How To Tell If Shrimp Has Gone Bad

Whether melted into scampi, draped onto a red-stained cocktail glass, crested across a bowl of cioppino, or perfectly perched atop nigirizushi, shrimp holds a special place in the hearts of cuisines from around the world. This international culinary superstar has countless methods of preparation and consumption, but all are served best, brightest, and safest with fresh shrimp.

If your shrimp has gone bad, it can do a great deal more than just offend your palate, and it's in everyone's best interest to avoid even slightly spoiled shrimp. According to Consumer Reports, the bodies of shrimp are home to many bacteria and viruses that can wreak havoc on the human gut if not properly cleaned and/or cooked; and there's also a risk of shrimp having parasites, putting people at risk for bacterial infection.

WebMD states that foodborne illness related to shellfish can cause symptoms like vomiting, nausea, and stomach cramps, and in the case of severe symptoms, it is vital to seek immediate medical attention. Health care professional recommendations for combating shrimp food poisoning include proper hydration and avoidance of induced vomiting and anti-motility drugs as they can worsen the situation.

Ways to test the freshness of shrimp

The first test to run when assessing the viability of shrimp is the eye test. According to Smarter Home Baker, fresh shrimp should look slightly translucent and the flesh and the shell should appear taut and have a glossy finish. If the shrimp flesh doesn't appear to be flush to the shell or there's discoloration or a dull look to the shell, it's probably best to discard it. Typically, fresh shrimp have bright clear looking eyes; so opaque or sunken eyes are another warning sign to look for.

Touch and smell are two other good indicators of shrimp status. Per The Whole Portion, if the shrimp feels slimy and sticks to your fingers or to kitchen equipment rather than feeling smooth, it's gone bad. Of all the signs, though, perhaps the most immediate tell of spoiled shrimp is the smell. Fresh shrimp should have a mild salty scent similar to the sea, not quite fishy but most definitely oceanic. If instead the shrimp smells foul and rotten, chances are that it is and should be carefully thrown away, followed immediately by open windows and lit candles.

Further, StillTasty notes shrimp can last in the refrigerator for one to two days, but warns that raw shrimp left at room temperature will expire in just two hours. When attempting to discern if your shrimp has gone bad, it's best to trust your gut. If there's even a tiny feeling of uneasiness, it's usually best to hedge your bets, leave shrimp off the menu, and just have the cocktails by themselves.