Choosing The Best Shrimp Deveiner (The Ultimate Guide)

it's a job no cook enjoys.

Your hands can get wet, slimy, and soar.

And if you're faced with a mountain of shrimp that need deveining it can seem like it takes forever.

You could even end up little cuts and lacerations on your hands having peeled and deveined a couple of kilos of hard-shelled shrimp.

But if you love cooking and eating the sweet tasting flesh of shrimp and prawns than that little black thread has got to go.

best shrimp deveiner

There's a couple of ways you traditionally devein shrimp.

You can pull off the head, hope the vein is sticking out, and gently ease it out that way.

The middle part of the tail shell is connected to the vein and sometimes if you twist and pull it, the vein will slide out too...if you're lucky.

By far the most common way is to remove the head and shell around the tail. Run a knife along the back and poke around for a vein that may or may not be visible depending on when the little critters last ate.

There is an easier way....

Enter the shrimp deveiner.

This handy little gadget that works either like a knife or scissors depending on the design can save shellfish lovers a ton of time in the kitchen.

More...

The best shrimp deveiner can peel, remove the vein, and butterfly the shrimp for a beautiful presentation all in one easy motion (more on this in a minute)

Below are a few examples of shrimp peelers / deveiners.

Image

Product

Norpro 651 shrimp peeler / deveiner.

Scissor like design with curved steel blades. About half a foot in length and weighs 2.4 ounces.

Frogmore shrimp cleaner by Toadfish.

Knife type design. Long curved stainless steel blade with a pick on the underside for removing the vein. 4.6 ounces in weight.

Shrimp butler.

An automatic shrimp peeler / deveiner. Bulkier than either a knife or scissors it quickly splits the shell for easy removal of the vein.

Lamson shrimp deveiner knife.

This durable little knife is made from beautiful walnut and boasts a 3 inch curved high carbon stainless steel blade. The handle is half tang making it very sturdy and light weight at just o.8 ounces.

Oxo good grip shrimp cleaner.

Made completely from plastic and rubber. The handle is non-slip and comfortable to hold for long periods. While the blade is curved serrated plastic making it really light weight at 0,8 Oz.

What Is A Shrimp Vein Any way ?

The so-called vein (it's a bit of a misnomer) does not carry any blood. It's just the digestive tract of the animal and eating it won’t do you any harm or make you sick.

All though shrimp are bottom feeders all they tend to eat are plankton and other little sea creatures. There's probably far worse things in a sausage than there is in a shrimp's digestive tract.

If the shrimp had a last meal the vein will be a dark color, easy to spot, and filled with sand and grit. If however, the poor thing died hungry than the digestive tract will be clear and difficult to see.

If you're preparing farmed shrimp be aware that some producers starve the shrimp for a couple of days before harvesting to minimize the tract.

Unfortunately, shrimp deveining is a job your fishmonger won’t do. And if he does he'll charge for the work accordingly. (buying fresh deveined shrimp can be ridiculously expensive)

The only real way to avoid the job or cost altogether is to buy the farmed, frozen ones which often come deveined but aren't very sustainable.

All this can leave you wondering if you should bother deveining shrimp in the first place.

What difference does it make?

Why You Should Consider Removing The Vein

So, here's the deal....

Most of the time it will make no difference whatsoever and your shrimp will look and taste just fine.

Sometimes though, you'll come across a rogue shrimp that doesn't taste quite right and can have a slightly bitter, sour, or muddy taste.

Even worse is the sandy or gritty texture you can find in your mouth having eaten a shrimp that hasn't been deveined. And no sauce or dressing can cover this up.

But, Is It Really Necessary?

No, It's not....

Often the decision on whether or not to remove the vein comes down to your own personal preference and how much time you have on your hands.

If your working with small to medium size shrimp you can forgo the deveining. A teeny digestive tract means you probably won’t taste anything amiss. And they'd be far too fiddly to devein without mangling the flesh anyway.

If your cooking large shrimp it's always best to devein. Your guaranteeing they’ll look and taste great.

With some species of shrimp, the vein can become visible through the flesh once cooked and it just looks all wrong. The last thing anyone likes to see is an unsightly small black strand in their garlic prawns, shrimp cocktail, scampi, or prawns pil-pil.

By using a good shrimp deveiner you'll also be cutting an incision right down the back of the crustaceans tail.

So, once it hits a heat source it will curl up into a butterfly shape for a beautiful presentation ideal for any dish weather appetizer, entree, pasta or salad.

Shrimp and prawns are an expensive ingredient. You want them to taste their best and to do your cooking justice it's best to get rid of the vein.

How The Best Shrimp Deveiner Work.

There are two types of deveiners. You can either go for one that looks somewhat similar to a knife or the scissor-like design.

