Is Frozen Shrimp Bad if it Smells Fishy?

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If you ask a hundred people if fresh seafood should smell fishy, half of them will probably answer with ‘no’, while the rest will give you a resounding ‘yes’.

As someone who’s tried this approach, I quickly learned that I can’t rely on it to determine if frozen shrimp are bad when they smell fishy.

This forced me to look for other avenues of information that could provide me with a more reliable answer.

After doing my research, I found out that shrimp which smell fishy are completely safe to eat most of the time.

Keep reading to get the full run down.

Has frozen shrimp gone bad if it smells fishy?

It is generally accepted that raw or frozen seafood including shrimp should smell neutral when they’re fresh.

However, this doesn’t necessarily mean that you have to toss out the bag of shrimp that’s stinking out your fridge.

Shrimp begin to smell fishy as a result of a chain of chemical reactions that leads to the release of trimethylamine.

Trimethylamine is an organic compound which is found in the tissue of marine fish, shrimp and shellfish.

Even though it smells rather unpleasant, it’s neither harmful to our organism nor a reliable indicator of spoilage.

Sure, it does signal that the shrimp have begun to deteriorate, but that shouldn’t come as a surprise to you.

After all, they are dead.

Did you expect them to smell peachy or something?

Nevertheless, if you want to be a wuss and play it safe, then you should send your shrimp on a one way voyage to the garbage bin.

However, a more sensible course of action would be to do this only if you sense a whiff of ammonia coming from them.

If your shrimp smell like аmmonia, they’re most probably teeming with more bacteria than your gut can handle.

How to tell if frozen shrimp is spoiled

Apart from the hard to miss smell of rotten eggs, a spoiled shrimp can also be identified by its altered texture.

If your shrimp is easily bendable or shows signs of freezer burn then you should reconsider cooking it.

Even though eating shrimp with freezer burn won’t send you to the ER, it will send shivers down your spine.

And probably make you retch a bit too.

In order to avoid these unpleasant experiences, you should not only inspect shrimp upon buying but also make sure you store them under optimal conditions.

This entails transporting the shrimp to your home as fast as possible and stashing them in the fridge or freezer.

If you decide to keep them in the fridge it’s advisable to lower the temperature below 40°F / 4.4°C or put the shrimp in ice cold water.

This will slow down their decay and keep them fresh for about two days.

Naturally, keeping the shrimp frozen at all times will maintain their quality better and increase their shelf life to 3 months.

How to get rid of the fishy taste in frozen shrimp

Even though I personally don’t mind eating ‘fishy’ shrimp, most of my family members aren’t very fond of them.

That’s why I resort to creative workarounds any time I need to cook a batch of shrimp with a fishy aftertaste.

Fortunately, most of the tricks I use don’t require a lot of mental effort and are quite easy to follow.

The three methods I typically use when I want to neutralize the fishy taste of shrimp are the following:

  • Soak the shrimp in milk. Soaking shrimp in milk might seem like the last thing anyone in his right mind would do, but it actually does a great job at removing the unpleasant fishy odor. This is thanks to the binding potential of a dairy protein called casein which gets rid of the foul smelling trimethylamine. Casein is also present in some types of protein powder which are often added to protein pancakes. Anyways, all you need to do is soak the shrimp in a glass of milk for half an hour. Just don’t use milk that has been left for more than 2 hours at room temperature.
  • Marinade them in lemon juice. Marinating shrimp in lemon juice works in a similar, but slightly different fashion than soaking them in milk. Since TMA is a basic compound it reacts with the acidic lemon juice and gets neutralized in the process.
  • Brine the shrimp in a salt solution. By bringing the shrimp in a salt solution, you essentially destroy the decay causing bacteria that release TMA. To do this, you need to simply place the shrimp in a bowl, add a tablespoon of salt and stir them for about a minute. Once done, you should rinse them under cold water and repeat this two more times.

The bottom line

Most shrimp sold on the market are generally frozen and have a neutral smell. However, this shouldn’t discourage you from using frozen shrimp that smell fishy.

Even though they might not be as fresh, these shrimp will be safe to eat as long as they don’t smell like ammonia.

And if you’re still feeling hesitant, you can check their flesh for signs of discoloration or freezer burn.

If you’re into meals with seafood with unobtrusive fishy smell try making my imitation crab meat salad next!

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