Cooking shrimps can be tricky, especially if you want to marinate them for a long time because they have delicate skin that can easily break down in the presence of acidic ingredients.
So, how long should one marinate shrimp?
Can you marinate shrimp overnight? Yes. Shrimp should be marinated and stored in the fridge for no more than 8 hours. You can try leaving it in for longer but the spicy and tangy ingredients in the marinade will likely render the meat and make it mushy or rubbery.
There are a lot of subtleties to cooking shrimp properly, read below to learn more about how to get the most out of marinated shrimp!
How Long Can You Marinate Shrimp?
Generally speaking, shrimps are very easy to cook but many would agree that the hardest part of cooking them is to NOT overcook them.
Overcooked shrimps take on a rubbery or mushy texture that takes away from the natural tenderness of the meat and its juiciness.
Shrimps should be cooked for no more than 5-10 minutes or until they turn a pinkish shade which would indicate that they have been thoroughly cooked.
However, shrimp can be prepared in many different ways. You can grill, fry, bake and even air fry them. But how long should one leave them marinated?
It turns out that in the case of this aquatic food, shrimp is best marinated for just 2-3 hours.
This time is ideal because it allows the shrimp to take on the flavor of the spices and ingredients and will also slightly render the outside layer which will make it easier to cook it.
This is what makes shrimp one of the easiest and quickest foods to cook!
In fact, if you are in a hurry, then you can marinate them for as little as 20-30 minutes before cooking them, and depending on how strong the marinade is, you can even leave them in the fridge overnight.
But what makes a marinade “strong”?
Well, if you are using acidic ingredients like vinegar or lemon juice, then you are introducing corrosive elements that will tenderize the meat within hours.
When using a tangy marinade, you should ideally store the shrimp for no more than 2-3 hours before cooking them.
However, if you are whipping up a quick spicy marinade with just a dash of lime or lemon juice, then you can easily store and marinate the shrimp overnight.
But please be careful when doing this because if you leave the shrimp in for longer or don’t store them properly, then you might end up with mushy or rubbery shrimp – or worse, the shrimp may even become contaminated!
Don’t worry though, we’ll go through all the steps required to safely marinate and cook a shrimp dish. First, let’s discuss the pros and cons of marinating shrimp.
The Pros And Cons Of Marinating Shrimp
Here are a few pros and cons to keep in mind:
Flavor And Texture
Marination is not just a means to add flavor but to also introduce a pleasing texture that makes the shrimps juicier and tender.
While you can also do without complex marination and just use salt and pepper for flavor, the best way to enjoy the fishy flavor of shrimp is to marinate them in spices and herbs.
Requires Simple Ingredients
Shrimps are very easy to marinate and can also be forgiving when it comes to the choice of marinade too. Due to their rounded semi-sweet and slightly salty flavor, they can pair well with just about any type of marinade.
Just prepare a quick spicy and herby marinade, rub it onto the shrimps and leave them for about 2-3 hours. No additional handling is required!
There are no crevasses or hard-to-reach places with this meat, a simple toss and turn are enough to properly and evenly coat them on all sides.
Not only do shrimps not require a lot of cooking time, but they can be instantaneously used in cooking several types of dishes within minutes of marinating them.
They can literally be dipped in a marinade batter and then deep-fried, and they will still come out tasting fresh and adequately seasoned. This quality makes them a highly convenient food to prepare for any occasion.
Sure, you can leave them in the marinade for longer, but the beauty of this food is that it can work according to your timing preference, rather than you have to wait until the meat is ready.
Easy to Overdo
One of the biggest reasons people hesitate while cooking shrimps is that they are easy to overdo. Everyone dislikes an overdone, hard, and rubbery shrimp!
This doesn’t just have to do with the cooking technique but also the marination time of the shrimp.
As mentioned above, leaving the shrimp in the marinade for 2-3 days is not going to work at all since they will be too mushy and tenderized by then.
So, unlike other meats, leaving them in the marinade for longer will not equate to more flavor!
Freezing Can Be An Issue
While shrimp freezes exceptionally well and can be stored safely for several months, marinated raw shrimp can be difficult to work with, especially if you want to store it for later.
The reason for this is that the marinade will eventually change the texture and overall flavor of the shrimp, possibly making them less desirable over time.
We recommend freezing the shrimp raw and un-marinated and keeping the marinade separate.
Since shrimp don’t take a lot of time to marinate, you don’t need to store them in the freezer with the marinade for that long because when they thaw, they can become overly mushy!
How To Marinate Shrimp
Here’s a great shrimp marinade that will enhance the overall flavor of the meat and give it an extremely complex layer of flavor.
- 1 pound shrimp peeled and deveined.
- 4 tablespoons olive oil.
- 1 1/2 tablespoons honey.
- 1 1/2 tablespoons soy sauce.
- 1 teaspoon lemon zest.
- 2 teaspoons fresh parsley leaves, chopped.
- 2 teaspoons fresh thyme leaves, chopped.
- 1/2 teaspoon salt.
- 1/4 teaspoon pepper.
- 3/4 teaspoon minced garlic.
- 1/4 teaspoon chili flakes.
- In a large bowl, mix all the ingredients except for the shrimp. Make sure that all the seasonings are thoroughly mixed and that the honey has been homogenized with the mixture.
- Move the marinade into a freezer-safe and airtight bag and then add the shrimp. Gently massage the outside of the bag to coat the shrimps inside. Leave them in the marinade for at least 30 minutes or up to 8 hours, overnight.
- Once done, cook the shrimps for 2-3 minutes on each side or until they are perfectly cooked, which is when they will turn pinkish and opaque.
- You can also reserve a tablespoon of the marinade before adding the shrimp and use it as a garnish for later use. Just drizzle the marinade on top of the cooked shrimp for a flavorful kick!
How To Store Shrimp
Raw or cooked shrimp should be stored in the fridge for 2-3 days at 40°F. Do not keep the shrimp for longer or it might become contaminated.
Some signs of spoilage to look out for are a bad odor, a slimy texture, and any type of discoloration on the meat.
You can also store raw or cooked shrimp in the freezer! Just move the shrimp into a freezer-safe bag and flatten it out. This will keep the shrimp from clumping up which can ruin their texture as they thaw.
Store the bag in the coldest part of your freezer for up to 4-6 weeks. For the best flavor, we recommend that you cook and consume the shrimp within the first month of storage.
Now that you know what to look out for when marinating shrimp, here are some related questions:
How long can you store shrimp marinade?
Shrimp marinades can be stored in the fridge for about 3-4 days at 40°F. You can even freeze the marinade which would increase its storage time to about 2-3 months.
However, most simple shrimp marinades are easy to make and can be prepared within minutes so it’s best to always opt for fresh shrimps and fresh marinades for the best experience.
Can you eat raw but marinated shrimp?
No. You should never consume raw marinated shrimp because even though the acid content in the marinade will render the meat, it will still be unsafe to eat.
Fortunately, cooking shrimp is easy and you can use several different methods to prepare them within minutes.
Can you directly cook pre-marinated frozen shrimp?
Because of their delicate texture, it is always best to first defrost or thaw the shrimp before cooking them.
This will ensure that the shrimps cook evenly without taking extra time and you can also avoid overcooking them when they are thawed.
Also, please make sure that the shrimps spend less than 12 hours in the freezer before cooking.
To thaw them, move the shrimps to the fridge and let them thaw overnight. Alternatively, you can also use the microwave (only with the thaw setting) until the shrimps are adequately defrosted.
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