Shrimp Peeling Tools

Published June 2015

How we tested

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 snipped away the shell instead of dragging it off, it was precise and efficient, splaying open the meat so we could pluck out the entire vein with a single tug. On average, the scissors were 32 percent faster than a paring knife—which translates to roughly 5 minutes of prep time saved per 1 1/2 pounds of shrimp. If you eat lots of shrimp, crab, or lobster, at about $8 a pair, our winning seafood scissors would be a worthy addition to your kitchen arsenal.

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The Results


Design Trifecta 360 Knife Block

Admittedly expensive, this handsome block certainly seemed to live up to its billing as “the last knife block you ever have to buy.” The heaviest model in our testing, this block was ultrastable, and its durable bamboo exterior was a breeze to clean. Well-placed medium-strength magnets made it easy to attach all our knives, and a rotating base gave us quick access to them. One tiny quibble: The blade of our 12-inch slicing knife stuck out a little.


Schmidt Brothers Downtown Block

This roomy block completely sheathed our entire winning knife set using just one of its two sides—and quite securely, thanks to long, medium-strength magnet bars. Heavy, with a grippy base, this block was very stable. An acrylic guard made this model extra-safe but also made it a little trickier to insert knives and to clean; the wood block itself showed some minor cosmetic scratching during use.


Schmidt Brothers Midtown Block

This smaller version of the Downtown Block secured all our knives nicely, though the blade of the slicing knife stuck out a bit. With a base lined with grippy material, this block was very stable. An acrylic guard afforded extra protection against contact with blades but made it a little harder to insert knives and to clean; the wood itself got a little scratched during use.

Recommended with Reservations

Swissmar Bamboo Magnetic Knife Block

This small, scratch-resistant model had a stable, rubber-lined base and could hold all our knives, though the blade of the 12-inch slicing knife stuck out a bit. But inch-long gaps between its small magnets made coverage uneven and forced us to find the magnetic hot spots in order to secure the knives. Its acrylic guard made it safer to use but harder to insert knives and to clean.

Not Recommended

Messermeister Walnut Magnet Block

This handsome block was done in by its shape—a tippy, top-heavy quarter-circle that wasn’t tall or broad enough to keep the blades of three knives from poking out. It lacked a nonslip base, and its extra-strong magnets made it unnerving to attach or remove our heavy cleaver. Finally, it got a bit scratched after extensive use.


Epicurean Standing Knife Rack 12"

This magnetic block sheathed all our knives completely, though with a bit of crowding. But it was hard to insert each knife without hitting the block’s decorative slats on way down, and because the block was light and narrow, it wobbled when bumped. Worse, we couldn’t take it apart, so splatters that hit the interior were there to stay. Additionally, the outside stained easily, and when we wiped it down, the unit smelled like wet dog.


Kapoosh Rondelle Knife Block

This model stabilized knives with a mass of stiff, spaghetti-like bristles that shed and nicked easily after extensive use, covering our knives with plastic debris. While all our knives fit securely, several of the blades stuck out, making this unit feel less safe overall. Finally, though the bristles could be removed and cleaned in the dishwasher, their nooks and crannies made this block hard to wash by hand.


Kuhn Rikon Vision Knife Block, Clear

This plastic block required us to aim each knife into the folds of an accordion-pleated insert that was removable for easy cleaning but got nicked easily with repeated use. Because we could only insert the knives vertically, longer knife blades stuck out; a cleaver was too wide to fit. The lightest model in our lineup, this block was dangerously top-heavy when loaded with knives.