Like all seafood, shrimp naturally contains bacterium that you must cook to destroy, and even after the shrimp is cooked, bacteria is still an issue. Left too long at room temperature, any bacteria that cooking did not destroy begins to multiply again. When this happens, cooked shrimp stays good for only a short period of time before bacteria growth rises to levels that can make you sick if you eat it.
Shrimp stays good for only two hours after it's cooked and served. On the serving tray in temperatures of 40 degrees Fahrenheit or above, the cooked shrimp begins to fall victim to dangerous bacterial growth when two hours have passed. After this time, the cooked shrimp cannot be refrigerated, frozen or eaten; you must throw it away. In temperatures of 90 degrees Fahrenheit and above, the cooked shrimp lasts only an hour.
How Long Can Cooked Shrimp Stay Refrigerated?
Refrigeration increases the shelf life of cooked shrimp by several days. For optimal short term storage, refrigerate shrimp within two hours of cooking, and within one hour of cooking if the temperatures reach higher than the 90 Fahrenheit mark. Cooked shrimp that is properly cooked, cooled and stored will keep for three to four days. Place the cooked shrimp in a plastic storage bag or wrap it tightly in plastic wrap or aluminum foil before popping it in the refrigerator. Provided the lid is secured tightly, plastic storage containers also keep cooked shrimp fresh in the refrigerator without allowing the aromatics of the shrimp to penetrate and flavor other foods in the fridge that absorb smells.
Freezing is an excellent long term storage alternative to refrigeration if you think you may not get around to eating the cooked shrimp within three to four days. Be sure to wrap the shrimp in freezer-safe plastic wrap before placing the shrimp in at least one self-sealing plastic bag in the freezer to prevent freezer burn. This will help to maintain the quality of the frozen shrimp for a longer period of time.
Freezing keeps the cooked shrimp safe to eat for an indefinite period of time, but safe does not always mean palatable. Although freezing renders bacteria inactive, making safety a non-issue, quality begins to diminish after six months. When this happens, the taste and texture of the cooked shrimp begin to change, often meaning the shrimp will be less flavorful and tough to cut and chew.
Thawing Cooked Shrimp
Safe thawing ensures that you do not become sick from inactive bacteria that become active again when the internal temperature of the cooked shrimp rises above 40 degrees Fahrenheit. To thaw frozen shrimp, transfer cooked shrimp from the freezer to the refrigerator the night before. This gives the cooked shrimp time to safely thaw before cooking and eating. In a pinch, thaw in the microwave or in hot water, reheating immediately afterward. An internal temperature of 145 degrees Fahrenheit, measured with a meat thermometer, renders the cooked shrimp safe enough to eat without risking any concerns from active bacteria in undercooked shrimp.