Raw shrimp comes in a variety of sizes. They have names like colossal, jumbo, large, medium and small, and a few extra sizes in between. The one thing these sizes have in common is that they aren't regulated by the seafood industry, so the terms are arbitrary. A more reliable way to measure shrimp is to look at the number of shrimp in the package and the package weight.
When preparing a meal where shrimp is on the menu, keep in mind that a serving size of shrimp is about 3 ounces. Cooked shrimp is an excellent source of protein with 3 ounces containing a whopping 18 grams. Multiplying the number of servings by three will yield the total weight in ounces needed for the recipe. If the recipe calls for a particular size of shrimp such as jumbo or medium, then there will just be more or less pieces of shrimp per person. But the serving size should still be about 3 ounces.
The industry standard for labeling shrimp for sale is called the shrimp count. This is a number or numbers that indicate how many shrimp there are per pound. The smaller the size of the individual shrimp, the higher this number will be. Because shrimp aren't exactly uniform in size, this number is usually expressed as a range. For large shrimp the label may read 31/35. This means that there are 31 to 35 shrimp per pound. For colossal shrimp, there is usually a number preceded by the letter "U". For example U/10 means that there are under 10 shrimp per pound. The same idea applies to extra small shrimp, but the number may be U/70, meaning there are less than 70 shrimp.
Why Shrimp Count Is Better Than Shrimp Size
The reason that looking for a particular size of shrimp is unreliable is that the labels jumbo, large, small, etc., are unregulated. One processor's jumbo shrimp may be another processor's large. If consumers only look for jumbo shrimp, they may be disappointed by the number and the actual size of the shrimp once they get them home. To avoid confusion, consumers should instead rely on the shrimp count per pound to decide about how many shrimp they want per person.
Shrimp Weight Considerations
Purchasing raw shrimp with the shells or tails (or heads) intact may have an impact on the initial amount needed. If the shells or tails are to be removed prior to cooking, and they often are removed, then this will lower the final weight of the cooked shrimp. According to the Louisiana Direct Seafood company's seafood handbook, removing the shells of the raw shrimp reduces the overall weight by about 15%. With this in mind, it may be a good idea to buy more shrimp than necessary to cover any loss from discarded parts before cooking.
- Photo Credit Brand X Pictures/Stockbyte/Getty Images