Okay, this is not the most fun you’re ever going to have. SoupAddict tried to spin this task every which way, but couldn’t find the “fun” angle.
But here’s the only angle that really matters: shelled shrimp, under normal selling circumstances, will remain fresher longer than peeled. And even if you have a lot of shrimp to peel, you can kind of get into a rhythm, like when you’re peeling potatoes.
First, we start with the shell. Many seafood retailers that have staff in their seafood departments (and most do) will partially prepare shellfish before sale. The seafood department at my Kroger will slice the shell and devein the shrimp, leaving the shell intact. However, you’ll want to double-check and make sure the vein is completely removed. Here, a sliver down towards the tail was left behind.
If your shrimp have not been slit, take a sharp paring knife or a pair of scissors and cut along the outer curve, down to the tail.
To remove the shell, pull the sides in opposite directions around to the front. The legs will easily come off along with the shell.
If you’re leaving the tail on, simply break the shell off at the tail. Otherwise, pull firmly on the tail to release it from the flesh.
If the shrimp has not been deveined, you can use either a paring knife or your fingernail to scrape out the vein.
As you probably suspected, “vein” is a nice, neutral word for what it really is: the intestinal track.
When you’re finished, be sure to rinse the shrimp under cool water.