Shrimp Size Buying Guide: Small, Medium, Large, And Beyond

various shrimp sizes

From mini to colossal and everything in between, simply ordering shrimp at the grocery store can feel overwhelming. Here you are, just craving scampi for dinner, and suddenly, your head is buzzing with sizing jargon in front of the seafood counter!

What Are The Different Sizes of Shrimp?

Knowing the different size categories available is essential when making shrimp purchases, as they can vary greatly. Shrimp are typically classified based on the number of shrimp per pound or unit weight. With the most common sizes being:

TypeShrimp Per PoundAppetizer Serving SizeEntree Serving SizeFat Per ServingProtein Per Serving
Colossal8-12241 gram18 grams
Jumbo13-254-56-82 grams23 grams
Large26-354-68-102 grams21 grams
Medium36-5069-122 grams20 grams
Mini51-71+6-812-201 gram15 grams
Shrimp Size

What are the Most Common Shrimp Sizes?

When shopping for shrimp, you may encounter different sizes, including colossal, jumbo, large, and mini. Keep in mind that sizing terms may vary between stores, causing confusion among shoppers. For example, what one store calls jumbo may be labeled extra-large elsewhere.

What Does the U Mean on Shrimp Packaging?

U stands for “Under” and represents the number of shrimp per pound. The lower the number, the larger the shrimp. For instance, our Colossal Shrimp are U-8/12, meaning you’ll get 8 to 12 big, fresh shrimp per pound. Colossal is the largest size available!

Our wild-caught shrimp are slightly smaller and fall into the Jumbo range, with 16 to 20 shrimp per pound (U-16/20). The smallest shrimp available are 71+ per pound, while medium shrimp fall between 36 and 41 per pound.

Why is Shrimp Sizing Important?

Considering the size of shrimp is essential when purchasing and preparing them. Knowing their size helps estimate recipe quantities, determine cooking times and preferred flavors, and customize dishes to your preferences.

Smaller shrimp cook faster and absorb other seasonings or flavors, while giant shrimp are a centerpiece for seafood entrees. Size can also indicate quality, giving insight into the shrimp’s species, origin, and growth conditions.

Do Head-On or Unpeeled Shrimp Affect Shrimp Counts?

The per-pound counts refers to peeled and deveined shrimp, which means any shells, tails, and heads have been removed. If you’re purchasing head-on colossal shrimp, for example, the edible part of the shrimp will be closer to large once they’re peeled and deveined.

All of our shrimp have been peeled and deveined for straightforward sizing and easy cooking at home (it’s easier for everyone that way!).

How to Choose the Right Shrimp Size

Consider the recipe, cooking method, personal preference, and presentation needs when selecting the size. Smaller sizes are ideal for sautéing or stir-frying, while larger sizes work best for grilling or roasting. Experiment until you find your preference, and impress your guests with the perfect shrimp size.

Determining Your Culinary Needs

Jumbo or even colossal-sized shrimp work best for dishes that want to highlight the natural flavors of shrimp. Bigger shrimp offer a heartier bite and withstand strong seasonings and intense cooking methods.

On the other hand, if you’re combining shrimp with other ingredients, smaller sizes might be more appropriate. Smaller shrimp blend well with other elements and add a delightful seafood essence without overpowering the dish.

Consider whether you want an elegant presentation or a more rustic approach. Larger shrimp can add drama and sophistication to your plate, while smaller shrimp are easier to work with for even cooking or bite-sized appetizers.

Speaking of easy cooking, here’s our simple Shrimp Cooking Guide.

Matching Shrimp Size to Cooking Method

The taste and texture of shrimp vary greatly depending on their size, making certain sizes a better fit for specific dishes.

  • For quick stir-fries and sautés, small to medium-sized shrimp are great as they cook quickly and retain a tender texture while absorbing flavors from spices or sauces.
  • Large or extra-large shrimp are versatile and can be grilled, baked, or pan-seared easily. They have a more significant bite while still maintaining tenderness when cooked correctly.
  • If you want to grill or broil shrimp as a standalone dish, jumbo shrimp are ideal for their robust flavor and firm texture, allowing them to withstand longer cooking times without becoming overcooked or rubbery.
  • Colossal-sized shrimp are perfect for deep frying or breading as they have a larger surface area-to-meat ratio and provide an excellent crunch when battered and fried.

Remember to ensure proper doneness for food safety reasons, regardless of the cooking method chosen. Overcooking any shrimp of any size can lead to tough and rubbery food. By selecting the right shrimp size for each dish and matching it with the appropriate cooking method, you can elevate your culinary repertoire and guarantee a delightful dining experience.

If shrimp cocktails are on the menu, we strongly recommend this homemade cocktail sauce.

What Should I Do If My Recipe Just Says “Raw Shrimp”?

Larger shrimp are better for main courses, while smaller ones are ideal for appetizers. Consider the cooking method too – larger ones are good for grilling or broiling, while smaller ones cook faster when sautéed or stir-fried.

Shrimp Sizing FAQ’s

How Long is a Shrimp in Inches?

On average, large shrimp measure between 1.5 and 3 inches long, including tail and head. The smallest shrimp measure just a few millimeters in length. Colossal shrimp, on the other hand, can measure up to 8 inches long.

What is the Biggest Shrimp Size?

Colossal shrimp are the largest. 8 to 12 shrimp per pound are the most toothsome, satisfying size. They’re also highly versatile, from frying to steaming to roasting to sautéeing; there’s no dish that colossal shrimp aren’t at home in.

What is the Best Size Shrimp?

Consider the use and your preference when selecting shrimp. Larger ones are great for most recipes, while colossal and jumbo ones are perfect for special occasions. Use jumbo shrimp for quick-cooking proteins and smaller ones for pastes, purees, fillings, or meatballs.

Shrimp vs. Prawns?

Shrimp and prawns are different species with distinct physical features. Shrimp curl into a “C” shape, while prawns remain straight and have three pairs of legs, while shrimp only have one.

Prawns are commonly listed on menus in Europe, Australia, and Asia. Colossal shrimp make a suitable substitute for prawns.

Like lobster too? Lobster Prices: How Much Does Lobster Really Cost?

Shrimp Buying 101: It’s All About The Source

Ultimately, whether you’re stocking up on mini shrimp for homemade shumai or going all-out with succulent colossal shrimp for a show-stopping appetizer, the most important thing is to buy fresh seafood from a trustworthy source.

When you know your shrimp was raised and harvested sustainably and preserved for maximum freshness from ocean to table, the seafood will speak for itself. The highest-quality shrimp needs nothing more than a squeeze of lemon to wow your taste buds.

To confidently buy shrimp that always tastes its best, look for the Monterey Bay Aquarium Seafood Watch seal of approval. All of our shrimp are designated “best choice,” thanks to our commitment to only selling 100% traceable, all-natural, chemical-free seafood. And the best part is how easily you’ll be able to taste the difference.

Have colossal shrimp that exceeds restaurant-quality express-shipped to your door today. Or try the freshest-tasting wild-caught jumbo shrimp on the market.

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