I cannot figure out how shrimp works, can somebody please explain it to me? The Wikipedia is useless, it just says there are hundreds of species, and "five" commercial species (with no pictures) none of which sounds like anything I have been eating.

The background here is that I was happily buying frozen shrimp at my supermarket to make shrimp cocktail, and a couple of months ago the type I usually bought was gone and in its place was a strange looking shrimp, large and gray, not the usual red. So, I said, "fine, i'll try it". So I try the new shrimp and it is disgusting. I throw out the whole bag. Then a few weeks ago I am in a restaurant and THE SAME EXACT THING HAPPENS. I order shrimp cocktail and they serve me the same big, disgusting gray shrimp. What the hell??? Is this some kind of conspiracy?

Anyway, when I think of shrimp, this is what I expect:

enter image description here

As you can see it is reddish. Looks kind of like a mini lobster. Each shrimp is usually about 3 inches long. Now, the nasty gray shrimp looks like this:

enter image description here

As you can see it is fatter and gray. It is about 4+ inches long. From what I can tell, I think this gray crap is so-called "Pacific White Shrimp" or "whiteleg shrimp", a farmed species, Litopenaeus vannamei. However, I cannot figure out what the good shrimp is.

Also, from what I read, "processed shrimp" does not have to be identified, so apparently producers can just bag up any one of the 150 different species of shrimp and call it whatever they want. How am I supposed to figure out what is what?

(Note, this question is about cocktail shrimp, not the small 1-inch salad shrimps they fish down in Louisiana. Also, I am not asking about giant 5-inch prawns, I am asking about 3-inch cocktail shrimp.)

  • 6
    I'm slightly confused... all shrimp, when cooked, are pink, not grey. How did you know that you got the grey ones at the restaurant? You don't mention cooking the shrimp in your question - did you? They are usually steamed or boiled.
    – Catija
    Commented Sep 17, 2018 at 18:30
  • 4
    While the shrimp in the bottom picture look like they may be larger, they too would be more curled if they were cooked.
    – Cindy
    Commented Sep 17, 2018 at 19:09
  • 5
    it really looks like you're mixing up raw and cooked shrimp. I've never seen grey shrimp served anywhere, in which part of the world are you?
    – Luciano
    Commented Sep 18, 2018 at 10:17
  • 5
    I'm going to put this on hold pending clarifications, especially whether there's a raw vs cooked issue here as a few have noted, but also your goals. Do you actually want to know about species of shrimp? or just how to get shrimp you like? and what do you mean by good/bad shrimp? "Nasty" isn't very specific. Finally, I'd suggest pruning as much as possible of the rant/story parts, and focusing on the parts people need to answer. You'll get better answers if you're not asking about conspiracies.
    – Cascabel
    Commented Sep 18, 2018 at 23:06
  • 3
    @Cindy Edit rolled back, cancelling upvote and re-open!
    – Fabby
    Commented Sep 19, 2018 at 18:12

1 Answer 1


From your photos, the "disgusting grey" shrimp are raw and should be cooked before using in shrimp cocktail. I assume that the shrimp you used to buy were pre-cooked, peeled, tail-on.

  • I will research that by going back to the supermarket and check if they say "raw" shrimp. I am pretty sure they were cooked. Commented Sep 17, 2018 at 18:46
  • You can't really expect us to provide the exact species from already cooked shrimp. Perhaps from uncooked shrimp, but still not likely. There are just too many.
    – Cindy
    Commented Sep 17, 2018 at 21:54
  • 10
    This answer is completely right @DrisheenColcannon, if they are grey they are raw, pink they are cooked and there are no exceptions to this. If pink shrimp was being sold as raw it's simply mislabeled.
    – GdD
    Commented Sep 18, 2018 at 7:47

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.