How To Peel Shrimp

Peeling shrimp is one of those kitchen jobs no one wants to do when, in fact, it couldn't be easier, says food blogger & photographer Ksenia Prints of At the Immigrant's Table.

Most of us avoid peeling shrimp by reaching straight for the bag of peeled and deveined shrimp in the frozen seafood aisle. With their myriad of legs and tough outer shell, shrimp look more like a childhood nightmare creatures from outer space than like something we want to deal with, let alone eat. The truth is, peeling shrimp looks and sounds intimidating to most of us! But if you truly adopted this belief, then you'd be missing out on the world of deliciousness that is shrimp.

In fact, when you travel the world, finding that bag of peeled and prepped shrimp becomes a lot harder. And what would we do then? Not eat shrimp? No thank you! It's truly amazing just how easy peeling shrimp becomes once you break it down into a few simple, neat steps.

We are here to tell you the two different ways to peel shrimp and how to keep that beautiful tail, so read on!

Remove the head and legs

We start to peel shrimp by simply peeling off the legs. To do so, grab onto the little row of legs at the bottom of the shrimp, and pull. They should come off easily!

If your shrimp still has its head on, you can simply cut it off with a paring knife.

Peel off the outer shell of the shrimp

The first and fastest way to peel shrimp is with your hands. To peel the shrimp, simply hold a shrimp in your hands, and use your thumbs to separate the tough outer shell from the belly (this is where the shell is softest). Grab onto the shell with the thumbs and pull in the opposite direction toward the tail.

If it sounds complicated, it really won't be once you try it! And the more you repeat this easy movement, the more effortless it'll become. You really won't have to think twice about how to peel shrimp.

You can also peel shrimp with kitchen shears. To do so, cut through the shell along the top ridge of the shrimp where the shell is the hardest. Then, using your hands, crack it open and pull off the shell by pulling toward the opposite direction. Cut off the tail with a knife.

How to peel shrimp and leave the tail on

Keeping the tail on while prepping shrimp is useful for presentation — think of cold shrimp cocktail appetizers — or for the ease of grabbing onto your shrimp when eating it whole, like in the case of coconut shrimp.

To peel shrimp and leave the tail on, simply don't pull so hard on the shrimp shell when you get to the tail area, and pull it off toward the back and not fully toward the tail. A little bit of care, and leaving shrimp tail on becomes surprisingly easy.

How to peel shrimp after cooking

But what if you wanted to cook your shrimp with the peel, as many recipes call on you to do? Or what if you simply forgot to peel the shrimp before sautéing it or throwing it in the soup?

To peel shrimp after cooking, do what you would do if you wanted to peel the shrimp before cooking: Hold onto the peel through the gap in the underbelly, and pull it off toward the other side. The peel will naturally come off in parts, as it's a bit more brittle after cooking. You can then pull on the tail to remove it.

What do to with the leftover shrimp shells

Keep your shrimp shells in a Ziploc bag in the freezer, and then use them for making stock. The shells actually hold a lot of the shrimp flavor, so you don't want to throw this free flavoring agent away.

How To Peel Shrimp
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Peeling shrimp is one of those kitchen jobs no one wants to do when, in fact, it couldn't be easier. Learn how to easily peel your next batch of shrimp.
Prep Time
1
minute
Cook Time
0
minutes
Servings
1
serving
peeling shrimp on cutting board
Ready in 1 minute
Ingredients
  • Shrimp
  • Knife
  • Kitchen shears
  • Ziploc bag or bowl for collecting shells
  • Cutting board
Directions
  1. Grab onto the little row of legs at the bottom of the shrimp, and pull. Cut off the head if it still remains.
  2. To peel the shrimp by hand, hold a shrimp in your hands, use your thumbs to separate the tough outer shell from the belly (this is where the shell is softest), grab with the thumbs and pull in the opposite direction, toward the tail. The shell will come right off. Pull the tail off as well. To peel shrimp with kitchen shears, cut through the shell along the top ridge of the shrimp. Crack the shell open, and pull it off in the opposite direction. Cut off the tail with the knife.
  3. To peel shrimp and leave the tail on, take care when pulling off the shrimp shell. When you get to the tail area, pull the shell off toward the back and not fully toward the tail.
  4. To peel shrimp after cooking, hold onto the peel through the gap in the underbelly, and pull it off toward the other side. The peel will naturally come off in parts, as it's a bit more brittle after cooking. Pull on the tail to remove it.
  5. If you want to use the shells, collect them in a freezer bag and store them in the freezer. You can then use them for making stock.
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