How to Peel and Devein Shrimp

July 25, 2013

Inspired by conversations on the Food52 Hotline, we're sharing tips and tricks that make navigating all of our kitchens easier and more fun.

Today: Why you should peel and devein your own shrimp -- and the fastest, easiest way to do so.

Roasted Radicchio and Shrimp Salad from Food52

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Some kitchen tasks -- like peeling fava beans, or shelling peas, or whisking cream to a stiff peak -- are fun, rewarding, therapeutic.

We're not going to pretend that peeling and deveining shrimp fall into this category.

Sure, you can buy your shrimp already-peeled and deveined, but we're the kind of cooks that aren't scared away by the nitty-gritty of our ingredients. (Plus, the pre-prepped shrimp are more expensive anyway.) The vein won't kill you, but the stuff inside -- waste, to put it nicely -- is best avoided. Here are the best ways to peel and devein your shrimp -- because while some kitchen tasks aren't always fun, the result is far more rewarding. (Save the shells for stock, and you'll feel even better.)

Starting at the head end of the shrimp, peel away the legs and shell from the shrimp.

Peeling shrimp from Food52 

If you’d like to leave the tail on, go ahead. If you want to remove it, snap through the shell and gently pull the meat from it.

Tailing shrimp from Food52

Using a paring knife, cut along the middle of the shrimp’s back to reveal the vein.

Vein in shrimp from Food52 Deveining shrimp from Food52

Then use the knife to peel out the vein.

Deveining shrimp from FOod52

Rinse and dry the shrimp, and you’re ready to go!

Do you have any tricks for peeling and deveining shrimp? Let us know in the comments!

See what other Food52 readers are saying.

  • Sharon
  • nallat
  • Simone Nugent
    Simone Nugent
  • jared
  • drbabs
Brette Warshaw

Written by: Brette Warshaw

I'm a reader, eater, culinary thrill-seeker, and food nerd.


Sharon August 10, 2013
I take scissors and cut up the back and pull the vein right out and the shell stays on.
nallat August 4, 2013
Please notify me of new comments via email Re: to remove or not to remove inside vein of shrimp, and why.
nallat August 4, 2013
I too cut and remove the inside vein and have always wondered why they only show outer vein removal. They both look the same, but I figure the inside is probably just a blood vein and not a feces vain...but I still feel better removing I correct in doing so? I would rather not eat the blood vein either. Any educated comments appreciated, as it would be nice to know for sure. Thx
Simone N. July 30, 2013
I peel the shrimp then pinch the middle of the back of the shrimp and 95% of the time the whole vein comes out. Moves very quickly
jared July 27, 2013
I clean the vein without shelling the shrimp by inserting a toothpick between a gap in the shells under the vein and then pulling it up gently pinching the vein against the pick and pulling to all out. Best to pierce near the bottom of the shrimp as that seems to make to happen easier.
drbabs July 26, 2013
In New Orleans "barbecue shrimp" is shrimp served whole--including the heads--as in Waverly's recipe here: You devein as you're eating.
wisekaren July 25, 2013
I also sometimes see a dark "vein" on the other side (the curled-in side) -- does anyone else bother removing that?
emily.dunkle July 26, 2013
I was going to ask this same question! I always peel it out but not sure if it's necessary?
Gabe July 31, 2013
I always take that one out too. It's smaller, for sure, but to me it tastes just as bad.
clintonhillbilly July 25, 2013
I'm interested in any tips about cooking shrimp in the shell -- the best shrimp I've had has always been at restaurants, cooked in the shell, so I'm interested in seasoning tips, etc. if anyone has any to share
clintonhillbilly July 25, 2013
If you want to cook shrimp in the shell, do you then have to peel away the vein when you eat it?
Kristen M. July 25, 2013
You can actually still devein before shelling -- fishmongers call it "cleaned for grilling" I believe.
clintonhillbilly July 25, 2013
Ah, cool-- how do you do that?
Kristen M. July 25, 2013
I think it's basically the same, but a sharp knife (and good aim) is more crucial!
inpatskitchen July 26, 2013
You can buy shrimp in the shell that has already been deveined...they're called "peel and eat". Normally they come frozen or previously frozen and since the majority of us here in the States really can't get fresh shrimp, it's best to buy them frozen rather than thawed out in the counter.