Why Does Shrimp Smell So Bad and What Can You Do About It

You love all sorts of shrimp dishes. But you hate making them from scratch because raw shrimp can stink up your hands and the kitchen, too. Out of curiosity, you may be wondering why shrimp smells that way.

Shrimp has an ocean smell because of trimethylamine, which is an organic compound present in most seafood. The amount of trimethylamine increases exponentially, making shrimp smell even more the longer it’s stored raw. If shrimp has a strong fishy or ammonia smell, then it may no longer be good.

About to buy some raw shrimp for a special occasion or just because? Read on.

I will share with you some tips and tricks on removing the characteristic smell of shrimp effectively. But first, let’s answer the following pressing question to save yourself and your loved ones from having food poisoning…

shrimp smell

What Does Bad Shrimp Smell Like?

Bad shrimp that’s no longer fit for consumption smells like fish or ammonia when in fact it should possess a mild salty odor like the ocean. Besides the smell. The shell can also tell whether or not shrimp is still in a good condition — shrimp should be disposed of if the shell is already wrinkly, dull and discolored.

Although it’s true that most shrimp live in saltwater just like the majority of fish, it doesn’t necessarily mean that the curled crustaceans should have a fishy smell just like their gilled neighbors.

If truth be told, the smell of shrimp is more similar to an ocean’s.

The unmistakable smell, however, tends to become stronger the longer shrimp is out of the water.

When the seafood is caught and dies, its trimethylamine, which is responsible for its smell, begins to multiply. But there are a couple of ways to slow down the multiplication of trimethylamine:

  • By rinsing the surface of shrimp with tap water
  • By treating shrimp with an acidic ingredient such as lemon juice

While it’s okay for shrimp to smell like the ocean, it smelling like fish isn’t.

Be wary if the fresh shrimp you are about to add to your shopping cart already smells like fish or ammonia or is simply off — chances are it’s no longer fresh and may be harboring microorganisms that can cause food poisoning.

Like other seafood, shrimp can quickly go bad, especially if handled or stored improperly.

Other than the way it smells, the appearance of shrimp can also reveal if you should proceed with preparing it or tossing it in the garbage bin.

If the shell seems no longer attached to the flesh and it looks wrinkly, spotted and dull, you should refrain from using the seafood for making the delectable shrimp dish you have in mind.

By the way, the best time to observe the smell and appearance of shrimp to check whether or not the seafood is still in good condition is when it’s completely thawed — just in case it’s stored in the freezer.

How Do You Keep Shrimp From Smelling?

Keeping raw shrimp from smelling starts with removing the shell and deveining the seafood. Sprinkling some salt on shrimp and rinsing it afterward can help in reducing its smell. Also effective is treating shrimp with vinegar or lemon juice and thoroughly rinsing it to remove any acidic taste that can affect the dish.

fresh shrimp

Just because you love the way shrimp tastes doesn’t necessarily mean you also love its smell when raw.

Although it’s true that, as mentioned earlier, shrimp is supposed to smell like the ocean instead of fish, it can still make your kitchen and hands and everything it touches smell horrid.

But worry not because getting rid of the smell of shrimp is easier than you think.

Of course, it will require you to get your hands on them but there’s no need to panic as I, in a few, have some excellent tips and tricks on getting rid of the unmistakable smell of shrimp from your hands — so don’t stop reading now!

Without any more ado, here are the steps on how you can stop raw shrimp from smelling:

  • Remove the shell of shrimp.
  • Devein shrimp.
  • Place shrimp in a colander.
  • Sprinkle a teaspoon of salt on shrimp.
  • Stir shrimp and wait for a minute.
  • Rinse shrimp under cold running water.
  • Repeat 2 to 3 times.

Before introducing raw shrimp into the kitchen, open all windows and switch on the overhead exhaust.

Once the preparation and cooking part is over, you may leave a bowl of vinegar or baking soda somewhere in the kitchen to deodorize the area.

Some people leave a bowl of charcoal or coffee grounds instead.

On the other hand, to remove the smell of shrimp on surfaces and cooking utensils, wipe off with potato with salt or vinegar with salt.

Stored shrimp in the freezer beforehand? Place an opened box of baking soda in it.

shrimp smell from hands

Removing Shrimp Smell From Your Hands

One of the best ways to rid the hands of the unmistakable smell of shrimp is by rubbing them with kitchen items containing mild acids. Some common examples include vinegar, ketchup and lemon juice. Baking soda and toothpaste are also proven effective in removing shrimp smell from the hands.

It’s not just shrimp that trimethylamine can cause to smell. The said organic compound present in the seafood can also make just about anything that touches shrimp smell.

Needless to say, peeling and deveining raw shrimp can make your hand smell.

Frustrated that washing your hands with soap and water doesn’t seem to do the trick? Fret not. That’s because there are a variety of ways to get rid of the smell of shrimp from your hands, some of which work better than the rest.

Here are some of the most effective ones that you may give a try:

1. Rub vinegar on your hands

Nothing can break down trimethylamine faster than vinegar because of its acidic properties. Many swear by the addition of equal parts of salt to vinegar in making that shrimp smell go away ASAP.

2. Use ketchup instead

Due to the fact that vinegar is an ingredient found in ketchup, not to mention that it has salt, too, rubbing ketchup on your hands for a few minutes and then rinsing it off with water works wonderfully.

3. Or give mayonnaise a go

Just like ketchup, mayonnaise contains vinegar. It goes without saying that massaging a little mayonnaise on your hands is very good for removing shrimp smell. Oil in mayonnaise also helps lock in skin moisture.

4. Lather hands in lemon juice

It’s no secret that lemon juice is acidic, which makes it an excellent deodorizer for hands smelling of shrimp. To boost the deodorizing properties of lemon juice, mix it with a little vinegar.

5. Try a little toothpaste

Other than improving your smile, toothpaste can also improve the smell of your hands after handling shrimp — simply rub toothpaste on your hands for a few minutes and then rinse off very well.

6. Let coffee grounds do the job

Whether used or unused, coffee grounds are very good at removing any unwanted shrimp smell on your hands. As a bonus, the exfoliating properties of coffee grounds remove dead skin cells.

Related Questions

Does frozen shrimp smell?

Frozen shrimp or any other seafood or food item is not supposed to smell anything. That’s because colder temperatures inhibit the release of volatile smell molecules, thus keeping your nose from picking up any odor.

That is why shrimp and other items should be thawed beforehand to inspect their smell and freshness.

Does freezing damage shrimp?

While freezing can extend the shelf life of shrimp to up to a year, it could damage it and reduce the quality. To keep shrimp in optimal condition, remove the head and leave the shell intact before freezing.

The seafood should also be rinsed and drained thoroughly beforehand. It’s best to use frozen shrimp within 3 months.

Read Next: How to Properly Eat Frozen Shrimp

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