Refreezing Frozen Shrimp

Can thawed, frozen shrimp be refrozen?

According to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, as long as the shrimp were thawed properly in the refrigerator or in cold water, it is safe to refreeze and rethaw them. The maximum time they can be held at room temperature is 2 hours, total, over the course of thawing and refreezing. The danger of thawing frozen shrimp at room temperature is that they may sit in the “danger zone” of 40 to 140 degrees Fahrenheit, which is the optimum environment for bacteria growth.

But safe shrimp and good shrimp may be two different things. When shrimp are frozen, the liquid within their cells expands, which can damage the cell walls. When frozen shrimp are thawed, this liquid seeps out, compromising the quality of the shrimp. To find out how greatly the texture and flavor of the shrimp are affected, we prepared sautéed shrimp and shrimp burgers using frozen shrimp that we thawed in the refrigerator and frozen shrimp that we thawed, refroze, and thawed again. In the sautéed shrimp, tasters noted a stark difference, commenting on the mealy and dry texture and off-flavor of the twice-frozen shrimp.

In the shrimp burgers (which feature heavily seasoned chopped shrimp), however, tasters barely noticed a difference. There was a slight preference for those made with shrimp only frozen once, but both were acceptable.

THE BOTTOM LINE: If you’re eating the shrimp whole, don’t freeze them a second time. However, if you’re using them in chopped or minced applications, like shrimp burgers or potstickers, feel free to refreeze the frozen-and-thawed shrimp. And always thaw shrimp in cold water or in the refrigerator.

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