A question on deveining shrimp

Discussion in 'Food & Cooking' started by sgt. pepper, Jan 2, 2005.

  1. sgt. pepper

    sgt. pepper

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    Can someone tell me when it's appropriate to devein shrimp and when it's okay to eat them with the vein left in? For instance, if you make a dish such as a Jambalaya or Shrimp Creole, you are supposed to peel and devein the shrimp. Yet if you are having a shrimp boil, or are making Barbecue Shrimp, most recipes I've seen have the shrimp left with the heads on and shell in tact. If someone could enlighten me on this I'd appreciate it!
     
  2. suzanne

    suzanne

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    There are several considerations for shelling and deveining under some circumstances but not others. They have to be weighed against each other. They include: size of the shrimp; cooking method; eating method/composition of the dish; overall flavor. Disclaimer: most of this is my opinion, based on what I prefer. YMMV. ;)

    Size: Larger shrimp are more likely to have noticeable grit in the vein (which is, after all, the waste-removal mechanism). So you usually want to devein really big shrimp. The smaller the shrimp, the bigger the pain to devein, but then again if you can SEE the vein in smaller shrimp, you might want to remove it because it has, um, stuff in it. However . . .

    Cooking method: High-heat cooking, such as barbequing or grilling, is better done with the shells ON, to protect the flesh (if you split the really gigantic ones, then it's easy to pull out the vein). Boiling also requires protection. So does deep-frying, but the batter/breading accomplishes the same thing as the shell would. A quick sauté is fine with peeled shrimp. Then again, one of my favorite recipes is a slow poach in flavored oil at a low temperature, and while the shrimp would be safe enough if peeled, it really is better to leave the shells on; they soften up in the cooking enough to be edible. Because . . .

    Eating method: If the dish can and will be eaten without implements, with people using their hands to shell the shrimp, it's much more fun -- and easier for you -- to let them do the work. But if it's a knife-and-fork meal, or a situation in which people will not want to get sauce all over themselves, shell away! And if it were going to be a really elegant dish, I would definitely devein even medium shrimp.

    Overall flavor: I'm prejudiced: I believe that shrimp cooked whole retain more flavor than those that have been beheaded. And again, it's a bit of protection for the flesh, as well as a great way to have fun, sucking the flavor out of the head. But if you have really good, fresh shrimp (or very carefully handled frozen ones), the flavor difference may not even be noticeable. And there are all those other considerations which, to me, come first.

    Hope this helps. And I hope others will chime in with their opinions and facts.
     
  3. phatch

    phatch Moderator Staff Member

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    What's to add?
     
  4. scott123

    scott123

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    No shrimp poo for me, thanks ;) You know those jumbo shrimp with almost all the vein removed except for the last section near the tail? Drives me friggin bonkers! The individual that came up with that practice needs to be drawn and quartered.
     
  5. stephsherman323

    stephsherman323

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    I think that shrimp cooked with the shell on tends to have more flavor, but I object to veins in large shrimp. I haven't had a chance to try this yet, but I was watching one of Sara Moulton's shows recently and there was a chef on who had an interesting way to devein raw shrimp with the shell still on. He took a wooden skewer and poked it throught the back of the shell just underneath the vein and at the first break/ridge behing the head end. He pushed it out the other side and gently pulled up. The whole thing pulled right out. Like I said, I haven't tried it but he made it look awfully easy.