How Do You Know If Shrimp Is Cooked?

Cooking shrimp might be intimidating for first-timers. Especially when you have heard warnings from your friends about overcooked or undercooked shrimps.

Actually, it doesn’t have to be.

How to tell if shrimp is cooked?

You can tell that your shrimp is perfectly cooked when it changes from grey-blue into orange-red color, from transparent into opaque, and the shape forms a nice “C” letter.

It might sound simple. But if you’re willing to take a moment to understand, you should realize how fascinating the change is.

Understanding the process of cooking shrimp can help you prevent your shrimp from being undercooked or overcooked.

Keep on reading!

How to tell if shrimp is cooked

Check these signs:

  • The grey color has changed into an orange-red color (some people describe it as “pink)
  • The translucent skin has changed into opaque
  • The body of the shrimp form a nice “C” shape

The color of raw shrimp is grey-blue while the cooked shrimp is reddish-orange.

This happens because, when you cook shrimp, you are exposing the protein of shrimp to the heat.

There is a protein in the shrimp called crustacyanin which experiences denaturation because of the heat. Crustacyanin protein, in shrimp, is bonded into something called astaxanthin, which is responsible for orange-red color.

In raw shrimp, the astaxanthin is “trapped” by the crustacyanin protein so it’s muted. When the shrimp is cooked and the protein has faced denaturation, the astaxanthin is “free” so we can see the pink (almost red) color.

When cooking the shrimp, you probably can see how the color changes from greyish to reddish. You can see how the red-orange color becomes gradually vivid.

So, if it’s not orange enough, it’s probably not cooked enough.

The skin of cooked shrimp is opaque.

Raw shrimp looks translucent while the cooked one is opaque.

It’s due to protein denaturation.

This change is similar to what happens to egg whites. Egg white is protein too. When it’s raw, it’s translucent (almost transparent!) but when it’s cooked, it becomes opaque.

SEE ALSO: Can you eat shrimp shells?

The shape of cooked shrimp is like a letter C

The shrimp makes a nice curve when it’s cooked.

This is because, once again, protein experiences denaturation when heated.

This affects the shape of the shrimp.

It mimics the “C” letter nicely. The tail and the head are apart.

When the shrimp is overcooked, the nice letter “C” becomes the letter “O”. The tail touches the head (or the top part of the shrimp, if you have removed the head).

C=cooked

O=overcooked

How long does it take to cook shrimp?

Actually, not long!

You will only need around 3-4 minutes to cook shrimp on a pan!

If you boil it (putting shrimps into boiled water), you only need around 2-3 minutes.

Is shrimp cooked if it’s pink?

Yes, shrimp is cooked when it’s pink or orange-red colored. Turn off the stove immediately.

It’s also opaque instead of transparent.

And it curls up to form a “C” letter.

What does undercooked shrimp taste like?

Undercooked shrimp has a mushy and … you know, “raw” taste.

It’s soft in an unpleasant way.

What happens if you eat undercooked shrimp?

Eating undercooked shrimp is exposing yourself to food poisoning.

Don’t do this.

Undercooked shrimp means the shrimp hasn’t faced a good amount of heat to kill the dangerous germs that can cause infection.

How do you not overcooked shrimp?

Overcooked shrimp might have less health risk if compared to undercooked shrimp. But it’s still not too pleasant to eat it.

Overcooked shrimp isn’t very juicy and isn’t very tasty. The taste is almost gone.

How do you not overcook shrimp?

Do not leave the stove when cooking shrimp.

Shrimp doesn’t need a long time to be cooked. So, give them special attention during the cooking process.

If you grill or sear it on a pan, let it sit for 60-90 seconds on one side and then flip them quickly. Let the other side be heated for another 90 seconds or so until you see the skin becomes orange and the shape almost forms the letter “C”.

If you’re afraid that you won’t have enough time to flip those shrimps one by one, you might want to try cooking them in skewers so you can flip them quickly at once.

When you realize that the color has turned orange-ish and opaque, quickly turn off the stove. Don’t wait for it to be truly red on the stove.

Even after you put out the fire, the pan is still hot so the cooking process isn’t really over. This is why you want to turn off the stove right before the shrimp is being truly cooked.

You might need some time to remove the shrimp from a plate. So, removing the shrimp from the heat right before it reaches its perfect “cooked” stage is a good idea to avoid overcooked shrimp.

Yes, you can simply turn off the stove when the shrimp is truly cooked (the color is orange-red and it shapes a nice semi-circle). But you have to quickly stop the cooking process.

If the shrimp is boiled, remove the skin from the hot water and put it inside a bowl of cold water.

If the shrimp is pan-seared or grilled, try to move it to the plate as soon as possible.

How to fix overcooked shrimp?

Unfortunately, you cannot undo an overcooked shrimp to come back to the earlier stage. And usually, it’s not always obvious, especially when it’s just slightly overcooked.

If your shrimp looks overcooked but the taste is still great, you can just serve it normally.

However, in worst cases, there is something you can do to make your shrimp cuisine still edible: bury the shrimp in a thick sauce.

No, seriously.

If you serve the overcooked shrimp as a topping of your pasta to your family, it’s easy for them to detect that something is “different”.

To help you fix overcooked shrimp, put the shrimp in a sauce or thick broth that has a rich flavor so the almost-bland shrimp taste can be forgiven.

Final Thought

Shrimp is not only tasty but also contains high protein. You can cook shrimp into various dishes. However, you need to cook it well. Do not expose yourself to health risks by consuming undercooked shrimp. Check your shrimp while cooking and take a look to see the signs of the cooked shrimp. You can easily detect it by looking at the shape, the color, and the opaqueness.

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