw in ice water, or a quick thaw in ice water.

No matter which method you use, the key is always to thaw them gently.

As Bon Appetit points out in their article on thawing shrimp, a gentle transition in temperature helps to maintain shrimps’ lovely, delicate texture. 

Method #1 (Not Quick)

In an ideal world, I’d grab my frozen shrimp out of the freezer and put them into the fridge the night before I need them, to slowly, gently thaw overnight.

BUT …

My family’s dinner plans often don’t go … ahem … quite as planned. (And I’m pretty sure yours don’t either.) I don’t always know ahead of time that I’ll be needing thawed shrimp the next day.

Thawed shrimp in a black skillet with chopped onions, just beginning to cook.

Not to worry!

You’ve got a couple faster options here, depending on how fast you’re hurrying. 

Method #2 (Faster – About 45 Minutes)

Submerge the entire (unopened) bag of frozen shrimp in a bowl of cold water. You can weight it down with a plate or lid to keep it submerged.

Method #3 (Fastest – About 10-15 Minutes)

To speed the thawing process up considerably (without damaging the texture of the shrimp), open the bag and dump the individual shrimp directly into the bowl you’re filling with cold water.

Frozen shrimp in a blue bowl, with water pouring onto them.

I like to occasionally swish them around a bit, to break up any frozen clumps and allow the water to circulate around each shrimp.

And, I usually drain off the water once or twice during the thawing process and refresh it by running new, cold water into the bowl. You don’t have to do this changing-the-water step, but I find it helps to make the process go a little quicker. That’s because the first bowl of water tends to get really icy-cold, so refreshing the bowl with a new batch of water (still-very-cold, but not quite so icy-cold) helps to hurry things along a tad more.

Just be sure the shrimp are completely submerged and the water is actually cold (again, so you don’t change the texture of the delicate shrimp or even slightly begin to cook them by exposing them to warm or hot water).

Pro Tip: If you do choose this super-fast defrosting method (dumping the shrimp directly into your bowl of water), it may be helpful for some recipes if you gently pat them dry before you begin cooking. A good example is our Sheet Pan Shrimp Fajitas. In that recipe, the oil and fajita spices coat the shrimp better if they aren’t really wet from their quick soak.

Closeup of a white bowl filled with raw shrimp that have been thawed and coated with spices before cooking.

And BTW … if you’ve read our post “Is It Safe to Use Frozen Meat in Your Crock-Pot?” then you know we’re pretty obsessive about food safety. You’ll be glad to hear that even the FDA is ok with the super-fast “submerge in cold water” method for thawing seafood.

Which brings us to …

How NOT to Defrost Shrimp

√   As with any other meat, it is definitely not considered safe to leave your shrimp on the counter for several hours to let it thaw at room temperature. 

   And, although there isn’t a safety issue with thawing shrimp in the microwave, I beg you not to go that route! It’ll result in some areas of the shrimp beginning to precook and toughen … and will just generally ruin the succulent, tender texture of those gorgeous, expensive shrimp.

Do These Thawing Methods Work for BOTH Cooked OR Raw Shrimp?

Absolutely! 

All three of the methods we’ve outlined here work beautifully for thawing either raw shrimp or fully cooked ones.

What to Make with Your Defrosted Shrimp

So, now you’ve got perfectly thawed shrimp … and so many tempting possibilities of how to enjoy them! Here are a few of our favorite shrimp recipes:

The next time you see a great sale on frozen shrimp, be sure to grab an extra bag.

Now that you know how to thaw them fast, you can create quick, sensational meals in just minutes!

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Published on
Updated on July 31, 2021