Buying a pound of shrimp is not a straightforward task. The average supermarket carries the shellfish both fresh (well, usually defrosted really) and frozen, wild and farmed, and in a variety of processed states, from shell-on and raw to deveined, shelled, and fully-cooked with a side of cocktail sauce.
Today, we’ll take a look at how they’re measured and sized, so you can better decipher the standardized system common to all varieties of shrimp.
Official Shrimp Sizing Is by Weight
In the United States, shrimp are sized according to their weight, specifically how many shrimp are in one pound:
- Larger sizes are labeled with a U in front of the number (U/10, for instance). The U stands for “under,” meaning that less than 10 shrimp make up one pound.
- Smaller sizes are labeled with a per-pound range, such as 51/60 for “small” shrimp, meaning there are 51 to 60 shrimp in one pound.
Oh, and just in case you're wondering, the weight per pound refers to fresh or frozen shrimp in their shell-on state but with the heads removed.
But What About Small, Medium, and Large?
The per-pound count is usually accompanied by a trade-designated sizing term, such as small, medium, large, or jumbo, but these terms aren’t standardized.
It’s best to shop by the numbers if you’re going for accuracy or want to ensure that you’re buying a specific number of shrimp to serve each person, which can be especially important when you’re making canapés or appetizers for a large number of people.
But if your recipe doesn't specify count and just says small, medium, or large, use your judgment or ask the fishmonger and be careful about cooking times.