A quick and easy guide on how to peel and devein shrimp. This technique is essential for all home cooks wanting to master the crustacean by cleaning and making an attractive butterflied appearance.
Table of Contents
Shrimp is a popular mealtime solution as it cooks fast, and the flavor pairs nicely with various ingredients. There are many different types and sizes of shrimp available at your local grocery store, and in some cases, you can purchase them already cleaned. But if not, you’ve got a little work before you start cooking.
Keeping the digestive tract on, which looks like a black vein running down the back, can be unappealing for most. I remember early on in culinary school. I made the mistake of presenting a shrimp dish to my instructor without cleaning it properly. Let’s just say he wouldn’t even try it. Lesson learned!
Leaving the shell on
Use kitchen shears to cut along the back of the shrimp. Start just below the head and down to the tail. Use your fingers to open the cut area and remove the digestive tract. You can still leave the tail shells on if you prefer, which can intensify the flavors in some dishes.
Removing the shell
Peel the shrimp by flipping it over. Gently start pulling away from the shell, opening from where the legs are located. If keeping the tail on, carefully tear away the outer shell from that junction point.
Remove the tail
Firmly hold the body and pull the entire tail off.
How to devein shrimp
Use a paring knife to make an extended, shallow cut down the length of the shrimp back, stopping at the tail. The vein can sometimes be seen under the muscle to follow as a guide. Pull out the vein with the tip of a toothpick or your fingers.
A quick tip I learned is to place the vein on a folded, wet paper towel on the corner of your cutting board. The vein easily sticks to the dampened paper and won’t mysteriously disappear.
Wash and dry
After cleaning, transfer the shrimp to a colander. Rinse well with cold running water for about 1 minute. Drain thoroughly and dry with paper towels, especially if sauteing shrimp, stir-frying, and roasting where you want the least amount of surface moisture for better browning.
Storing and freezing
Use the cleaned shrimp immediately, place it in a bowl of ice water, or store it in the refrigerator for two days in an airtight container. It can also be stored in a resealable plastic bag, placed in a single layer, and frozen for up to 1 month. Defrost in a colander with cool running water until no longer icy, about 3 to 5 minutes.
Why leave the shell on?
Many chefs like to cook shrimp with the shell on it because it has potent umami flavor compounds called glutamates and nucleotides that absorb into the shrimp as it cooks. It also provides a thin barrier, protecting the shrimp as it’s heated. This is great for roasted shrimp or stir-fry dishes where the crispy shell is eaten.
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How to Peel and Devein Shrimp
- 1 pound shrimp
- Start with a bowl of fresh or defrosted shrimp.
- Peel the shrimp by flipping it over. Gently start pulling away from the shell, opening from where the legs are located. If keeping the tail on, make sure to carefully tear away the shell from that junction point.
- If you want to remove the tail, firmly hold the body and pull the entire tail off.
- Use a paring knife to make a long shallow cut down the length of the shrimps back, stopping at the tail.
- Completely remove the digestive tract using your fingers, or a toothpick comes in handy for this task.
- After cleaning, transfer the shrimp to a colander. Rinse well with cool running water for about 1 minute. Drain thoroughly and dry the shrimp with paper towels.
Percent Daily Values are based on a 2000-calorie diet. All nutritional information is based on estimated third-party calculations. Each recipe and nutritional value will vary depending on the brands you use, measuring methods, and portion sizes per household.
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