Note: I can't actually cook, I am just trying to learn to roughly assemble and heat things. Explain things to me like I know nothing.

A few weeks ago I decided to try out cooking some shrimp for myself. I planned to start off simple: cut out the veins, boil, and panfry. So, I bought a few meals' worth of shrimp and froze them. Over the last few weeks I've defrosted the portions and tried cooking them as planned.

Every time I noticed a foul fishy odor in the defrosted shrimp that made me gag. When I cooked it, I learned that it did not go away like the lighter ocean smell of fish. Overseasoning could not make the smell or taste go away. I have noticed this in some cod before, but it wasn't nearly as consistent as this batch of shrimp.

What on earth is that smell? Did the shrimp go bad? If it did, was it bad when I bought it or because I froze it? If not, what should I have done to get rid of that foul odor?

  • 3
    Assembling and heating things is cooking @BatWannaBe. Boiling shrimp is pointless, they pan fry in a couple of minutes.
    – GdD
    Commented Aug 10, 2020 at 7:39
  • Are you removing the heads prior to freezing?
    – Sculper
    Commented Aug 10, 2020 at 23:14

3 Answers 3


Shrimp, but also seafood in general, should not have a strong smell. You should be able to smell a faint salt water scent from them when not frozen, and basically nothing while they're frozen. If they're smelling a lot, that's a sign they may have gone bad.

It's impossible to say exactly what went wrong with them. If it didn't smell when you bought them and froze them, my best guess is that you defrosted them in an unsafe way. Always defrost in the fridge or under running cool water. Never leave them out on the counter (especially not over night).

I will also point out that your cooking method seems like a bit of overkill. It's very easy to overcook shrimp and have them end up rubbery. Just pan frying is perfectly sufficient. There is not need to boil them first. Overcooking can cause a strong fishy smell in seafood as well.

  • I always defrost in the fridge, and I'll skip the boiling next time
    – BatWannaBe
    Commented Aug 11, 2020 at 4:33

No. Lots of well-meaning answers here, but nobody has given the "bullseye" answer. If frozen seafood smells "fishy" once it's defrosted and cooked, it means that it has not been properly shipped. Usually, a fishy smell means that the frozen seafood has defrosted and been re-frozen. Not good. And certainly NOT the taste you are paying for.

If you get seafood like this, take the food back to the store you bought it from and get a full refund. After a while, they will catch on and pay more attention to what they sell you!

  • sounds like OP bought the shrimp fresh and then froze them (" I bought a few meals' worth of shrimp and froze them"), so if they did not notice the smell beforehand then this is not the problem.
    – Esther
    Commented Sep 21, 2022 at 14:46
  • The OP does not have a lot of experience dealing with food handling. In the post she clearly states that she bought the shrimp and then re-froze portions for later. Personally I would never freeze seafood that was already thawed as it most often comes to the market frozen. The OP would have been better off purchasing already frozen shrimp and portion it that way as to ensure freshness.
    – haakon.io
    Commented Sep 25, 2022 at 22:37

Are you cleaning out the head, veins and then freezing?

I typically take off the head, thoroughly clean and then freeze for later use. The heads go into a boil for other uses!

  • I do not do those things before freezing, I do those things after defrosting. Does that result in this odor, and can you explain why?
    – BatWannaBe
    Commented Aug 11, 2020 at 4:34
  • @BatWannaBe You shouldn't need to devein before freezing, but you should definitely remove the heads. Shrimp (and some other shellfish) heads contain an enzyme that will rot the rest of the meat pretty quickly, regardless of whether or not they're frozen.
    – Sculper
    Commented Aug 11, 2020 at 18:17
  • Yes, @Sculper is correct about the heads, I just prefer to get my hands messy once and then have cleaned shrimp on hand :)
    – user87092
    Commented Aug 13, 2020 at 10:16

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