Learn How to Clean Shrimp with executive Chef Ben Pollinger
How to Clean Shrimp
Cleaning and preparing raw or cooked shrimp involves essentially the same steps. Whatever kind of shrimp you've got on your hands, you can learn to check them for freshness and get them ready for whatever shrimp dish you've got in mind.
Check the shrimp for freshness.All shrimp should be kept refrigerated between 32 and 38 F. Raw shrimp should be consumed within 48 hours of purchase, while cooked shrimp should be consumed within 5-7 days.Frozen shrimp is usually good for up to 5 or 6 months.
- Cooked shrimp should be firm, pinkish-white, and should not have a strong fishy odor. Some cooked shrimp will have head, legs, carapace, and shell all attached, while others will have some combination of these.
- Raw shrimp should be firm, translucent, and somewhat shiny, with no noticeable odor. Most of the time, raw shrimp will have the legs and shell, and often the head attached.
- Frozen shrimp, cooked or raw, should be defrosted in the refrigerator overnight, before attempting to clean or devein them. It's also possible to remove the number of shrimp you plan to use, and defrost them in cold water, in a bowl, in the sink.It should only take 20-30 minutes.
Rinse the shrimp.Place shrimp in a colander, washing them thoroughly with cold water. Inspect the shrimp closely for signs of spoilage while you're rinsing them, and discard any that appear slimy, discolored, or which smell overly fishy.
- Only rinse and defrost shrimp in cold water, no warmer than room temperature. Shrimp cook very quickly, and running them through hot water will result in gummy, rubbery shrimp.
Remove the heads.Pinch the head between your index finger and thumb, just where it meets the body, and hold the body firmly with your other hand. Pinch and twist the head, until it comes free.
- Not all shrimp come head-on, and some people prefer leaving them during cooking, to help flavor the meal. They're fine to eat, if a little strange. If the thought makes you squeamish, remove them.
- Discard the heads into a separate bag from your household trash or a plastic storage bag and take out quickly, or it'll start to smell. You can also save heads for making homemade seafood stock.
Remove the legs.After the head has been removed, turn the body "belly" up, facing you. Grasp all the legs firmly in your fingertips, tearing them down toward the tail and pulling them free. They should come off relatively easily, but you might not be able to get them all at once. Go back and pull any stubborn legs individually.
Remove the shell.At this point, there are a few different ways to proceed, all effective, depending on whether you've got raw or cooked shrimp. The most common way of removing the shell is to start where the legs were removed, peeling the shell back along the sides of the shrimp, like you were opening its jacket.
- Use your fingernail, or a small paring knife to get the carapace started, pull it back and off the shrimp in segments. If you prefer, you can also start where the head was removed, pulling the shell off down the back ridge of the shrimp. Equally effective.
- Alternatively, you can use your knife to cut along the curved back ridge of the shrimp, where the vein will be, cutting through the shell to separate and remove it along the sides. Since you'll need to remove the vein of raw shrimp anyway, it's common to use this method for raw shrimp.
Remove the tail, if you want.More often, shrimp is cooked with the tail on, depending on how you want to cook it. It's also fine to remove the tail, pulling it off. You can use a small knife to slit along the underside of the tail, if you have trouble getting it off.
Remove the vein.Along the back ridge of the shrimp there is a dark vein, which is the shrimp's intestinal tract. With a deveining knife or a paring knife, this can be removed by cutting into the shrimp, straight along this ridge, just deep enough to reach the vein to pull it out.
- You don't need to cut down very far – just until you reach the vein (about halfway through the shrimp).
- Tease out the vein with the tip of your knife, then grab it with your fingers and pull it back toward the tail of the shrimp. It should come loose easily. Make sure it's all removed.
Store shrimp properly.Rinse the shrimp in cold water to remove any loose shell bits, or gunk from the inside of the shrimp. It's usually best to cook raw shrimp right away, after cleaning, or you can store them loosely in the refrigerator for up to 24 hours until you want to cook them.
- Shrimp should be stored in the fridge, between 32 and 38 degrees F, in cling wrap or in an airtight container.
QuestionDoes the vain on the bottom of the shrimp have to be removed?wikiHow ContributorCommunity AnswerNo, it doesn't. This is strictly up to personal taste. On large shrimp, the vein can be quite a mouthful, but on smaller shrimp you won't even notice it. Fully cooked, the vein won't hurt you.Thanks!
QuestionHow long should I steam baby shrimp?wikiHow ContributorCommunity AnswerJust until they turn pink. Shimp cook quickly so this shouldn't take more than a few minutes.Thanks!
QuestionDoes boiled shrimp need deveining?wikiHow ContributorCommunity AnswerYup! If it hasn't been deveined before cooking, it's a good idea to do so. A slit down the back of the shrimp should expose the intestinal tract.Thanks!
QuestionDoes the vein taste bad or hurt you?Jacquelyn HelmuthCommunity AnswerYou likely won't fall ill from eating fully cooked shrimp sand veins, as any bacteria in them should be destroyed during the cooking process. The vein is the digestive tract, so you might not like the idea of eating it, as you would be eating shrimp waste.Thanks!
QuestionFarmed shrimp have more bacteria; how can I clean the bacteria out before cooking?Top AnswererYou can't. Just cook them properly, and the shrimp will be okay to eat.Thanks!
What is the best way to remove the bottom vein from shrimp?
Start cleaning the shrimp by rinsing them in a colander with cold water, and remove the heads by pinching them between your thumb and forefinger and twisting. Then, remove the legs by pinching them between your fingertips and pulling them down toward the tail. After the legs are removed, separate the shell from the body of the shrimp with a long knife and peel it off. You can also pull the tail off of the shrimp depending on the recipe. Finish cleaning the shrimp by using a knife to cut into the back of the shrimp and remove the vein.
- Discard fishy smelling shrimp immediately. Strong odors are a sign of spoilage, in raw or cooked shrimp.
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