previous next

Buying and Peeling Shrimp

posted in Meat, Poultry and Seafood by Kathy Maister

At the grocery store (or at your local fishmonger,) you can buy fresh or previously frozen shrimp in many different sizes, peeled or unpeeled, raw or cooked.

“Fresh” shrimp is just that, straight from the ocean. “Previously frozen” is frozen shrimp that they have already defrosted for you. When you get home from the grocery store you can freeze “fresh” shrimp, but you can not re-freeze “previously frozen” shrimp.

Shrimp, like all fish, should be cooked and eaten within 2 days of buying it.

When shrimp is cooked, it turns a lovely shade a pink/orange. It is just about the easiest snack, hors d’oeuvres, or topper for pasta or salad that you can buy.

Fresh or frozen shrimp is sold by the pound and the number of shrimp per pound indicates the size of the shrimp.

  • 31-40 Medium
  • 26-30 Large
  • 21-25 X-Large
  • 16-20 Jumbo

One pound of raw shrimp in their shells equals approximately ½ pound of peeled cooked shrimp.

Peeling your own shrimp is a bit tedious. If you can afford it, I would recommend buying already peeled shrimp.

Here are some excellent photos that show how to peel shrimp. It is not difficult, just time consuming. The steps involved are:

  1. Gently rip the head off. (This is not as horrible as it sounds!)
  2. Then pull off the legs.
  3. With your thumbs pull apart the sides.
  4. You can leave the tail on or pull it off.
  5. With a small sharp knife slice the back and remove the vein.

Shrimp cooks in just a few minutes. With just a few ingredients…

…which may already be in your cupboard, you can cook up something very special for dinner.

Shrimp Scampi anyone?


If you are planning a trip to Boston you have to include a visit to Legal Seafood restaurant and try their Coconut Shrimp! It’s the best!

If you are new to startcooking, or are a regular visitor here, please consider subscribing for free.


Graydon said:

Why is everybody so intent on saying you have to remove the “vein” from the shrimp?

Only occasionally will someone say that it’s optional or say that it’s not really a vein.

But why even bother with it?

Was there some study that I missed about how horribly terrible it is? Does it affect the taste, texture, anything?

I’m not mad… I just can’t figure out what the big deal is… and if someone has an explanation better than “it’s just gross” then I’d like to know… maybe even need to know.

will said:

can’t wait for the shrimp scampi!

Kathy Maister said:

Hi Graydon. The vein is actually the shrimp’s intestine. (YUK!) Almost all of the shrimp sold in my neighborhood comes with the vein already removed. If you don’t remove the vein before cooking it gets really dark and doesn’t look very good. Plus it can taste muddy and gritty. Need I say more?


Jon said:

I cooked a Singaporean type Laksa (a bit like a spicy coconut noodle soup) over the weekend and while it was meant to have salmon in it, to make it a bit special I also threw in a raw tiger prawn (shrimp) at the last minute. Only took a minute to cook and I let my guests de-shell the prawns (though I did remove the head before cooking) – really made it a luxurious dish and nobody minded the ‘spine’.

MG said:

Removing the vein is – quite frankly – ridiculous.

Takes too much time away from the eating.

It does not effect the taste.

Graydon said:

Haha – yes – should have pointed out the obvious… more time prepping = less time eating.

and I’d have to agree – no noticeable difference in taste / texture that I’ve ever noted.

but, I’m more used to the S. Texas gulf / bay variety and maybe the farm raised / foreign kind can get funky?

Kathy Maister said:

Well I may be entering this conversation a day late and a dollar short (I’ve been on vacation!), but I really do not like the LOOK of that black vein when I’m eating shrimp! And it can be a bit stringy, depending on the shrimp. So, for all you beginners out there, you can actually buy peeled and deveined shrimp. Otherwise, plan your prep time accordingly because it is tedious and time consuming to remove the veins from shrimp!

More content