by Jeffrey Elliot and James P. DeWan
Although shrimp heads are edible, most Western preparations call for their removal. They are usually sold with the heads already removed; if you buy whole shrimp, just pull the heads off with your hands and save them for stock.
What we call the head also contains most of the shrimp's internal organs. One organ that is not limited to the head is the intestine, which runs the length of the shrimp, all the way down its back. Because the intestine carries waste material (primarily dirt or sand, but also bits of digested vegetable or animal matter), most cooks prefer to remove it before cooking the shrimp, as it can impart slightly off flavors or a gritty texture.
The removal of the intestine is called deveining. For our demo of this technique, we'll use peeled headless shrimp, though it works just as well with shrimp that still have the little tail section attached.
Recommended Knife: Chef's knife or paring knife
Lay the shrimp on the cutting board, with the back facing your knife hand and the tail facing you. Steady the shrimp with your guide hand in the claw position.
Holding the knife blade parallel to the board, place the point at the top center of the back.
Follow the arc of the shrimp with the point of the blade, making an incision all the way to the tail, just deep enough to uncover the intestine.
Work the point of the blade just underneath the intestine at the head side. Use the point to lift the intestine and pull it away.
Use the point of the blade to scrape out any remaining pieces of intestine.
If you are doing a lot of shrimp at once, lining the shrimp up on the board will save time.
This page created January 2011
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