Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Learning to Devein Fresh Shrimp: A How-to Video

A while back I posted a recipe on Ginger-Lime Shrimp. I promised you all at the time that I would create a video showing how exactly to "devein" (or de-poop, really) the little suckers without tearing into the entire back, destroying the aesthetic quality of a beautifully curled, perfectly cooked shrimp.

Well, a year later, here I am. It's ridiculous, I know, but there were just too many times that I was peeling and deveining shrimp while Chef Reiton was still at work, and my camera is too heavy for my tripod, and... Ugh. Excuses. But good ones, I swear.

Before I show you the video, I want to descriptively run through what I do, as well as show you a few pictures, in case it is unclear in the video.

And, remember, this is how I do it. Technically, you don't even need to devein your shrimp. You can eat the whole damn thing—head, shell, guts and all—if you want. I don't want to, so the following video shows how I choose to prepare my shrimp, fresh (not frozen) and beheaded by the local fishmonger.

To begin with, you first must PEEL the shrimp (unless you are having guests peel their own at the table during a casual dinner). I generally do this by pinching the legs between my thumb and the side of my pointer finger and tugging them sideways. This usually loosens the shell, too. Then I peel off the shell surrounding the shrimp and gently tug off the tail casing. You CAN leave the tail on if you prefer a kind of "handle" on your shrimp if it's acting as a finger food.

After your shrimp are peeled, it's time to devein. When you buy shrimp, the entire head and guts portion are already cut off and discarded—except for the intestine. "Deveining" means that you are removing the intestine that runs down the back of the shrimp. You do NOT need to do anything to the dark line running along its belly: it's just a nerve. See the shrimp diagram below for clarification (thank you,

Shrimp diagram for learning how to devein shrimp

Yes, you can buy deveined shrimp at the store, but this usually means the shrimp are handled by a machine which leaves a huge slice down their backs. They are typically then frozen into an unsightly mass of flayed, frost-bitten flesh. Such shrimp still taste and look just as frost-bitten and unsightly after they are prepared, and being a cook that likes to make my food not just attractive to the tongue but also to the eyes, I have learned to buy fresh shrimp and peel and devein them myself. Does it take extra time? Yes. But I'm not making shrimp every day, so I'm willing to put in the extra work when I need to. The sweet tenderness of un-frozen, un-molested shrimp is definitely worth it.

To devein, you will need a paring knife and a colander. I usually do this activity over a sink with running water to rinse the shrimp or knife as needed. You will be inserting the blade of your paring knife BLADE UP into the shrimp.

How to devein shrimp pictures and video

The intestine USUALLY shows as a dark "dot" in the neck of the shrimp. This is the start of the intestine. What makes it dark is the poop.

The intestine of a shrimp that is removed while deveining shrimp

Just below and beside this dot is where you are going to insert the tip of the knife.

Where to insert a knife while deveining shrimp

Only insert about 1/4-inch of the knife tip and slice up. With a little bit of fishing with the knife tip, you should reveal a section of the intestine. Using your thumb and fingertip, grasp the end of the intestine and pull firmly but gently. If you yank, you will snap the intestine and have to slice further down the back to reach the rest of it.

Let me show you with a video. It's not professional, but it will at least give you an idea of what I'm doing.

If you are even more confused than ever after watching the video, please feel free to ask me a question in the comments section below. I will do what I can to help. Or you can send us a picture of your beautiful, poop-free shrimp! Yippeeeeeee!

And check out the other videos in CAF's "How the Hell do I...?" video series. You can subscribe to our channel at

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