The next time you buy shrimp, take a closer look at the label and you’ll notice a set of numbers divided by a slash, like this: 21/25. This number, called the “count,” tells you the size of the shrimp. The count refers to the number of individual shrimp in 1 pound. So for instance, when you buy 1 pound of 21/25 count shrimp, you can expect to get 21 to 25 shrimp. The smaller the numbers, the bigger the shrimp. Sometimes on big shrimp you’ll see a count that looks like this: U/15 or U/10. This means there are “under 15” or “under 10” shrimp per pound.
When buying shrimp, the main advantage to using the count is that it’s a reliable, consistent measure. Adjectives that describe the size, like “jumbo” or “large,” aren’t used consistently. It’s not uncommon to find a particular count—say 51/60’s— labeled as “medium” in one store while another store just down the road calls them “small.”
Another potential advantage to ordering shrimp by the count is that you gain instant credibility with the fish seller.
Using the count identifies you as someone “in the know” about seafood, and the next time you approach the counter, he or she might be more inclined to point you to the best choices in the display case or maybe even offer you some of the primo tuna they have stashed in the back cooler for their most discerning customers.