Frozen Shrimp Can Be Defrosted at What Water Temperature?

Defrosting Shrimp Cold Water

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There is a lot of conflicting information on the internet about the fastest and safest way to thaw shrimp.

You’ve probably read that frozen shrimp can be defrosted using running water, but at what temperature?

Some sites say it’s ok to use warm water. Some say just throw them in the pan or in the oven while they’re still frozen.

You can do all of those things, just don’t expect great results.

Shrimp are temperamental little things and will overcook and turn rubbery within a matter of seconds, not minutes.

They cook fast so you have time to thaw them properly.

15 to 20 minutes is all it should take.

I’ll show you the proper way to thaw shrimp quickly and safely and have a meal ready to go in less than 30 minutes.

Defrosting Frozen shrimp

How to Thaw Frozen Shrimp

The best way to thaw frozen shrimp is under cold running water. What temperature is cold?

Well, I can’t speak for you, but the cold water at my house happened to be running around 51 degrees Fahrenheit/ 10.5 degrees Celsius.

I measured this using my trusty Javelin PRO duo digital thermometer.

You want to use the coldest setting on your faucet when defrosting shrimp in water.

I put one pound of frozen jumbo shrimp (21-25 ct.) in a large bowl and filled it with cold water at the aforementioned temperature.

I also set a timer on my phone to keep track of the thawing process.

Finally, to keep track of both the water temperature and the internal temperature of the shrimp I inserted two probes from my 6 probe Tenergy Solis thermometer.

I left the kitchen faucet at a trickle to keep the water circulation in the bowl, expediting the thawing process. The frozen shrimp made the water in the bowl a steady 41 degrees Fahrenheit/5 degrees Celsius.

Thawing Shrimp 41 degree water

Defrosting Shrimp in Cold Water

Tenergy Solis Digital Meat Thermometer

As you can see, after 16 minutes the internal temperature of the shrimp is at 32 degrees, however, it was totally thawed when I touched it.

The shrimp are ready to be removed from the water when you can feel they are no longer frozen. Dry them off and immediately cook them.

They should only take 3 minutes a side at most to cook. I like to pull mine off the heat when they reach about 130 degrees Fahrenheit/54 degrees Celsius

As a side note, to show you how fast shrimp react to temperature changes, I left them in the water about 2 minutes longer after the 16-minute mark.

Shrimp Defrosted 39 degrees

The shrimp’s internal temperature rose from 32 degrees Fahrenheit to 39 degrees Fahrenheit in only 2 minutes! You really need to pay attention when defrosting shrimp.

That leads me to my next point. Why can’t you just thaw them out with hot water, won’t it make the whole process quicker? Yes, if you like rubbery shrimp.

Let me explain.

Defrosting Shrimp in Hot Water

You will discover a lot of websites telling you it is ok to defrost shrimp with hot water. This is not good advice.

Many of these hot water-thawing advocates will point to a recent USDA study cited by acclaimed food scientist Harold McGee in a New York Times article to state their case.

The study found that you can thaw smaller cuts of meat such as steaks, pork chops, fish fillets, etc. in 140 degrees Fahrenheit water for about 10 to 12 minutes and still be considered safe to consume.

The reason this works is that the thawing time is so short that any “bacterial growth would remain within safe limits.”

This is great news but if you tried applying the same logic to something as small as a shrimp you won’t get the same results.

Yes, there will be minimal bacterial growth in the short time frame but the shrimp are so small that you will start the cooking process.

This uneven defrosting will lead to a rubbery finished product. Remember earlier when I left shrimp in 41-degree water for an extra 2 minutes? The internal temperature raised 7 degrees.

Imagine what a 140 degree Fahrenheit water bath would do, yikes!

You can defrost shrimp quickly and still keep their texture by using cold water.

Shrimp literally cook in 5 or 6 minutes so you could theoretically have multiple meal options within 30 minutes time.

Shrimp with rice. Start cooking the rice at the same time you start defrosting the shrimp.

Shrimp tacos. Prepare the tortillas, toppings, etc. while the shrimp defrost.

You get the idea.

Final Thoughts

Knowing the proper cooking and serving temperature of the food you prepare is critical if you want to be a good cook.

Shrimp can make a great, quick, healthy meal. They cook fast because of their small size. As you’ve seen, this is a blessing and a curse. But knowing the proper way to defrost shrimp without turning them rubbery and inedible is the most important part of preparing them. After reading this, you should be well-equipped to cook any shrimp entree like a pro!

For more tips and information on how to cook all types of food at their proper temperatures check out our other articles, thanks for reading.