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Shrimp: to devein or not to devein

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I thought that devening shrimp was a must until I had the best meal of my life in Paris. We got unbelievable, whole shrimp, head and shells on. I had a hell of a time figuring out how to eat them delicately, especially since we were the only apparent English-speakers in the relatively fancy restaurant. Turns out it's like BBQ, just dig in and wipe your hands later.

But the shrimp had the veins in. I guess I had assumed the shells would be split up the back and cleaned, but no. Didn't get any grit in the process, but it was a first for me.

So do you always clean your shrimp?? Do guests get icked out???

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  1. Definitly devein!
    You don't have to cut open the shrimp to devein. You can use a toothpick, prink in the space between the body shell and the tail, poke the toothpick underneath the vein and pull up with your finger on the toothpick. It works on all sizes.

    2 Replies
    1. re: Wendy Lai

      This is what my mom taught me to do, except I use the tine of a fork. We bought them whole at the chinese market - heads, legs, and all - and this gets the vein out without cutting open the shell so you can cook them without losing any of the juices. Plus it's much faster than cutting down the back.

      1. re: Jujubee

        As far as I know, most of my Chinese releatives do it this way. Cutting down the back was mostly a restaurant thing, to make it pretty or something...

    2. Yes, I always devein. Shrimp vary but it can be a nasty surprise at the dinner table, especially since most people know what they are eating. Bleh.

      I have never been served shrimp that weren't cleaned at a restaurant.

      Exception: whole shrimp in the shell which I think gets you everything, nasty bits, eyeballs, and roe, succulent crevices. I wouldn't blink if those hadn't been cleaned. Buyer beware.

      Now that I think about it. Even whole shrimp are cleaned at Japanese restaurants.

      1. I think it depends upon the shrimp. Wild shrimp tends to have more grit in the intestinal tract. Farmed may be controlled. I heard once that some wise farmers either starve the shrimp, or feed them some innocuous food (like cornmeal to snails) so that the last food eaten is what you get...not black and gritty but soft and juicy.

        1 Reply
        1. re: Jim H.

          I have gotten some nasty mouthfuls of sand from shrimp caught close in to the shore. I always check; if no grit, I don't bother. I seldom find it.

        2. Unless I serve humongo-jumbo shrimp, I never bother with deveining. Most people are fine eating shrimp (and, of course, crawdads) this way, I find. The folks who aren't are always creeped out more by attached heads, legs, and roe, then by the vein.

          1. I always devein. I think not deveining gives you shrimp with a mushy texture, at least that has been my experience. I buy most of my shrimp from Fabian Seafoods. Steve tours the mid-west through out the good months with shrimp that has never been frozen. A lot of the shrimp which is quite fresh and from the Gulf of Mexico have a lot of fatty tissue around the vein. I remove that too. I do not like that texture. But, it is great shrimp.

            5 Replies
            1. re: Candy

              I'm from the Carolina lowcountry, and I've never deveined a shrimp in my life, nor do I know any true natives who have either. That would be right up there with not sucking the heads of boiled shrimp when you peel them.

              Deveining doesn't make the shrimp mushy; cooking it too long does. Also old shrimp frozen to try to keep them can give you mushy shrimp - use those for bait.

              1. re: Sandy

                I have never over cooked a shrimp intentionally in my life. When I did forget a bunch recently and let them come to a boil they got rubbery, not mushy. I usually bring the court bullion to a boil dum in thr shrimp and turn the heat off and let them steep until they turn pink and drain and cool. NOT OVER COOKED!

                1. re: Candy

                  Usually when I get mushy shrimp I have either overcooked them under the broiler on the the grill (not by boiling) OR they were of suspect quality to begin with. Deveining will not affect the texture of the shrimp in my experience.

                  Generally I devein very large shrimp and leave the rest alone.

                  1. re: danna

                    In our experience with catching fresh shrimp in South Carolina, mushiness is caused by not chilling the shrimp right away and has nothing to do with deveining. Generally, we don't devein.

              2. re: Candy

                I had some Gulf 10-15 count shrimp a few weeks ago (purchased at Whole Foods) and I deveined. A very noticeable vein, so I needed to remove, and they also had the fatty deposits around the vein as well. Also removed.