This article was co-authored by Randall Chambers and by wikiHow staff writer, Dan Hickey. Randall (Randy) Chambers is a Personal Chef and the Owner of Luxury Meals From Home based in Arvada, Colorado. He has more than 16 years of commercial kitchen experience, five years of sous chef experience, and two years of experience as an executive chef. Chef Randy draws inspiration from his half Bolivian background and his forte is South American cuisine. He holds an Associate’s degree in Culinary Arts from The Art Institute.
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Shrimp is a delicious and nutritious addition to many meals when it’s cooked just right, but how can you tell if it’s cooked through? Shrimp makes a huge transformation in appearance from raw to cooked, so eyeballing it isn’t so hard when you know what to look for—an opaque white and pink color and a curved “C” shape mean it’s time to eat (and if you’re still not sure, check the internal temp and make sure it’s 145 °F (63 °C) or higher). In this article, we’ll walk you through every way to check if your shrimp is done, plus ways you can make sure that every shrimp in your batch finishes at the same time. If you’re ready to get cooking, keep scrolling!
Things You Should Know
- Use a food thermometer to make sure the interior temperature of a shrimp is at least 145 °F (63 °C). This is the safest way to tell if it’s fully cooked.
- Check for an opaque white color on the outside, a curved “C” shape, and a tender texture. When in doubt, cut one open to see if it’s cooked through.
- Ensure all your shrimp finish at the same time by spreading them evenly over a pan or tray and adding them to the heat at the same time.
1Measure the internal temperature.
- Use a food thermometer to make sure the shrimp is 145 °F (63 °C).XTrustworthy SourceUS Food and Drug AdministrationU.S. government agency responsible for promoting public healthGo to source Stick the stem of the thermometer into the center of the thickest part of a shrimp and wait 5-15 seconds for the temperature to read accurately. This is the safest and most accurate way to tell if a shrimp is cooked hot enough to kill bacteria.XResearch source
- Test your thermometer for accuracy by placing it in freezing or boiling water. It should read 32 °F (0 °C) or 212 °F (100 °C), respectively.
- According to the FDA, 145 °F (63 °C) is the minimum safe temperature for almost all fish and seafood.
2Look at the external color.
- Check the shrimp for an opaque white color with pops of pink or orange. Examine both sides of the shrimp and the deveined ridge near the head. You may need to grab a pair of tongs or a spatula to flip them over. The white should be pearlescent—if the shrimp looks matte white or dull, it may be overcooked.XResearch source
- This is the easiest way to tell if a shrimp is cooked since raw shrimp are generally gray and translucent.
3Examine the shrimp’s shape.
- Look for a relaxed, curved "C" shape. Raw shrimp is fairly straight and begins to curve inward and shrink as it cooks. When the shrimp is fully bent into a "C" or an oval (not just a shallow "U" shape), take it off the heat and enjoy. If it’s left too long, you’ll end up with an overcooked "O" shape.XResearch source
- Small shrimp may look like an "O" or a circle even when they’re perfectly cooked due to their size.
4Feel the shrimp’s texture.
- Press the shrimp with a fork or your finger to see if it's tender. Raw or undercooked shrimp feels springy, bouncy, or slimy while overcooked shrimp feels tough or rubbery. Perfectly cooked shrimp falls right in between—when you feel a soft and tender texture, take them off the heat.XResearch source
5Look at the interior color of a shrimp.
- Cut open the thickest part of a shrimp and check for a white color. If it’s at all gray or translucent, it isn’t finished—put it back on the heat. Work quickly since the other shrimp will continue cooking (and they cook fast!). Chances are you only need another minute at most.
- The interior should be the same white-ish color as the outside and totally opaque.
6Check shrimp at the end of their cooking time.
- Stay close to your shrimp—they’re done cooking after only 2-5 minutes. Check your shrimp’s color, shape, texture, or temperature after about 3 minutes in most cases. The exact cooking time for thawed shrimp depends on the cooking method, plus the amount and size of the shrimp:
- Boiling: Small shrimp will be done in as little as 2-3 minutes and jumbo shrimp can take up to 8 minutes.XResearch source
- Poaching: Large shrimp takes about 10 minutes. Check for opaqueness and firmness every few minutes, regardless of size.XResearch source
- Sautéing or baking: Depending on the size and number of shrimp, they’ll take about 4 or 5 minutes (1-2 minutes per side).XResearch source
- Grilling: Over medium-high heat, shrimp will be done in 3-4 minutes (1-2 minutes per side of a skewer).XResearch source
- Steaming: Large shrimp will be cooked through after about 5-6 minutes.XResearch source
7Cook like-sized shrimp together.
- Match jumbo with jumbo or small with small so they finish together. The larger a shrimp is, the longer it takes to cook thoroughly. Make sure to cook the same size of shrimp per batch for the best, most even results.XResearch source For example:
- Small boiled shrimp are done after 3 minutes, while jumbos take 7-8 minutes. If you boil them together, you’d need to fish out the small ones early.
8Spread shrimp evenly across pans and trays.
- Lay all shrimp in a single layer with space in between for even cooking. Check to make sure that no shrimp are touching or on top of each other, since this will increase their cook time compared to the other shrimp. An even layer ensures they will all be cooked through at the same time.XResearch source
- If you’re steaming shrimp, lightly toss them halfway through their cooking time (about 3 minutes in) to make sure they’re cooking evenly.XResearch source
9Add all shrimp to the heat at the same time.
- Start cooking all of your shrimp together due to their short cook time. Move fast if you’re cooking a large amount so the first shrimps you throw onto the pan or grill don’t finish significantly faster than the next handful. Once they’re on the heat, make sure they cook for the same amount of time on both sides at the same temperature.XResearch source
- If you’re not eating your cooked shrimp right away (like if you’re using them for a recipe later), put them in cold water as soon as they’re finished to stop the cooking process.XResearch source