How to Peel and Devein Shrimp

Peeling and Deveining Shrimp Guide

Shrimp stands as one of the most delicious seafood options out there, a fact that is supported by the more than one billion pounds of it that Americans eat annually. Yet, despite its popularity to the point of making up a quarter of the seafood consumed in the US, not everyone knows how to handle the tasty piece of protein.

While it is easy to find peeled and deveined shrimp, it is worth knowing how to do it yourself. After all, some of the tastiest shrimp are cooked with the shell on, so knowing how to handle it at home is a valuable skill. The goal of this article is to introduce you to peeling, deveining, and everything else needed to prepare delicious shrimp.

The Shell of a Shrimp

While you might see the shell as an obstacle, and a time-consuming one at that, it is actually an important part of the shrimp when it comes to cooking. The shell adds a lot of flavor, and even the heads can be used in dishes to punch things up a notch or two. So, while you can get shrimp that has been shelled, it is not always the best choice.

If you decide to buy shrimp with the shell still on, whether it be to save a little money or add more flavor to your shrimp, then you need to know a few things. The first is the preparation options you have when buying shrimp. The second is how to actually peel the shells off, which depends on both the preparation and how you are using them.

The Types of Preparations

When you buy shrimp at a market, you are likely to see several preparations, and most of these have some impact on the shell and what the process of deshelling involves. It is important to understand what you should get and how it impacts the process of shelling your shrimp. Here are some of the preparations that you will find:

  • Shell-on Shrimp: This type of shrimp has it all, with the entire shell being on the shrimp and untouched. They might also have the heads on, though removing the heads is a simple process and does not affect shelling much. These will take the longest to shell, and they likely still have the vein. They are also cheaper.

  • Easy-peel Shrimp: If you buy easy-peel shrimp, you will find half the work already being done. If you still want to use the shell for added flavor but do not want to have to do the peeling and deveining, this is a great choice. However, you can expect to pay more, and you might be able to do it better.

  • Peeled Shrimp: You can also buy the final product, which is peeled and deveined shrimp. It takes all the work out of the process, but it will cost more than the other options. It also means that you lose out on the additional flavor from the shells, which is a real shame. Plus, they are not always peeled well.

  • If you are the type of person who wants to get the most out of your ingredients, then you should definitely get shrimp with the shell still on. Even if you end up removing the shell before cooking the shrimp, you can use it in other parts of a recipe to infuse flavor. Moreover, the process of shelling and deveining is not as difficult as you might think.

    Peeling Shrimp

    Peeling shrimp is not a difficult task, even if it is a bit tedious. However, there are some things that you can keep in mind to make the process easier and keep shrimp fresh while you peel them.

    • If the shrimp you use are frozen, soak them in saltwater before peeling
    • Put shrimp in ice water to keep them fresh during the peeling process
    • Take your time to avoid damaging the shrimp while peeling

    One of the reasons to peel shrimp yourself is to keep them looking pristine. You have control over the process, so you can make sure it is done right. Additionally, you get to use the shells, adding more flavor and being able to peel them whenever you want.

    The Steps for Peeling Shrimp

    Now that a few tips have been mentioned, it is time to get down to it. Fortunately, peeling shrimp does not have many steps, with the task primarily being time-consuming. Follow these steps for peeling shrimp, and you will find it a very manageable task:

  • Prep: You want to start by rinsing the shrimp in water to get them clean. After that, if the heads are still on, you can easily remove them with a gentle pull. Additionally, if you have easy-peel shrimp or end up deveining your shrimp while leaving the shell on, you should gently ensure that the open area is clean.

  • Focus on the Legs: There are two ways you can go about this. The first is to hold the shrimp firmly and pull off the legs directly. You also have the option of removing the legs and shell simultaneously. To remove them together, peel the sides with your thumbs before plucking away the remaining legs.

  • Peel: The final step is the easiest, but you should still be careful not to damage the shrimp. Peel away the shell that should now be loose and discard it. If you want to remove the tail as well, this is a great time to do it. As you remove the tail, the shell will follow.

  • It really is that easy. The only things you really need are patience and time. After you do that, you can focus on deveining if necessary. That being said, there are times when the shell does not come off so easily.

    Common Causes of Hard-to-Peel Shrimp

    Shrimp does not always peel as easily as you want it to, making what should be a relatively easy task into something excruciating. However, there are a few reasons that are quite common that you should keep in mind:

  • Improper Defrosting: If you buy frozen shrimp or the “fresh” shrimp at a market that was previously frozen, then you have to be careful about defrosting. The temperature of the shrimp often makes them soft, which can cause the peeling process to be a pain. You might even end up damaging your precious protein.