Both feature curved blades the mirror the arc of a shrimp tail and work great as shrimp peelers.

When it comes to actually taking out the vein though the knife design tends to works a little better.

The Shrimp Knife

To use it, just slide it in about halfway along the tail, between the shell and meat. Then just push the shrimp forward along the blade and off pops the shell, vein and all. Leaving a beautifully butterflied shrimp ready to be cooked.

It's not totally foolproof and using it can be a little tricky the first few times, but once you find a rhythm you'll be amazed at how easy it becomes.

The Shrimp Scissors

The shrimp scissors, on the other hand, can be a bit hit and miss when it comes to deveining

It works just like you’d expect. You simply cut along the top of the tail and remove the shell. Sometimes it will hook the vein and remove it. sometimes it won't.

Every so often you'll miss and have to pull the vein out old school with a knife or rinse it out with some running water.

What Is The Best Shrimp Deveiner?

Having peeled lots of shrimp in my day and used a few different deveiners, I.’d say that the type of deveiner you choose will come down to how you want to prepare and cook your shrimp. (check out the F.A.Q at the end of this post for a little more on this)

Below we’ve chosen five different models for you to compare. Take a look through the pros and cons to find one that's a good fit for you.

Norpro 6518 Shrimp and Prawn Peeler


The Norpro 6518 Shrimp and Prawn Peeler is a scissor-style shrimp deveiner. A little over half a foot in length with curved steel blades, this peeler easily and neatly snips through shrimp shells, making it very simple to hook and pull out the vein.

Pros

  • Simple scissor form is super intuitive and forgiving of mistakes, and requires very little finesse or manual dexterity, unlike knives. If you know how to use scissors, you know how to use these!
  • Thin steel blades slide right into the shell without mangling the meat the way thicker kitchen shears tend to.
  • The curve of the blades matches the natural curve of the shrimp, which also helps to prevent unintentional damage to the meat.
  • Simple operation makes it easy to get a rhythm going, which is great if you’re trying to process a lot of shrimp at one time.
  • Very affordable.

Cons

  • The blades could be sharper out of the package. If you have any sort of a knife sharpener, a little bit of love will go a long way to make them cut better.
  • Plastic grips are a little bit wimpy. Really more of a nitpick, but a more robust set of grips would really improve the feel and ergonomics while you’re cutting.

Frogmore Shrimp Cleaner by Toadfish


The Frogmore Shrimp Cleaner by Toadfish is an odd looking gadget that’s basically a long, curved stainless steel pick with a small blade on its underside. 

To use it, you insert the tip of the pick into the top of the shell, and slide the shrimp towards the handle.

Pros

  • Deveins, butterflies, and peels the shrimp all at once, which really streamlines the process.
  • Retains the shell and vein of the shrimp for easy disposal.
  • Easy and quick to use once you get the hang of it.
  • Very solid, robust feeling tool. No part of the device feels flimsy or poorly made.
  • Excellent for deveining large amounts of shrimp quickly. Once you have the technique down, you can process each shrimp in one smooth motion.
  • Ergonomic grip makes it very easy to maintain a hold on the tool, even when your hands are slippery and wet.

Cons

  • Butterflies the shrimp as it peels them. Convenient if you want butterflied shrimp, but if you don’t, you’re out of luck
  • Extremely tricky to preserve the tails of the shrimp if you want to keep them on. Doing so makes the otherwise very simple process a lot more fiddly than other methods.

Shrimp Butler

The Shrimp Butler is an automatic shrimp peeling and deveining device.

To use it, you simply place a whole shrimp in the compartment on top, and pull the lever. An internal blade splits the shell and cuts out the vein for easy removal.

Pros

  • Extremely simple to use, requiring virtually no manual dexterity.
  • Lets you decide how much of the shell to keep on the shrimp. The device doesn’t remove the shell or the tail, instead simply splitting them and letting you remove whatever parts you want, which is great if you want to keep the tails on for shrimp cocktail or if you prefer cooking them in their shells.

Cons

  • Very bulky. The device is much, much larger than other deveining tools like scissors or lances. It’s nearly as large as a coffeemaker, and takes up a ton of counter space, which isn’t great for a super specialized, single function device.
  • Flimsy construction. The Shrimp Butler is made almost entirely out of plastic, and honestly feels a bit like a toy rather than a serious cooking device. That lightweight construction also means that it’s prone to move around a lot with use.
  • Won't work for small shrimp.

Lamson Shrimp Deveiner Knife

The Lamson Shrimp Deveiner knife features a curved, stainless steel blade and a riveted handle in natural walnut.

