When it comes to shrimp, size matters.
The size of shrimp can make or break your recipe. And you also need to keep the count of shrimp per pound in mind to make sure you have enough portions.
Luckily, the seafood experts at North Coast Seafoods are here to help you understand shrimp sizing once and for all. Consider this your ultimate guide to shrimp sizes!
You’ve likely seen bags of shrimp at your local grocery store with numbers on them like U/20, 16/20, 21/25 or 31/40. These numbers are the key to determining the size of the shrimp and the number of shrimp in a bag.
The slash between numbers is simply the range of shrimp in a pound. In the above examples, there would be 16 to 20 shrimp per pound, 21 to 25 shrimp per pound, and 31 to 40 shrimp per pound. A “U” in the count means there are “under” that amount of shrimp in a pound. So for U/20s there would be fewer than 20 shrimp per pound.
When you buy shrimp, a good rule of thumb is that the smaller the numbers on the bag or in the fresh seafood case, the bigger the shrimp.
If you’ve ever looked at a shrimp size chart, you’ve seen a handful of different sizes mentioned. Some shrimp size charts include only five sizes while others include upwards of 12.
That’s why it’s important to focus more on the number count per pound than the descriptive sizing term when you want a particular size of shrimp for a recipe.
We’ll only be focusing on a handful of the common shrimp sizes from smallest to largest.
These tiny shrimp are known for having a subtle flavor and cooking quickly. They often come in bags 51/60, 71/90 or even 91/100. You want to make sure not to overcook small shrimp or they’ll become rubbery. These small shrimp are best used in recipes like popcorn shrimp, seafood or shrimp salads and dips, or stuffings.
This popular size comes in at 41/50 per pound. They still cook relatively quickly so they’re great for shrimp stir fry, seafood boils, or shrimp fritters.
Larger shrimp usually come in at 31/40 per pound and typically what you see being used in shrimp appetizers, shrimp alfredo, shrimp tacos, or paella. Large shrimp are a great way to add protein to these dishes without being the main ingredient.
When you think of a delicious shrimp cocktail or mouthwatering coconut shrimp, it’s jumbo shrimp that are the star of the show. These bigger shrimp usually are available as 16/20, 21/25, or 26/30 per pound. Jumbo shrimp make the perfect appetizer or entrée considering 5-6 shrimp per person can be filling.
Shrimp in this size range are also sometimes referred to as extra jumbo shrimp.
These huge shrimp often come as 13/15 per pound or U/15 (less than 15 shrimp per pound). They are also great for a hearty shrimp cocktail or for shrimp skewers on the grill. They take a bit longer to cook but are super succulent and tender.
Considered the mother of all shrimp, these super-sized shrimp are sold as 8/12, 6/8, or U/6 per pound. These exceptionally large shrimp are best for baked stuffed shrimp or barbeque shrimp. The recommended serving size is only 1-3 shrimp because they’re so massive. This is approaching prawn or lobster tail size, so if you are a shrimp fanatic, these are perfect for you.
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