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How to Peel Shrimp

Erin was kind enough to load these photos, therefore making this post "by Erin." Trust me though, it's Scott writing. Over Thanksgiving at Sullivan's Island, SC, we scored 1 lb. of local brown shrimp by beheading and shelling about 15 lbs. for several shellfish-hungry family members. "Shrimp at Thanksgiving?" you ask. Well ... yes, why not? Actually, we had shrimp the night before, but our Thanksgiving is still heavily South Carolina-influenced to include butter beans and rice. If you grew up landlocked, or coastal-and-lazy, here's my tutorial on peeling shrimp - including NOT wasting tail meat, a crime I've too often witnessed at restaurants, etc.

Step 1 Take your right hand (NOTE: If you're a lefty, just apply all directions to that hand) and firmly hold the tail section of the shrimp.
Step 2
Use your left hand to grip the body-section immediately adjacent to the tail-section.
Step 3
Split the body-section from the tail-section, first by moving your hands away from you (in yellow, you'll hear a "click") and then toward you (in blue, you should hear another "click")

Step 4
The body-shell and tail-shell should now be split. Hold the body-section firmly and pinch/pull the tail away - the tail meat should slide right out of the tail-shell and remain intact with the body. If you pinch off the tail, meat and all, don't worry, it takes practice - ask my Charlestonian grandmother about teaching me as a kid.
Step 5
The tail's off, so now to the easy part. Hold the body-shell on the shrimp's back spine, then use your other hand to slowly, firmly catch and pull all the legs, with shell around toward the back spine. Basically, make an under-and-around motion (in yellow) rather than pulling straight down (you'll only have the legs if you do that).
Step 6
You've got a peeled shrimp, ready for boiling, frying or raw if you like shrimp-roll sushi! As always, make sure your shrimp are sustainable and American when possible.


  1. I've always been somewhat freaked out by the preparation of shrimp, or any crustacean for that matter. However, I will bookmark these instructions and give it a try!

    Thank you so much for a very informative post!

  2. How do you get the large end of the tail to come out the small end of the shell?

    I have always just pulled the legs off, then stuck my thumb under the edge of the shell and lifted it off. never have lived anyplace where shrimp actually ran loose in the wild, though, so this may just be the landlocked Midwestern approach.

    want me to tell you how to disassemble a snapping turtle?

  3. Thanks for the comments. Getting the tail out is simply a matter of pinching/pulling the tail away from the main body.

    For Britons afraid of shellfish, remember, you're bigger than they are. : )


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