To use it, you simply insert it at the top of the shrimp’s shell and cut just deep enough to scour next to the vein, then use the tip to pick it out.

Pros

  • Extremely well made. Lamson makes very high quality knives, and this is no exception.
  • Very handsome, professional looking tool. The natural walnut handle is gorgeous.
  • Sharp enough to cut right through shrimp shell right out of the package, with no aftermarket sharpening required
  • The thin, curved blade is much easier to use on shrimp than the relatively thick, straight blade on a paring knife, which can mutilate them if you’re not extremely careful.
  • It can double as a paring knife in a pinch. It’s made for processing shrimp, but it’s still workable for most purposes that call for a small, sharp knife. Definitely more versatile than other, more specialized shrimp deveining tools.
  • Compact and easy to store.

Cons

  • Natural walnut handle requires more maintenance than synthetic alternatives. The manufacturers recommend treating it with mineral oil after every cleaning.
  • Slightly pricier than other deveining knives. It’s a premium product that works great straight out of the box, but you could probably get similar performance out of a much cheaper knife if you’re willing to put in some work sharpening it.

OXO Good Grips Shrimp Cleaner

The OXO Good Grips Shrimp Cleaner is a curved and serrated plastic spike on a soft rubber handle.

To use it, you simply insert the spike into the shrimp and pull, taking the shell and vein out in one smooth motion.

Pros

  • Very comfortable non-slip handle. It’s made of soft, slightly tacky rubber, so it’s very easy to get a good, comfortable hold on it that won’t slip off even when your hands are oily, or wet.
  • Very safe. The ‘blade’ is made of plastic, so there are no sharp metal parts to stab or cut the unwary user.
  • Easy and quick once you get a hang of it.
  • Dishwasher safe with no moving parts, making it extremely easy to clean.
  • Very compact, fits easily in a drawer when not in use
  • Shells and deveins at the same time

Cons

  • Can be trickier to use than knives or scissors, and requires a specific technique to cleanly remove both the shell and the vein.
  • Not as sharp as some other tools, making it more difficult to get it neatly into the shell of the shrimp.
  • Translucent plastic blade means that it’s a little less sturdy than metal bladed alternatives. As a result, it’s not really a viable tool for anything other than deveining and shelling shrimp.

A Quick Shrimp Deveiner F.A.Q

Q. Do shrimp deviners work on cooked shrimp?

A. Short answer. No. Once a shrimp tail is cooked the vein loses elasticity and becomes brittle so there's no way to pull it out. If your going to devein than do it while your shrimps are raw.

Q. I’ve got some shrimp that have already been shelled, Will a deveiner work on these?

A. Most designs will work, but to be brutally honest once they're out of the shell you'd probably be just as quick using a regular knife

Q .Do they leave the end of the tail on for presentation?

A. The knife type shrimp deveiner isn’t designed to do this. You’d have far more success with a shrimp scissors although you might find it a little fiddly at first.  

Q. I want to grill my shrimp whole. Can a deveiner remove the vein and leave the shrimp in one piece?

A. No. A shrimp deveiner will be absolutely useless in this situation. But not to worry. There is a simple way to remove the vein from a whole shrimp without the use of any knife or gadget....and all you need is a toothpick.

grilling deveined shrimp

The Toothpick Method Of Deveining Shrimp

Grilling crustaceans whole on the bbq is without a doubt one of the tastiest ways to cook them. The shell protects the delicate flesh from the fierce heat of the coles and they steam away in their own juices leaving a smokey, moist, and succulent result.

Then all you have to do then is leave them cool a little before shelling and dipping them in your favorite sauce. Chimichurri, garlic butter, or a good saffron aioli are my own personal favorites.

If your gonna use large shrimp or prawns than make sure to remove the vein. It's really quick and easy to do with just a toothpick.

Here's how it's done....

Simply bend the tail and poke a toothpick in between the shell and the meat at the top of the tail. Than gently hook the vein and pull.

Occasionally the vein might break or you might not get it all, but you can always attack it from another part of the tail to remove the rest.

Check out the quick video below to see how it's done.

Wrapping Up

Peeling and deveining shrimp can be tedious, repetitive, a little frustrating, and oh so time-consuming. When you're in a hurry you could easily be forgiven for not bothering with it at all...

Luckily the best shrimp diviners are very affordable and can at least cut by half the amount of time it takes.

And if its speed, presentation, and a cleanly prepared shrimp you're after then go with the Frogmore.

Its unique design makes it the most accurate and user-friendly deveiner around at the minute....That is of course until some genius comes up with something else.

One last thing. After you’ve peeled all those shrimp don’t dump the shells pop them in the freezer for later use. Here's a few cool recipes for using them up.

shrimp heads

Shrimp cocktail anyone?

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