OK, you caught a bucket of shrimp and you have gone through the effort of cleaning all of them in preparation for freezing. You think a few of them are 'monsters' and some others are 'beasts' or 'gargantuan.' Some are 'griller's,' a lot are 'Alfredo' shrimp and a few are 'salad' shrimp. What does all that mean?
To me, if I caught a monster, I'd start questioning whether the water was contaminated. Gargantuan is a little obscure and I have a very wide latitude when it comes to what I will put on a grill. I love to throw some pretty decent size shrimp into my salads and pasta Alfredo too.
When it comes down to sharing our stories and reporting on our catches, we need to have a standard so that when we are all talking about the size and number of shrimp we caught, we are all on the same page. Measuring them with a ruler only works so far. What if the shrimp is thin but long? It is a long shrimp but nothing compared to a deep sea prawn.
To help us all, I am posting the shrimping industry standard terminology and sizes so that we are all using the same language.
Shrimp is sold by size. Shrimp sizes are expressed in counts per pound or per kilogram. For example, 16/20 means 16 to 20 shrimp per pound. Larger sizes are designated by the term under or abbreviated as U or UN. These are expressed as U/10, for example. Other large sizes are U/12 and U/l5 (also referred to as 13/15 for some origins of shrimp). The smaller the count, the larger the size of the shrimp, and generally, the higher the price. Small sizes of shrimp, like cold water cooked and peeled, will have counts ranging from 150/250, 250/300, etc. When purchasing shrimp, getting an accurate count is very important. After all, you want to know exactly what you are purchasing. The count should fall within the range stated on the label.
Sizes are usually expressed as names instead of numbers among the shrimping community i.e. Jumbo, Large, and Medium. Although names are widely used, there is no official guideline on what those names signify. If a name is used, particularly at retail, it must be accompanied by the number of shrimp per pound, i.e., the count. The number system is most accurate. In the below chart, we have labeled these number systems with their corresponding names. To maintain consistency, only utilize these names if they match their corresponding number of shrimp per pound.
Please keep in mind that counts are different when they are applied to peeled and/or cooked shrimp. The term finished count refers to the actual number of peeled shrimp per pound in the package. Another term, peeled from count, refers to the count per pound of the shrimp prior to peeling. If you are storing your shrimp after you have already peeled and de-headed them, make sure you note this on the container.
Consistency in count is another important consideration. No matter how shrimp are counted, they should be uniform in size. In other words, the shrimp within a box or bag should be similarly sized within the stated range. To determine the uniformity ratio (UR) of a pack, visually select and weigh not more than 10 percent (by count) of the largest and 10 percent of the smallest shrimp. The chosen samples should be undamaged. Then calculate the UR by dividing the weight of the largest by the weight of the smallest.
UR = Weight of 10 percent (By Count) of the Largest Shrimp / Weight of 10 Percent (by count) of the Smallest Shrimp
The lower the ratio, the more uniform the count. If all the shrimp are exactly the same size, the UR will be 1.0. Given that this ratio is impractical, ratios of 1.25 to 1.75 are more commonly encountered.
There are packs on the market in which sizes vary greatly. While the quality of the shrimp may be good, the random counts may not suit the needs of every operation where uniformity is important. These packs are sometimes referred to as boat run. However, a more recent industry practice calls them blended sizes. In these instances, the counts may be 40/60 or 50/80. The uniformity ratio obviously doesn't apply to this pack.
Labeling Your Shrimp
Based on the above information, you can pretty easily determine how to label your shrimp by size. While you won't need to put a pound of shrimp into a single freezer container, you should do yourself the favor of labeling them properly so that you know what they are when it comes time to eat them. Once you have figured out what kind of shrimp you have, you can write that you have X dozen of Large and X dozen of Jumbo in one bag and X dozen of Small in another.
If you feel like storing your shrimp in bulk five pound containers for large events like picnics or barbecues, utilize the uniformity ratio for bags of mixed shrimp. It can really come in handy when you are deciding whether to bring the grill or the pasta salad mix. If you don't, you just might end up eating sushi!