How to Peel and Devein Shrimp

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My friends Becca (Biloxi, Mississippi) and Carole (“Nawlins”, Louisiana) are probably scratching their heads reading this (“What? You need to show people how to peel a shrimp?”) But if you, like me, did not grow up on the Bayou or in some other land of shrimp bounty, you, like me, might be scratching your head wondering how to unsheathe your tasty shrimpies from their shells upon your first encounter with them. Here’s the technique Becca taught me (thank you m’dear). She also informed me that the best shrimp are from the Gulf of Mexico by the way, and that you should always buy them in the shell.

How to Peel and Devein Shrimp

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Note: Shrimp need to be kept cold. While you are working with them, keep them in on ice, or in ice water. See this link about seafood safety.

Method

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1 Pull off the head (if it is still attached) and legs.

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2 Starting with the head end, pull off the outer shell. Depending on how you intend to present the shrimp, you can keep the last segment of shell and the tail tip on, for decorative purposes. Place shells in a plastic bag, securely close, and either discard or freeze for making shellfish stock.

Alternatively, you can leave the shell on and use a pair of kitchen scissors to cut along the outer edge of the shrimp's back, cutting the shell so you can get to the vein. The shells hold a lot of flavor, so there is something to be said for cooking shrimp with their shells on.

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3 Using a small paring knife, cut along the outer edge of the shrimp's back, about 1/4-inch deep.

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4 If you can see it, remove and discard the vein the runs along right under the surface of the back, with your fingers or the tip of your knife. If you can't see the vein, don't bother with it.

Return the peeled and deveined shrimp to your bowl of ice or ice water until you are ready to cook.

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Showing 4 of 20 Comments

  • Dana

    Thanks for all the info here,from a very recent widower. Much appreciated. There are so many terms about cooking that I don’t understand. Thanks for all this helpful info. :)

  • Carolyn

    I was raised in Idaho on steak and potatoes (and oddities like whipped cream salad (whipped cream plus a can of fruit cocktail)). I hadn’t even sampled shrimp until a few years ago (and I’m 48). Once I discovered that I really like peel-and-eat, I decided to dip my big toe into the waters of cooking my own. This is getting lengthy. What it boils down to is that I really appreciate your how-to on dealing with shrimp. I refer to it each time I plunk my big toe back into the water.

  • Jeff

    IMO the most important part of preparing shrimp is something you forgot to mention. Which is to cut off the very sharp tip on the tail of the shrimp.

  • Vicky

    Using a toothpick and just stabbing into the base of the neck and pulling up away from the spine works decently well. It’s a little messy and possibly somewhat disgusting, but it’s hands on, and it’s the way my mother does it.

  • Errol

    To remove the smell of seafood, onions or garlic from the hands simply pour about a teaspoon of salt into the into your hands, wash with the salt and then rinse your hands…no more smell.

    Thanks for the tip! ~Elise

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