Although deveining shrimp is optional, most home cooks choose to remove the black thread, which is actually the shrimp’s digestive tract. It is safe to eat but can have a gritty texture and shrimp which have not been deveined are not so attractive. Deveining is more popular in the United States than for example Europe, where you might be served whole shrimp which you eat with your fingers, peeling and deveining them as you go.
Since deveining is so quick and easy though, most people do prefer to do it, so the finished dish is more presentable and more appealing. If you are working on a lot of shrimp, you might wish to keep them in a bowl of ice water, so you can work on one at a time, keeping the others fresh.
Removing the Vein from Shelled Shrimp
You will need a small, sharp knife, such as a common paring knife. Hold the shrimp with the back facing upwards and run the knife down the shrimp’s length to expose the vein. Use the tip of the knife or your finger to pull it out.
Another method is to rinse the shrimp under running cold water, so the vein rinses away. Put the shrimp back in the ice water with the others and continue until all the shrimp are deveined. Have the deveined ones on one side and the ones still to do on the other, so you do not overlook any.
Removing the Vein from Unshelled Shrimp
If the shrimp still have their shells on, you will need a special tool known as a shrimp deveiner. This is a knife-like gadget and you can buy it from any kitchen supply store. Hold the shrimp with the back facing upwards and put the deveiner under the tip of the shell.
Slide it gently up the shrimp’s back towards the tail. The serrated edge sticks to the vein, picking it up, while the sharp upper edge cuts through the shell. It is your choice whether or not to leave the tail on. This depends on the size of the shrimp, what the recipe recommends, and personal preference.
Using a Two-Pronged Cooking Fork
If you have a two-pronged cooking fork, the kind you use to hold roast meat steady while you slice it, you can use this to remove the vein. Look at the end of your shrimp where the head used to be. You will see a dark dot under the shell on the top side. This is the end of the vein.
Put one of the tines of the fork on the dark spot and push the tine into the cavity of the vein. This pressure will split the spine and also roll the shell back, so you can devein it and peel it in one go. This saves you having to purchase a special deveiner.
Something else you can try, if you do not have a long two-pronged fork, is a regular fork or a toothpick. These will work better with smaller shrimp though. Whichever utensil you choose, practice makes perfect. Once you have learnt how to devein shrimp you will be able to pick up your speed and get through a batch of them in next to no time.
Picture, recipes and/or content upgraded: 01-13-16
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