How to Peel and Devein Shrimp

How-to guide with step-by-step instructions and photos on how to peel and devein shrimp.

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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Comments

  1. TexanNewYorker (Kyleen)

    Very helpful. This is a technique already in my arsenal of cooking skills, but I appreciate that you often take the time to explain things like this that other chefs/cookbook authors/bloggers tend to take for granted as “common knowledge”.

  2. pablopabla@gmail

    Yes, this is how I usually do it. To get rid of the “smelly” hands after doing this deveining job, wash your hands in a bowl of water (tea would be better) with a couple of slices of lemon in it.

  3. Bay119

    I just finished peeling a pound of large shrimp and I’m happy to say, I did it correctly before reading the instructions…but then again, I have been peeling shrimp for many,many years. What I’d like to know, is it necessary to remove the underside vein? I notice that it can be darker, or dirtier than the one atop the back. Anyone?

  4. Mark - Sacramento

    I find the kitchen shear method to be much faster, even if you are planning to remove the shells. And, as you say, there is quite a bit of flavor in the shells. Particularly when grilling or broiling, leaving the shells on also helps to prevent overcooking.

  5. JimG

    Professional deveiners (and I) use a $2 tool called a shrimper. My Publix butcher showed me how to use it. It is essentially a curved plastic skewer with a handle that makes quick work of deveining. You insert the deveining tool into the center of the shrimp where the vein is and then simply “open” the back of the shrimp including shell (the movement is sort of like opening a pair of pliers with both hands). The vein comes out as the flesh opens and the balance of the shell slides off the other side. Go to a shop that will offer to devein shrimp for you and watch a pro in action. They (and you) can do ten in the time it take to do two the old fashion way

  6. Ryan Ashmore

    As you say, I find it best (depending on application) to devein and then cook the shrimp in the shell for best flavor. I was surprised to find I can tell a difference, but if you try it both ways it is obvious!

    Don’t forget to save the shells for yummy shrimp stock.

  7. Elise

    Hi Ryan, Whenever I can I cook the shrimp in their shells for the very reason you mentioned – better flavor. But sometimes, depending on the recipe, you need to remove the shells.

  8. marie

    Hey Bay119, I totally agree! What do you do with that underside vein!? I did a google search about the need to remove the underside vein and most people apparantely ignore it or that vein is supposed to be so superficial that it’s come off on it’s own. This link talks about removing both veins, but the removal of the underside one is just a consequence of removing the “sand vein”.
    http://video.about.com/japanesefood/How-to-Devein-Shrimp.htm
    If I can see it, I remove it.

  9. Mario

    Thank you for having this helpful item on the Internet. I never grew up with seafood and what not, so this really helped me out when I wanted to go down that road.

    Thank you so very much.

    Hello Mario, you are very welcome. ~Elise

  10. 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

  11. 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.

  12. 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.

  13. 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.