So, you have found some shrimp lying around in your fridge, and you are thinking of making your favorite shrimp recipe. But suddenly, you realize it smells like ammonia, and you have second thoughts.
Or, perhaps you have begun cooking, and you are suddenly hit by a strong whiff of ammonia. Should you go on anyway?
This scenario plays out more often than you would think. Is it safe to eat shrimp when it smells like ammonia? What might cause such a smell in seafood? Let us dive right in!
No, it really doesn’t. Shrimp should not smell like ammonia. It generally should not have any offensive odor.
If you notice that shrimp smells a bit like ammonia, don’t buy it. If you start cooking and begin perceiving ammonia, you should toss the shrimp.
So, what does good shrimp smell like? Fresh shrimp generally doesn’t have any odor. At most, it smells a little salty. Shrimp is meant to smell fresh, much like the sea. If it smells otherwise, it is not safe to buy or consume.
To put it plainly, the ammonia smell in shrimp is an indicator that it has begun to spoil. It is often difficult to notice this smell when the shrimp is frozen. When cooking, though, it is unmistakable.
You might get wind of the smell when fishing around your fridge or after adding the shrimp to your meal. You still shouldn’t ingest it.
The bacteria present in spoiled shrimp are responsible for the smell. And no, cooking doesn’t make them go away. Even if you boil or fry shrimp for long, it will not make it healthier to eat with that smell.
When the smell is light, it means you’re dealing with really old shrimp. A strong ammonia smell in shrimp indicates spoilage.
Let’s say you already ate shrimp that smells like ammonia. What next? Don’t panic; it is possible to digest it without any issues. But it is also possible to get very sick from eating spoiled shrimp.
If you have a pretty sensitive stomach, it may cause food poisoning, and you could get sick. The best thing to do is avoid eating shrimp if it smells (even slightly) like ammonia. If your food smells off, stale or sour, don’t eat it.
Yes, it does. The ammonia smell in shrimp is a sign that the protein in the shrimp has gone through putrefaction. It is one of the easiest ways to tell if shrimp is spoiled. But most times, you may not notice the smell until you start cooking it.
However, the ammonia smell is not the only way to tell if shrimp is spoiled. You can also know when shrimp is rotten if it smells rancid, has black spots, or has a slimy texture.
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Fresh shrimp is not naturally high in ammonia. It is high in protein, though.
The decomposition of those proteins causes the sometimes-overwhelming ammonia smell shrimp might give off. Naturally, it shouldn’t smell like ammonia or contain ammonia.
It might come as a surprise to some to find out that dried shrimp can get spoiled because it’s got a pretty decent shelf life. But it does get spoiled. How can you tell when that happens? Dried shrimp smells pungent when rotten, just like fresh shrimp.
You can also tell if shrimp is unhealthy from how it looks. Dried shrimp should look good and meaty. If it looks pale, too dry, and stale, you are better off not eating it.
Also, your dried shrimp should have a pinkish color. If it is too red, this could indicate the presence of some artificial coloring. You would not want to add that to your meal.
Read also: Do Pickled Eggs Need to Be Refrigerated?
Dried shrimp should smell fresh and similar to seawater. Shrimp should not smell unpleasant, putrid, stale, or offensive. If it smells like that, then it is not safe to eat.
No, it isn’t safe to eat fish that smells like ammonia. Or any seafood that smells like ammonia, for that matter.
If your food smells even slightly off, then it has likely gone bad. Eating it may result in food poisoning. And even if it doesn’t, it is not a good idea to eat anything unhealthy.
Here’s a recap of the article, including some tips for preserving your shrimp to ensure you don’t accidentally eat spoiled shrimp. You should remember this when buying, storing, and eating shrimp.
First, your shrimp should not smell like ammonia. No seafood should smell like ammonia. If it doesn’t smell good, you shouldn’t cook (or eat) it.
Fresh, healthy shrimp should smell like seawater and should look almost transparent. If it has black spots or looks pale or slimy, it likely is unsafe to eat.
If your shrimp has been left out at room temperature for over 2 or three hours, it’s probably no longer safe to use. Bacteria multiply in such temperatures. When stored properly, dried shrimp can last for about 1 or 2 months.
You can tell that dry shrimp is no good from the smell, look and feel. It shouldn’t be too dry, or that would mean it is pretty old.
Also, if you notice a reddish color in your dried shrimp instead of a fresh pink, it means some artificial coloring was added. It might be unhealthy.
If you already ate some spoiled shrimp, try not to panic. In many cases, it digests without many issues. If you end up getting a little sick, you could see a doctor and feel better in no time.
If your shrimp smells and looks great, then you’re good to go. There are tons of great shrimp recipes you could try out. Happy cooking, and stay safe!
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I write about the intersection between evolutionary biology and food. I also talk about practical applications, sustainable agriculture, and general tasty things