How Long Can Raw Shrimp Sit Out? [Plus Easy Defrosting Methods]

There is nothing better than a bowl of rich, buttery shrimp scampi after a long day at work. Shrimp is popular seafood that is easy to cook and tastes delicious with just about any seasonings.

But, there are times when consuming shrimp can pose a severe risk to your health. Raw shrimp left out at room temperature can become a hideaway for bacteria and parasites that can make you extremely sick.

However, it’s not always easy to know when raw shrimp becomes dangerous to eat after sitting out at room temperature.

In general, raw shrimp becomes unsafe to eat if it has sat out at room temperature for more than two hours. If the temperature is above 90 degrees, you should not consume raw shrimp left out for more than one hour. Raw shrimp should ideally never stay out at room temperature and go from the fridge to the cooktop as quickly as possible.

The reason for this is simple: shrimp can foster dangerous bacteria and harmful parasites that grow and thrive when kept at room temperature.

Raw, frozen shrimp is a slightly different story than fresh raw fish. When producers flash-freeze shrimp, the parasites inside die. However, that does not mean that bacteria can’t grow on the shrimp as it defrosts or sits at room temperature.

Therefore, you still should not keep frozen shrimp out at room temperature for more than two hours. However, if you left frozen shrimp out to defrost on the counter at room temperature, you must cook it immediately (within the two-hour window) after defrosting.

You should not refreeze or refrigerate raw, defrosted shrimp, as bacteria can grow in the meat.

Shrimp Grows Bacteria At Room Temperature

The FDA considers shrimp perishable when not frozen or kept at a refrigerated temperature of 40 degrees Fahrenheit. Like most perishable foods, shrimp can foster harmful bacteria when exposed to warmer temperatures. 

Warm Temperatures And “The Danger Zone”

It’s not uncommon for people to wonder “what’s too warm” of a temperature to leave food out in. The USDA has a helpful guideline for temperatures called “The Danger Zone.”

Essentially, any temperature between 40 degrees Fahrenheit and 140 degrees Fahrenheit is warm enough for bacteria and parasites to live in food; that’s why shrimp needs either refrigerated or frozen to prevent bacterial growth. 

You Can’t Leave Shrimp Out Overnight

Because home temperatures are always in the Danger Zone, and usually sit around 70 degrees Fahrenheit, you can’t leave shrimp out at room temperature overnight. It’s far too warm in a home, and the shrimp will undoubtedly start growing a dangerous array of bacteria. Consuming shrimp left out overnight can lead to severe illness. 

There’s A Difference Between Frozen Vs. Refrigerated Raw Shrimp At Room Temperature

If you’ve accidentally left frozen shrimp out at room temperature for over two hours, there’s a slight chance it may not need tossing. The reason is simple: frozen shrimp takes longer to warm up than refrigerated raw shrimp. 

It usually only takes two hours for refrigerated shrimp to come to room temperature. However, bacteria can multiply in the shrimp once it reaches a lukewarm state. On the other hand, frozen shrimp can take upwards of four hours to thoroughly defrost and grow warm enough to house bacteria. 

However, just because raw shrimp was frozen before coming to room temperature does not mean you should give it an extension on the FDA’s two-hour rule. Some of the shrimp pieces may come to room temperature faster than others, thus allowing bacteria to hide in the shrimp.

Don’t try to salvage defrosted shrimp if it defrosted completely by sitting out at room temperature; more likely than not, it has developed bacteria. 

Signs That Raw Shrimp Has Sat Out Too Long

If you can’t remember when you left the shrimp out, you can try to gauge its edible status by looking for signs the FDA uses to indicate it has gone bad. 

1. Good Shrimp Looks Pearly White

When shrimp is fresh and in good condition, its meat should be pearly and translucent. Red, green, or brownish meat indicates spoilage in shrimp. Additionally, shrimp with opaque spots indicates spoilage. Also, look to see if the meat has fallen from the shell. If it has, the meat likely has gone bad. 

2. Good Shrimp Is Low-Odor

When purchasing shrimp or checking it for edibility at home, use your nose. Safe-to-eat shrimp smells fresh, not fishy or musty.

3. Good Shrimp Have Firm Shells

If you purchased shrimp with shells on, check for cracks or soft shells. Healthy shrimp have firm, glossy shells. Yellow or gritty shells indicate chemical treatment to hide spoilage, never consume shrimp with gritty shells. 

4. Good Shrimp Have Glossy Eyes

Another way to confirm if shrimp has gone bad is to check the eyes. If the eyes are glossy and clear, the shrimp is generally safe to eat. Missing or shrunken eyes indicate shrimp past their prime. 

5. Temperature Check Raw Shrimp

Raw shrimp that is warm or lukewarm to the touch has sat out at room temperature too long. Only cook and consume shrimp that remained cold to the touch before cooking.  raw shrimp

You Can Get Food Poisoning From Shrimp

When you consume shrimp past its prime or that has grown bacteria, chances are, you’ll catch food poisoning. Seafood poses a greater risk for food poisoning to pregnant women, children, and immune-compromised people. Regardless, the common culprits of food poisoning, E.coli, and salmonella, grow quickly on shrimp. 

