If you are new to working with fresh shrimp, you may have a few questions. Learning how to clean shrimp is not hard, but when you have got a whole pile to do, it can be a little daunting. Learning how to do this quickly and easily will get to eating much faster.
Once you buy your shrimp, keep them cold, even while you are cleaning them. You can keep them on ice or in ice water before and after peeling. Set up one bowl for unpeeled shrimp and one for the shrimp after you have cleaned them.
Pull off the heads if you got whole shrimp. You can discard them, save them for seafood stock, or feed them to your cats. Pull off the legs; they come off really easily. Start peeling the shell off at the head end of the body.
It pulls off pretty easy. If you wish, keep the last segment and the tail on the shrimp for presentation purposes. If your shrimp will be going into other recipes, remove it. The shells can also be used to make stock, so set them aside in bag if you want to save them. Otherwise, they can be discarded.
You can also leave the shell on for cooking if you wish. Just take a pair of kitchen shears and cut the shell over the shrimp’s back so you can still devein the shrimp. Cooking shrimp in the shell adds a lot more shrimp flavor to your meal.
How to Remove the Vein
The vein is a long dark tube that runs the length of the shrimp’s back. It is really the intestine, not a vein, but it looks like a vein, so that is the terminology that is used. To remove it, take a sharp paring knife and make a shallow cut (about ¼ inch deep) all along the length of the shrimp’s back. You should see the vein easily.
Using the tip of the knife or a toothpick, lift the vein up and pull it out. Discard it. You may need to dip your knife or fingers in water to get the vein off of you; it tends to stick. Leaving a full vein may make the shrimp taste gritty. If you cannot see the vein, it is empty and makes no difference in your shrimp so you can leave it alone.
Place the cleaned and deveined shrimp in a bowl of ice water or on ice until you are ready to cook.
What to Do First
Do what works best for you. Some people like to remove all the shells first, and then devein the shrimp. Others like to peel the shrimp and then devein it before they move on to the next. This makes it so they only have to handle each shrimp once. Do whatever feels easiest for you and repeat it until all the shrimp have been cleaned and deveined.
Do not forget to keep the shrimp chilled until you are ready to cook. A hot kitchen will cause the shrimp to begin to deteriorate fast if they are not kept cold.
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