What is the easiest way to peel and clean shrimp?

What is the easiest way to peel and clean shrimp?


Shrimp is a delicious and nutritious seafood that is easy to prepare and cook. However, peeling, cleaning shrimp and removing unwanted parts can be daunting for some, especially first-timers. Knowing how to properly peel and clean shrimp can save you time, effort, and frustration in the kitchen. This guide will discuss the easiest way to peel and clean shrimp. We will cover the necessary tools and steps to ensure your shrimp are properly prepared and ready for cooking. Whether you are an experienced chef or a beginner in the kitchen, our step-by-step guide will help you effortlessly peel and clean shrimp for your next seafood feast.


Should I remove the shrimp shell?

Removing the shrimp shell before cooking is generally recommended, but it ultimately depends on personal preference and the recipe. Some people prefer the texture and flavour of shrimp with the shell on, while others find it easier to eat without the shell. Suppose you choose to leave the shell on; clean and devein the shrimp before cooking. Additionally, some recipes may call for the shrimp shell to be left on for added flavour or presentation. Ultimately, it is important to consider the specific recipe and personal tastes when deciding whether or not to remove the shrimp shell.

How to remove the shrimp shell?

To peel and clean shrimp, start by rinsing them under cold water to remove any impurities. Then, place the shrimp in a bowl of ice water to help numb the skin and make peeling easier.

Removing the shell from shrimp can be done in a few easy steps:

  1. Start by snapping off the head of the shrimp if still attached.
  2. Make a shallow cut along the back of the shrimp using a pair of kitchen shears or a small knife. Be careful not to cut too deep, which can damage the shrimp.
  3. Then, pull off the legs, and the shell can easily slip off.
  4. Peel off the shell using your fingers by carefully peeling it back and removing it. The shell should come off easily, leaving the meat intact.
  5. Rinse the shrimp under cold water.
  6. Pat the shrimp dry with paper towels to remove excess moisture.

Should I remove the shrimp tails?

Whether or not you should remove the shrimp tails is a matter of personal preference. Some people prefer to remove the tails before preparing or eating shrimp, as they find them annoying or difficult to chew and may not be as enjoyable to eat. However, others choose to leave the tails intact for presentation purposes, or because they enjoy the extra flavour they can provide, or even to use them as a convenient handle while eating. The tails make it easier to eat without utensils. Leave the shell on the tail to make a handle if you serve shrimp with a dip. Ultimately, deciding how you prefer to enjoy your shrimp is up to you and what you think will work best for your recipe.


How to remove the shrimp's dark threadlike digestive tract (aka vein)?

Shrimp have a dark (sometimes clear) threadlike digestive tract running along their curved backs. Removing the vein after thawing and before cooking shrimp ensures that the shrimp is clean and safe to eat. Otherwise, you could get a bit of sandy grit, dirt, or other debris in your meal.

To remove the dark threadlike digestive tract, commonly known as the vein, from shrimp (with or without taking off the shell), you can follow these steps:

  1. Start by gently rinsing the shrimp under cold water to remove any dirt or debris from the surface.
  2. Use a sharp knife or a pair of kitchen shears to make a shallow cut along the back of the shrimp along the entire length.
  3. Look for a dark line running down the back of the shrimp. This is the vein.
  4. Gently lift the vein out using your fingers or the tip of the knife and carefully pull it out. Be careful not to break or damage the flesh. If the vein is broken, insert a bit lower towards the tail again. If you can’t find the vein, don’t worry about it. If some sandy residue remains, you can easily rinse it away in cold running water.
  5.  Once the vein is removed, rinse the shrimp again and pat them dry before cooking.

They are ready to be cooked or served.

Enjoy your shrimp without the vein!

Alternatively, you can use a deveining tool, a handy tool designed specifically for removing the vein from shrimp.
Insert the tool into the back of the shrimp and scoop out the vein.

What happens if I don’t devein shrimp?

Deveining shrimp is the process of removing the dark vein that runs along the back of the shrimp. If you don’t devein shrimp, the intestinal tract of the shrimp, which is located along the back, will remain intact. The vein will still be present, which can affect the appearance and texture of the dish.

You can’t eat shrimp that hasn’t been deveined if you eat the shrimp raw. The thin black “vein” that runs through it could cause harm. That’s the shrimp’s intestine, which, like any intestine, has a lot of bacteria. But cooking the shrimp kills the germs.

