We tested five new tools that promised to make the chore of shelling shrimp and removing their veins easier.
Published June 1, 2015. Appears in Cook's Country TV Season 9: Southern Stews
Shelling shrimp and removing their veins can be laborious. We typically use a knife to slice the shell, pry it off with our fingers, and then use the knife’s tip to fish out the vein. But we found five new tools that promised to make this chore easier and faster.
We tested these five, priced from roughly $6 to $17, against our winning seafood scissors, The RSVP International Endurance Seafood Scissors. They’re only about $8 and have been handy in the past for shelling shrimp, crab, and lobster, so we wanted to see how they’d compare with shrimp-specific tools. We also included our winning paring knife: Because we can shell shrimp with a knife, a tool had to be significantly faster, easier, and better at the task to earn our favor.
We shelled piles of small, medium, and large shrimp, removing the shells and veins and leaving the tails on as you would for shrimp cocktail. We timed how long it took each tool to shell 10 of each size shrimp and considered how easy they were to use, how precisely they severed the shells, how the shrimp looked afterward, and how versatile they were with small, medium, and large shrimp.
We saw it all—the good (perfectly shelled shrimp), the bad (flimsy, faulty models), and the ugly (shrimp so mangled that when we cooked them into our fiery Cook's Illustrated Shrimp Fra Diavolo, they looked like squid). The six tools came in four different styles. The first and worst style is what testers called the “expansion” model. These tools get inserted between the shell and the meat and expand, pushing the two apart so that you can pull off the shell. These were a failure. At best, they didn’t pull off the whole shell or lacked a sharp tip to fish out the vein. At worst, they shredded the meat to ribbons.
The second style was shaped like a two-tined fork; testers fit one tine between the shell and the meat and pushed back toward the tail. This was supposed to sweep the shell and vein off and did so quite quickly, but it marred the meat and broke the shell and vein into pieces that were time-consuming to pluck out.
Two deveiners came in a third design that looked like a paring knife with a curved blade. The top edge is sharp and you thread it between the shell and the meat and pull upward, cutting off the shell. One model had a dull, serrated plastic blade that marred the meat and couldn’t get through the shell efficiently. The second was supersharp and precise, but it wasn’t any faster than a paring knife.
The fourth and sole successful style was our trusty pair of seafood scissors, which look just like regular scissors but have curved blades. Their arch fit tidily inside shrimp large and small, and because we ...
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