Have you noticed that thin black vein at the back of the shrimp? Did you know that’s the shrimp’s digestive tract?
Sounds icky, right? That’s why a lot of people remove that vein before cooking shrimp.
But can you imagine just how time-consuming removing that vein from each and every shrimp.
And that’s why a lot of people skip that step.
To devein or not to devein is a long-standing dilemma, and it’s time to set the record straight.
So do you have to devein shrimp?
Summary: You don’t have to devein shrimp. Deveining shrimp is more of a personal preference than a safety or culinary protocol, so the answer is totally up to you.
But if you’re confused as to what you should do, we’ll share some tips on when to devein and when to skip it in this article.
Oh, and we’ll also share one deveining hack that will make it hassle-free, so you shouldn’t miss it!
Do You Have to Devein Shrimp?
As we’ve mentioned, it’s totally up to you. The decision to devein or not to devein shrimp is a matter of personal preference and mostly for aesthetics, but it isn’t a requirement for hygiene and safety.
To help you understand whether you should devein that shrimp or skip what most people think to be a grueling process, here are some of the information you need to know:
What is that Shrimp Vein?
The vein at the back of the shrimp is its digestive tract, more commonly known as the shrimp’s sand vein. It’s called such because this is where the shrimp’s body wastes (sand and the like) pass through.
Now that you know what that shrimp vein is for, let’s decide whether you’d prefer to remove it.
What Happens When You Eat Shrimp That’s Not Deveined?
The idea of eating it may seem unappetizing or unhealthy, but the vein won’t cause any harm to the body when ingested. (*) At worst, you’ll just feel a gritty texture when you bite into the dish.
When Do You Need to Devein Shrimp?
You should devein the shrimp when:
The idea bothers you.
If the idea of eating shrimp waste grosses you out, then you should devein the shrimp.
You don’t like the way it looks.
Some shrimps have dark and thick sand veins, so they are extremely visible when the shrimp is cooked and served. Unfortunately, their visibility makes the dish less presentable and unappealing.
If this bothers you, then deveining the shrimp is the best idea.
The shrimps are too big.
Size should be a big consideration when making the deveining decision. That’s because large to extra-large (12 to 25 pcs per pound) shrimps tend to have bigger veins. (*)
Aside from the fact that the veins will be more visible, their sand vein is also larger. Because of this, there’s a chance that the vein might contain more and bigger sand particles that will give the dish a grittier texture.
But you know the best part? Since the shrimps are much bigger, they are much easier to devein, so doing so won’t be too much of a hassle for you.
When Shouldn’t You Need to Devein Shrimp?
Skip the deveining process when:
You have small shrimps.
If you’re using extra-small (61- 70 pcs per pound) or small (51 to 60 pcs per pound) shrimps, then it might be a good idea to skip the deveining process.
That’s because the shrimps are so tiny that it will take a lot of time and effort to devein each and every one of them.
The good news is the sand veins of these shrimp sizes are also small. Because of this, those will not be too visible, so you don’t have to worry about how they’ll look.
Not only that, but these also won’t contain huge amounts of sand, so you don’t have to worry about it affecting the dish’s texture.
Pro Tip: For vein-free small shrimps, just buy pre-cleaned frozen or fresh shrimps. These shrimps have already been deveined and shelled, so you don’t have to do the work.
You plan on steaming, poaching, or boiling it.
The easiest way to devein shrimp is to slice it in the back. However, keeping the shrimp’s shape intact is necessary when you plan on steaming, poaching, or boiling it for even cooking.
You’re using shell-on shrimps.
Cooking shrimp with their shell-on is a great way to keep the moisture and prevent it from becoming too rubbery. However, the presence of a shell will make deveining more difficult, so it may be a great idea to skip the step when using shell-on shrimps.
Pro Tip: We found a way to devein shrimps with the shell-on. If you want to know what it is, check out the next section!
How to Devein Shrimp?
If you decide to devein the shrimp, let’s get to the best part—learning how to devein shrimp. Here are two ways:
Method #1: Devein Shrimp the Conventional Way
Step 1. Position the shrimp.
Hold the shrimp between your forefinger and thumb, with the rounded side facing you.
Step 2. Use a knife to cut a slit at the back.
With a paring knife, create a shallow slit from under the head down to the last section before the tail.
Step 3. Remove the vein.
Using your finger or the tip of the knife, lift the vein and remove it.
Method #2: Devein Shrimp Without Slicing the Back
If you want to devein shell-on shrimps, this is the best method for you.
Step 1. Position the shrimp on a cutting board.
Secure it in place using your fingers.
Step 2. Create a slit through the shell.
Using kitchen shears, create a shallow slit through the shell. The slit should start behind the tougher head shell if you have head-on shrimps.
Step 3. Remove the vein.
Spread the divided shell apart. Look for the vein and use a toothpick to lift it out and remove it.
The Ultimate Deveining Hack
Make shrimp deveining a whole lot easier by using a shrimp cleaning tool. This is the only tool you need to clean your shrimp because it’s a shrimp peeler and deveiner. (*)
So what’s the verdict? Should you devein shrimp or not? The answer depends on your personal preference.
And if you don’t have any preferences, then you can simply follow our criteria when you should and shouldn’t devein shrimp.
If you want to make the deveining process a lot easier, you can choose from any of the two methods we’ve mentioned.
You can even make it a breeze when you take advantage of the ultimate deveining hack we’ve shared.