  • Overcooking: Overcooking shrimp is common. It cooks quickly, so even an experienced cook can make a mistake and overcook it. If that happens, the shell is more likely to get stuck to the shrimp, requiring more effort and care to peel.

  • Extreme Freshness: Surprisingly, extremely fresh shrimp can also be difficult to peel. While it will not apply to most people, if you are peeling shrimp that has been out of the water for a very short amount of time, then you should expect it to be difficult.

  • Of course, shrimp can simply be hard to peel at times. There are various reasons, and while it will likely be one of the above, you might just need to struggle a bit.

    Dealing With Hard-to-Peel Shrimp

    While peeling shrimp can be difficult at times, there are a few ways to make things easier on yourself. If you are having a hard time peeling the shrimp, consider trying one of these methods:

  • Submerge In Cold Water: Sometimes, all it takes is cold water to help you pry the shell away from the shrimp. However, you might need to leave the shrimp submerged for a while, which can impact the flavor and put you behind schedule. You would mainly do this to overcooked shrimp.

  • Use a Colander: If you are dealing with frozen shrimp and have ample time, you can try using a colander and sitting them in the fridge overnight. The fridge will allow the shrimp to defrost slowly, and the colander will let the water drip out and away from the shrimp. Just make sure to put a towel or another bowl underneath.

  • These might not be the only methods, but they are good things to try when you are having trouble. Additionally, make sure you do not let your shrimp remain too hot after you stop cooking them, or they could overcook and become difficult.

    Deveining Shrimp

    Somewhere along the way, you are going to want to devein your shrimp. The vein is the digestive tract of the shrimp, and although it will not harm you, it is not something that you want to eat. Moreover, it can affect the taste of your shrimp. Luckily, it is another simple task that sounds more complicated than it is.

    The Way to Devein a Shrimp

    Deveining is an important step if you want the absolute best shrimp. Since it can contain sand, amongst other things, you want to make sure you do away with it entirely. You can accomplish deveining with two simple steps:

  • Reveal the Vein: Take a small knife and cut down the back of the shrimp. The cut should be shallow, only going deep enough to expose the vein.

  • Remove the Vein: Once it is revealed, all you have to do is remove the vein. It is a process that is as simple as pulling it out, which can be accomplished with your finger. If you want a more delicate touch, use something such as a knife or toothpick.

  • In truth, deveining is not a mandatory step. There are plenty of instances where the vein is not removed since it is not harmful in any way. In fact, some cooks will not remove the veins of smaller shrimp unless it seems necessary.

    That being said, with deveining being so easy, there is no reason to avoid it. You can even buy a deveining tool that makes quick work of the shell and vein in a single step. Though, things get slightly more troublesome if you decide to devein shrimp while leaving the shells on.

    Deveining Shrimp With the Shell On

    Easy-peel shrimp are the result of deveining while leaving on the shell. It is a piece of shrimp that has a shell that has been cut down the center. Essentially, it is the exact same process as the one detailed above but with the addition of cutting through the shell. While it takes more effort, it is not any more difficult.

    There is one thing that is worth mentioning, though. If you want to keep the shell on but devein shrimp, then you will likely want to avoid a deveining tool. While there are various tools out there, deveining tools often remove the shell and vein simultaneously. Therefore, get your knife ready and prepare to make some precise incisions.

    Consider Sun Shrimp to Practice Your Craft

    There are a lot of options for shrimp out there, with some of the most convenient being the local fish market or grocery store. However, few options are able to compete with Sun Shrimp when it comes to freshness and convenience.

    Sun Shrimp provides incredibly tasty shrimp, but that is not the only reason that you should consider them. They also provide a variety of shrimp, including:

    • Whole Sun Shrimp
    • Sun Shrimp Tails
    • Peeled and Deveined Sun Shrimp

    Therefore, whether you want to practice your skills or skip it all entirely, they have what you need. Moreover, since the shrimp sold by Sun Shrimp is either large or jumbo, you do not have to worry about the shrimp being small and difficult to work with. It is the perfect size.

    Additionally, Sun Shrimp has unique packaging that eliminates mess and odor, with the vacuum skin packaging both reducing the effort you have to put in and protecting the shrimp from potential damage.

    Even the shipping is special. Unlike most of the shrimp you will find, Sun Shrimp is truly fresh. In fact, they ship their shrimp hours after it is harvested, meaning you do not have to guess how long it has been frozen. The shipping can even be expedited, so there is no reason not to give Sun Shrimp a shot today!

    Related Posts:

    How to Cook With Fresh Shrimp

    Shrimp Buying Guide

    Older Post Newer Post