While it is generally safe to eat cooked shrimp with the vein still present, the vein can affect the texture and taste of the shrimp, as well as present an unappetizing appearance. Additionally, the vein may contain sand or grit, causing a gritty texture in the shrimp. 

If you are cooking shrimp with the shell on, the vein can be removed after cooking by making a shallow cut along the back and pulling it out. If you prefer to remove the vein before cooking, you can make a similar cut and use a small knife or deveiner tool to remove it.

Overall, deveining shrimp is a matter of personal preference and aesthetics, not hygiene, and the vein is not harmful to the human body if eaten. However, it is recommended to ensure the final dish’s better texture and appearance. Deveined shrimp are generally considered more appetizing and tender, so it’s recommended to devein them for optimal results.

Sometimes, it is easy to see, and other times it is barely visible.
Most cooks will not bother deveining medium-sized or smaller shrimp unless they look particularly dirty.
I always clean it.


Should I rinse the shrimp?

Yes, it is generally recommended to rinse shrimp before cooking them.

You can clean shrimp when they’re raw or previously cooked.

Shrimp can contain dirt, sand, or other debris on the surface, affecting the final dish’s texture and flavour. Rinsing the shrimp helps remove any unwanted particles and prevents them from getting mixed into your meal.

Rinse the shrimp in cold water to remove any loose shell bits or gunk from the inside of the shrimp. However, be sure not to over-rinse them, as it can cause them to lose their flavour or texture. A quick rinse under cold water for a few seconds should suffice.

Properly handling and storing raw shrimp is also important to avoid contamination or foodborne illnesses.

Japanese cooking tip - Clean shrimp with potato starch (or cornstarch)

Sprinkle some potato (or cornstarch) and coat the shrimp, then rinse the shrimp under running water.

You might wonder why you use potato starch (or corn starch) to clean shrimp after removing the shrimp shell.

Sometimes, rinsing the shrimp under cold running water is not enough to completely clean the shrimp. Japanese cookers usually clean shrimp with potato starch by rubbing them together. The potato starch absorbs the smell and dirty particles from shrimp very well. You will see how dirty the starch becomes when rinsing the shrimp.

Check the difference between one rinsed with potato starch and one without it. You’ll be surprised!


Can I store shrimp after cleaning?

It’s usually best to cook raw shrimp immediately after cleaning, or you can store shrimp after cleaning them, but it’s important to do so properly to prevent spoilage.

To store shrimp, you must first wash and thoroughly dry them. Once dried, place them in an airtight container or plastic bag, remove as much air as possible and seal tightly. Then, place the container or bag in the refrigerator.

It is important to note that shrimp should be consumed within two days of cleaning and refrigerating.

If you plan to store them for a longer period, you can freeze them. To do this, wrap the shrimp tightly in plastic wrap or place them in an airtight container, remove as much air as possible and label with the date. Shrimp can be frozen for up to three months without losing quality or taste when properly stored.


What to do with shrimp shells

Don’t throw away those shrimp shells. There are several ways to make use of shrimp shells.

One way is to use them to make seafood stock, which can be used as a base for soups, stews, risotto, chowders, a pan sauce and other seafood dishes. Save the shells in a zip-lock bag and freeze them to make homemade seafood stock. Simmer the shrimp shells in water with herbs and vegetables to extract the flavourful broth. It’s tasty. It’s a specific taste, not just a sub for chicken stock, try it, and you’ll be convinced.

Shrimp stock might seem like a “restaurant-only” thing, but it’s incredibly easy to make at home.

Get the recipe for the easy shrimp broth

You can also make shrimp shell powder by drying and grinding up the shells to use as a seasoning for dishes like seafood boils and fried rice or as a substitute for salt.

Another way to use shrimp shells is to grind them up and use them as a natural fertilizer for plants. Shrimp shells are high in nitrogen, calcium, and other essential nutrients that can help promote healthy plant growth.

Or you can even make decorative crafts like shell wreaths or ornaments.

Lastly, you can compost shrimp shells independently or as part of a larger compost pile. They will break down and create nutrient-rich soil to add to your garden.

Get creative and see what you can come up with!


This article is part of “How to cook shrimp


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