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How to Clean and Prepare Raw Shrimp

This post was written by my foodie sister Robin, who is now sharing all of her favorite recipes and kitchen tips regularly on the new “Make It and Love It – in the KITCHEN” portion of this blog. Try a few of her recipes…your belly will thank you! -Ashley

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Hey guys…it’s Robin!

Today I’m going to share a few tips that involves something you either love or hate — SHRIMP!  I think one thing that turns people off the most from using shrimp in their recipes, is that they’re unsure of how to properly clean it before cooking it.  Because let’s be real…it ain’t pretty! 

I remember the first time my dad brought home a load of shrimp for dinner, that was neither de-shelled or de-veined. My sister April and I (she’s the sister just older than Ashley and I) were given the task to clean them up and we had no clue what to do. I don’t think we were even in high school yet and we had never made shrimp before since it was expensive and we lived in Arizona, where shrimp isn’t plentiful.

I remember having a hard time cleaning it up and my dad mentioned the fact that the “vein” is where their waste was contained.  If you’re not familiar with preparing shrimp, maybe you didn’t know that either.  And maybe you have no clue what to do with the tail, the shell, the head, etc.

Because sometimes you get uncooked and frozen shrimp that looks like this…

Other times (more often when you live near water like I do up in Alaska) you have an abundance of shrimp that looks like this.  (I know, this sucker isn’t winning any beauty pageants!)




I want to help you so that you aren’t positioned like a deer in the headlights (like my sister and I were all those years ago) and can actually turn your shrimp into something delicious!




Okay, let’s “git ‘er done”!



If you are lucky enough to get really fresh whole shrimp with the head attached, you must live near an ocean or have traveled somewhere and have brought it home with you.  If so, don’t be scared of that whole shrimp.


First, you want to cut the head off. And to do that, you want to find the first hinge positioned below the eyeballs.




Once you find it, you can cut right through it.




This brings us to this picture, which is a more common way to purchase shrimp.  And generally, it’s frozen.





The nice thing about shrimp, is that it defrosts quickly. You can sit your shrimp in a bowl with COLD water and then leave the faucet on with an itty bitty stream (to get some circulation going) and leave it sitting for about ten minutes.  Likely after that amount of time, your shrimp will be completely defrosted.  You DON’T EVER want to microwave frozen shrimp because they cook so fast and will become an unevenly cooked rubbery mess. Yuck.





Now, grab a sharp knife and let’s get to work.


First, you want to remove the shell by pulling at the legs and then pulling the shell around and off the meat.




Sometimes I can pry my finger between the shell and the meat along the outer curve and then pull the shell off from along the back. If you do it that way, you will just have to come back and pull the legs off.




Now, you can either cut the flipper fin off with your kife or if you are like me and want as much meat as possible, you can pull off the rest of the shell and leave behind the flipper meat.




Next, use your knife to slice along the outer curve of the shrimp, almost to the depth of the vein and cut all the way to the tail.  (Since raw shrimp is pretty transparent, you should be able to slightly see the vein because it’s usually pretty dark in color.  If not, make a cut and look around.) Pry that cut open a little bit further to expose the vein. Dig under the vein with your knife and and pull it up and out.  If it breaks as you’re pulling, just keep digging and pulling until it’s removed.  Some people choose to leave the vein in…but I always remove mine, because afterall, it’s animal waste.


(I’m not sure where my image is for this…..but once you have that shrimp in your hand you’ll see exactly what I’m talking about!)


After you have all your shrimp deveined and de-shelled, give them one last rinse with cold water.




At this point, you can either store your shrimp in a sealed container and use them later (in the fridge for 3-5 days or freeze them) OR use them right away and sautee, roast, grill, or boil them.  All cooking methods are delicious!!!  And remember, shrimp cooks fast… don’t overcook these precious shrimp that you just spent time cleaning up!


If you have other questions or some tips to add, be sure and leave a comment below!




Robin has contributed 33 articles on since May 6, 2014.

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Hi, I'm Ashley

Hi, I’m Ashley—the DIY-enthusiast behind this crazy blog!

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