How to Peel Shrimp

Three Parts:Removing the Shrimp’s HeadRemoving the Shrimp’s Shell and TailCleaning the Shrimp

You can usually save money by peeling and deveining shrimp yourself, instead of buying the shrimp already peeled at the store. Shrimp you peel yourself will probably have more flavor. It’s a pretty easy process to peel shrimp. There are three ways to do it: Completely peeling the shrimp; leaving the head-and-tail on the shrimp; or leaving the tail on the shrimp.

Part 1
Removing the Shrimp’s Head

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    Rinse the shrimp. After you are done rinsing the shrimp in cold water, pat them dry. You can use a clean paper towel to do this.[1]
    • Some experts believe you should buy frozen shrimp if you want the shrimp to taste best. Fresh shrimp is rare. Shrimp that is bought already peeled and deveined probably won’t have as much flavor. Frozen shrimp can be defrosted in cold water.
    • You should avoid brown shrimp or shrimp with black spots on their shells. You also want to avoid shrimp with yellowing shells.[2]
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    Remove the head of the shrimp. To remove the head of a shrimp, you should twist its head if the head is still attached. Do this with a gentle twist, and the head should pop off.[3]
    • Some people will also remove the shrimp’s legs by pulling them off, although this is not necessary and is a matter of personal preference.[4]
    • Keep the shrimp cold while you are peeling and deveining them. Keep the shrimp on ice or in ice water while you are working with them. One reason to peel your own shrimp is that they will likely have more flavor. Pre-peeled shrimp are often overcooked.[5][6]

Part 2
Removing the Shrimp’s Shell and Tail

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    Dig your thumb under the shell. Put your thumb on the underbelly of the shrimp, where its legs are attached.
    • Release the shell with your thumb. Hold the tail while removing the shell by pulling it off.[7]
    • The shell is softer on the shrimp’s underside. That’s why it’s best to remove it that way.[8] You should be able to peel the shell off the shrimp.
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    Use kitchen shears instead. If you prefer to use kitchen shears to remove the shell, cut through the shrimp’s shell at the top, crack it open, and then pull off the shell.
    • This method might cut into the shrimp more, although you might find it easier to get the shell off. Either method will work.
    • Stop cutting when you reach the tail. Peel back the shell from both sides of the cut. The shrimp's shell is not very tough. It should be easy to remove.
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    Remove the shrimp’s tail. Some people don’t want to remove the shrimp’s tail because they like how it looks when they serve the shrimp, but if you want to remove the tail, do so with a gentle tug.
    • Pinch the tail at its bottom, where it connects with the shrimp’s body. Pull it.
    • The tail should slide off the shrimp. Once it does, you may want to save the tail to make stock with it.
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    Leave the tail or tail and head on. Some people prefer to leave the tail on the shrimp. In that case, perform all of the steps above, except for removing the tail.
    • Similarly, some people prefer to leave on both the head and tail of the shrimp. Simply perform the other steps without removing the head or tail.
    • For the latter, remove the shell only in the middle of the shrimp. Some people believe the shrimp is more pleasing to look at with the head and tail intact.

Part 3
Cleaning the Shrimp

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    Cut the shrimp down its back. Once you’ve removed the shrimp’s tail, head, and shell, you need to clean the shrimp to make it presentable for eating.
    • To clean the shrimp, put the shrimp down on a cutting board. Take a paring knife, and run the knife’s blade along the back of the shrimp, in the middle of the shrimp’s back.
    • Cut more deeply if you want to butterfly the shrimp.[9]
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    Devein the shrimp. You do this by pulling the small gray vein out of the shrimp. You can use the tip of the knife to do this.
    • Make sure you don’t cut too deeply into the shrimp’s back. The vein is the shrimp’s digestive tract. It looks like a string.
    • Run the shrimp under cold water when you are done peeling and deveining it.
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    Cook the shrimp. Once you’ve peeled and deveined the shrimp, it’s time to cook and eat them! There are many recipes for cooking shrimp. Or you could eat it raw with cocktail sauce.
    • Try turning the shells, tails, and heads into stock. To do this, wash them off and then put them in a saucepan with cold water. You will want enough to cover them. Add peppercorns, a bay leaf or fresh parsley. Simmer uncovered about 15 minutes. Strain the shells out. Add the stock to a shrimp recipe to increase its flavor.[10]
    • Remember that it doesn’t take shrimp very long to cook. In fact, shrimp can cook in as little as three minutes. You will know they are done when they appear pink.


  • Uncooked shrimp are delicate and are highly perishable; keep them refrigerated or in a bowl with cold water with ice until ready to prepare.

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Categories: Prawns and Shrimp | Peeling Food