The Safest Way To Defrost Shrimp Overnight Or In A Hurry

Frozen shrimp are a versatile, quick-cooking protein to have on hand; they fit perfectly inside shrimp summer rolls, work great grilled or breaded as a salad topping, and are delightful when chopped up and turned into tasty shrimp burgers. Plus, the freezer storage means they last for a while, and they're likely even better quality than "fresh" shrimp because many companies flash-freeze them immediately after they're caught. However, despite their convenience, they still need to be defrosted safely. Whether you're planning ahead or you forgot to defrost them in advance, there are a few methods that will get them ready for cooking.


For overnight thawing, the best method is to place the shrimp in the refrigerator. However, you should never leave them on the counter overnight, or you could risk foodborne illness. You also don't want to microwave them because it will ruin their texture. For ultra-quick thawing (within about 10 to 30 minutes), you can use cold water from the sink, but you'll want to be mindful of a few precautions.

How to properly thaw shrimp overnight

Shrimp might be tiny, but they still need a good amount of time to properly thaw. Typically, you'd have to give them around 12 hours, but if you need to cook the shrimp immediately, they can be thawed sooner. Remove the frozen shrimp from their bag, and place them in a colander. Then, place the colander in a bowl lined with a couple of paper towels and place it in the fridge. As the shrimp defrost, they'll lose moisture, and you don't want that liquid ending up all over your fridge; the paper towel will absorb some of the thawed liquid and the bowl will prevent any leakage. You can also arrange your shrimp on a sheet pan (also lined with paper towels) and cover them with plastic wrap.


To ensure quick overnight defrosting, try to spread the shrimp out as much as possible; the more they're on top of each other, the longer they'll take to defrost. And if you find in the morning that the shrimp aren't totally thawed, you can place them in a sealed plastic bag and finish the process by running them under cold water (the method for super fast thawing).

How to safely thaw shrimp quickly in the sink

If you need those shrimp defrosted in 30 minutes or less, you'll want to quick-thaw them in the sink. Place the shrimp in a sealed plastic bag with as much air removed as possible, and put it in a large dish. Then, fill the dish with cold water, and make sure the bag of shrimp is fully submerged (the bag might try to float if there is air in it, but just get as much water around it as possible). The shrimp should be thawed within a half hour.


If you need an even quicker method, you can thaw them in about 10 minutes by putting them in a plastic bag, placing it in a colander, and running the shrimp under room temperature water. (Keep in mind, though, that a lot of water is wasted using this approach). For both methods, a plastic bag is necessary to prevent the shrimp from soaking up moisture. Otherwise, they'll end up soggy when you try to cook them.

Whichever method you choose, you'll end up with shrimp that are not only safe to cook with but perfectly thawed, their integrity intact. If you can only get your hands on frozen prawns rather than shrimp, you're in luck — the process is the same.