Signs You Have Food Poisoning

If you consumed shrimp in the last twenty-four hours and have started feeling unwell, you might have food poisoning. Signs that indicate food poisoning include:

  • Vomiting.
  • Diarrhea.
  • Headache from dehydration.
  • Stomach cramps.
  • Low-grade fever.

You Can Catch Parasites From Shrimp

Parasites are another significant risk of consuming undercooked or spoiled shrimp. Parasites are more common on cultured shrimp than wild-caught. Parasite symptoms and illness, unlike food poisoning, will last more than a few days. Signs you might have a parasite include:

  • Nausea.
  • Vomiting.
  • Digestion issues.
  • Extreme hunger or loss of appetite.
  • Unexplained weight loss.
  • Fever.

If you suspect you have a parasite, seek medical attention immediately.

How Long Raw Shrimp Lasts Varies Based On Preservation Method

When it comes to storing and preserving raw shrimp, two methods work best: freezer and refrigeration. However, each method provides a different shelf-life for the shrimp. 

Frozen

Technically, frozen raw shrimp can keep for a year in the freezer without losing nutritional value. Longer storage in the freezer is safe to do, but nutrient values will decrease the longer shrimp remains frozen. 

Refrigerated

According to the FDA, raw shrimp lasts for one to two days in the fridge. After two days, it needs throwing out. 

Storing Frozen Shrimp (Raw And Cooked)

If you want to store your raw shrimp in the freezer for a future meal, the good news is, it’s easy enough to do. In addition, you can store cooked shrimp leftovers the same way, provided that you freeze the cooked shrimp within two hours of cooking it. 

Use Freezer Safe Tupperware

Because shrimp contain a lot of liquid, they can sweat or leak if stored in the freezer improperly. The best leak prevention is storing shrimp in freezer-safe Tupperware.  Freezer Safe Tupperware

Use Freezer Bags

You can use freezer bags to store shrimp in the freezer – freezer bags work great for smaller freezer spaces, especially if you store the shrimp in single layers and stack the bags on top of each other. For a more eco and budget-friendly freezer bag, look for reusable options

3 Best Ways To Defrost Frozen Shrimp (Raw And Cooked)

When you’re ready to defrost your frozen shrimp, you’ll want to do it with one of the FDA’s recommended methods

1. Overnight Refrigeration

The FDA recommends planning ahead and defrosting frozen shrimp in the fridge overnight. This method is the least likely to produce bacteria during the defrosting period. Simply place the shrimp container in the refrigerator. You can expect a pound of shrimp to defrost in twenty-four hours. Smaller weights may defrost sooner.

2. Cold Water 

If you need shrimp defrosted quickly, you can use the cold water method. Place the shrimp in a zip lock bag and immerse the meat in cold water. Change the water out every thirty minutes to promote even defrosting. It usually takes three hours for shrimp to defrost this way.

3. Microwave

The fastest way to defrost shrimp is with the microwave. However, if you defrost shrimp in the microwave, it needs cooking immediately after defrosting. You’ll want to stir the shrimp every couple of minutes as you defrost it to ensure even defrosting. Shrimp is ready to cook when it is icy but pliable.

Storing Defrosted Shrimp (Raw And Cooked)

If you have raw or defrosted shrimp, you’ll want to keep it refrigerated until it’s time to cook it. Remember, if you defrosted the shrimp in the microwave, you should not store it in the fridge – cook it immediately after defrosting. 

You can store defrosted shrimp in the refrigerator for twenty-four hours. Keep the shrimp in either a zip lock bag or Tupperware, the same as you would for the freezer.

Shopping Tips To Find The Best Raw Shrimp

To ensure you purchase shrimp for your dinner, consider shopping at reputable seafood vendors (more on that here) and look for these signs of healthy, good quality shrimp: 

Certified Shrimp

Look for shrimp with labels that have the processor’s certification on them. Certified shrimp producers follow FDA rules.

Unbroken Shells

Look for shrimp with whole shells. Cracked or broken shells indicate poor handling and storage of the shrimp. Click here for more information on consuming shrimp shells.

Eyes And Meat Intact

Look for shrimp with eyes attached and the meat connected to the shell. Missing eyes or falling meat indicates spoilage.

Fresh Smell

Shrimp, both frozen and raw, should smell fresh. 

No Ice Crystals

Look for packaging without ice crystals. Ice crystals form when products have experienced defrosting and refreezing.

Solid Packaging

Look for packaging without tears, rips, or crushed boxes. How shrimp arrives at the store usually indicates its quality. 

Parting Thoughts

If you love to eat shrimp, you should know how important it is to store it properly. Always keep raw shrimp refrigerated or frozen; never leave it out at room temperature for more than two hours to avoid bacterial growth.

When in doubt, don’t risk eating bad shrimp and catching food poisoning or a parasite. A run to the store is a lot easier than a trip to the doctor.

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