Raw shrimp that you buy frozen can stay at its best quality in your freezer for 9 months, while cooked shrimp that you buy from the store will stay at its best quality for 10-12 months. However, less clear how long you can refreeze shrimp to maintain its best quality.
Can you refreeze shrimp? The answer is a qualified “yes.” Shrimp can be frozen, thawed, and refrozen if you follow a specific process. The process ensures the safety, taste, and texture of the shrimp.
If you do not refreeze it properly, you risk food poisoning or having inedible shrimp. Here is how to refreeze shrimp safely so you can enjoy the tasty crustaceans later.
Can You Refreeze Shrimp?
The following are some things to think about before you refreeze fresh shrimp and step-by-step instructions and tips on the best way to ensure food safety, avoid freezer burn, and any loss of quality.
According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), there are three safe ways to thaw frozen food like shrimp:
- Refrigerator: Defrost in the refrigerator overnight.
- Cold water: Immerse in a bowl of cold water in a plastic bag, change the water every 30 minutes, and cook immediately.
- Microwave: Microwave to defrost and cook immediately.
Risks Associated With Refreezing Shrimp
According to the USDA, it’s safe to refreeze shrimp in the following circumstances:
- Refreezing uncooked refrigerator thawed shrimp: It’s safe to refreeze shrimp that has thawed in the refrigerator. However, the quality may not be the same because of the moisture lost through the thawing process.
- Refreezing cooked shrimp that was previously frozen: It’s safe to refreeze uneaten portions of cooked shrimp. If you refrigerate the food after cooking, it’s safe to freeze it within 3-4 days of cooking.
However, the USDA indicates that you should not refreeze shrimp in these circumstances:
- Shrimp (cooked or uncooked) that has been outside the refrigerator longer than two hours
- Shrimp (cooked or uncooked) that has been at high temperatures above 90°F for longer than one hour.
Signs of Bad Refrozen Shrimp
Spoiled shrimp has certain features that you can see or smell. However, it may not always be possible to tell by looking or smelling if the food has pathogens like bacteria, viruses, or parasites.
Freezing to 0°F inactivates any dangerous microbes like bacteria or mold that might be present in the shrimp, while parasites like trichina are only destroyed at sub-zero temperatures. However, these microbes can become active again and start multiplying under certain circumstances.
Here are some signs of bad refrozen shrimp that involve your senses:
Spoiled Shrimp Smell
If the shrimp has a smell like ammonia, it can be a sight that the shrimp has bacteria growth that can cause food poisoning if you eat it.
Shrimp Body Appearance
If shrimp bodies or shells are discolored, slippery, and slimy, it can be a sign they’re spoiled. Also, if their bodies are loose in the shell or if there are black spots on the shell, it might indicate that the shrimp is decomposing.
Freezer burn can occur from the thawing and refreezing process or from leaving shrimp in the freezer too long. While you can eat freezer-burned shrimp, it usually will change the flavor and texture.
Three Ways to Freeze Shrimp: Step-by-Step
There are three ways to freeze shrimp initially to ensure the best flavor and texture.
Boil and Freeze
- Clean: Take off the shells, tails, and heads and devein.
- Boil: Boil for 10 minutes to eliminate bacteria.
- Pre-freeze: Freeze in a single layer on a baking sheet.
- Package and freeze: Add the frozen shrimp to a freezer bag and return to the freezer for 3-6 months.
Freeze Raw Shrimp
- Clean: Remove the head.
- Wash: Remove visible debris under running water.
- Pack: Place wet shrimp in rigid containers.
- Brine: Fill the remaining space in the container with a brine of 2 tbsp salt per 1 qt of water, leaving an inch of space at the top for expansion.
- Freeze: Freeze for 3-6 months.
Freeze in Original Packaging
It’s safe to freeze shrimp in its original packaging straight from the grocery store. If it comes in unopened vacuum packaging, you can freeze it as it is. However, if the wrapper is air-permeable or has a tear, you should wrap it in further packaging or completely rewrap it in freezer-safe packaging.
How to Refreeze Shrimp: Step-by-Step
As simple as freezing shrimp is, refreezing them is even simpler.
Refreezing Raw Shrimp
- Package: When refreezing shrimp, use an airtight bag or freezer container unless it’s still in its original, resealable packaging.
- Seal: Push all the air out, and seal the bag.
- Freeze: Place the bag in your freezer.
Refreezing Cooked Shrimp
- Cool: Let the cooked shrimp cool.
- Pre-freeze: Lay them out on a baking tray. Put the tray in the freezer until they freeze.
- Package: Take the shrimp out of the freezer and place them in an airtight bag. Push the air out and seal.
- Freeze: Place the bag in your freezer.
The following are common questions about freezing, refreezing, and thawing shrimp.
How long will refrozen shrimp last in the freezer?
It depends on what you are freezing and how. If the shrimp are raw, a good rule of thumb is that they will last for about six to eight months. Cooked shrimp can last up to a year. It is best to eat refrozen shrimp within six months if you can. That guarantees the best taste and texture possible.
Can I freeze fresh shrimp with the heads on?
While you can freeze fresh prawns with their heads on, shrimp heads account for 30-40% of a shrimp’s body weight and take up extra room in the freezer.
Now that you know how to freeze shrimp, here are some general tips that can help ensure that your shrimp stay fresh and tasty when you freeze them and refreeze them.
Use Fresh Shrimp to Freeze and Refreeze
Freezing shrimp while they’re fresh ensures that you know the freezing and unfreezing history of shrimp. Thus, you eliminate any quality or safety questions you may have.
Flash Boil Thawed Shrimp
Boiling thawed, raw shrimp will kill any harmful bacteria and give you a fresh window to drain, harden and freeze them. To do this, boil them for about 30 seconds each then treat the shrimp as if you had just thawed them.
Do an Eye and Smell Test When Rethawing
If you refreeze shrimp and then thaw them again, always examine and smell them when they have thawed. If they smell overly fishy or look bad, do not consume them.
Freeze Separately for Smaller Portions
A great idea for always having enough shrimp available for a meal is to follow the baking sheet instructions here and then package shrimp in portions per meal. This way, when you rethaw the shrimp, you just have to remove one package and the rest of your shrimp stay frozen.
Can you refreeze shrimp? Refreezing shrimp is safe and easy to do as long as you follow guidelines that can help to keep them fresh and bacteria-free. Time and temperature are the most important factors to consider when determining if it’s safe to refreeze or safe to eat unfrozen shrimp.