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.



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


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.


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


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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  • 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. :)

    • Elise

      You’re welcome Dana! Cooking is not that hard once you understand the terms and get a little practice. Good luck!

  • 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

  • M. Lopez

    This was so helpful, Thank you for positng this informative “how to” article for people who do not know how to clean shrimp.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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

  • 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.

  • 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?

  • [email protected]

    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.

  • Ryan

    I recently found this method for deveining shrimp. It’s WAY easier than splitting the shrimp down the back:

    You just stick a bamboo skewer (or a toothpick) about 1/8″ into the shrimps back, and pull out the vein.

    This is easy, plus it leaves the shrimp intact!

  • Garrett

    Very handy, I love all of your guides and tutorials.