The “vein” in shrimp is actually their digestive tract, which is why most people prefer to remove it. Also, leaving the vein on the shrimp may make the shrimp taste gritty. It might seem like a daunting and not very pleasant task (which is why many people prefer to buy deveined shrimp), but the process is fairly easy. Here’s how to devein shrimp in six easy steps.
1. Start by preparing a bowl of ice or ice water (the shrimp need to be kept cold during the preparation process). Place the shrimp in the water and remove one at a time to devein them.
2. If the shrimp still has its head attached, grab the head and pop it off, then pull off the legs. (However, some people like to cook shrimp with the heads still attached.)
3. If you’re planning to cook the shrimp without their shells, peel them with your fingers, starting at the end where the head was, and working your way down to the tail. You may remove the tail, depending on how you are planning to prepare the shrimp. Some people like to leave the tail on for decoration or to make it easier to pick the shrimp up.
If you want to cook the shrimp with the shells on, use a paring knife to cut down the edge of the shrimp’s back so that you can access the vein.
4. Once the shell has been removed or cut open, you will be able to see the vein. Simply grab it with your fingers or the knife and pull it out. Sometimes, rinsing the back of the shrimp with cool water will rinse away the vein.
5. Place the shrimp back into a chilled bowl of ice to keep it cool.
6. Cook the shrimp according to the recipe that you are using.
Note: Sometimes you won’t see the vein, so don’t worry about pulling it out if it is not visible. As noted above, eating the vein is not harmful.