There is nothing quite as delicious on a hot summer day as a pot full of steamed shrimp, some vegetables, and perhaps watermelon or other fruit. Shrimp is an incredibly versatile seafood, however, and can appear in a variety of places other than just served plain with a little butter, as delightful as that can be. Having worked at a seafood counter for a year, I know firsthand how delicious shrimp are, and also how much healthier it feels to de-vein your shrimp before eating them.
The first step to preparing shrimp in most any dish is peeling it. If your shrimp have heads, remove them with a sharp knife and discard. Alternatively, you can start a bag or container with the heads and, after adding the skins and tails, store in the freezer to make shrimp stock. After all, peeling shrimp is a lengthy process, so you may as well get all you can out of each piece, and shrimp stock is a wonderful addition to many dishes.
After removing the heads of your shrimp, begin to peel them. Start at the head end and work back towards the tail, peeling the hard shell back. When you reach the end of the shrimp, pull the tail straight off the shrimp and the rest of the skin should come with it.
Make sure to run your finger along the body of the shrimp to make sure that there is no shell remaining: since the shell is thin and clear, it’s easy to miss a bit, which would not be pleasant to discover after you’ve cooked your dish.
De-veining shrimp is a step that many home cooks overlook. Whether it’s because the process seems daunting, they don’t know how to de-vein, or just don’t think it’s necessary, people just avoid this step. The two veins of the shrimp are actually pathways for waste which leaves the shrimp’s body and not, as some people falsely assume, veins in the human sense which convey blood. Shrimp also tend to act like tiny water filters- taking in seawater, gleaning nutrients, and then releasing what they don’t need. As a result, there can be a fair amount of built up waste in a shrimp’s body.
There are two veins on a shrimp- one on the top of the body and one on the bottom. Many people, if they do de-vein at all, tend to take just the top vein out. However, fully butterflying the shrimp involves taking both veins out, top and bottom.
To de-vein your shrimp, take a sharp knife and press it shallowly into the back of the shrimp, taking care not to cut too deeply. Make a cut from one end to another, exposing the vein as you go and taking care not to cut the vein open, spilling it’s contents. You’ll find that some shrimp have very prominent veins and some do not, so you’ll need to be cautious. Remove the vein and discard, then repeat the process on the bottom of the shrimp, removing the vein that can be found there.
With a little extra effort, you can serve family and guests shrimp that look professionally de-veined and prepared and are devoid of any toxins that may accumulate in the veins. De-veining can add the professional, refined touch to your shrimp dishes that you’ve been craving.