Devein Or Not To Devein: Why You Do Not Need To Devein Shrimp

Learn two ways to do it if you think it's necessary to do.

Have you ever bitten into a shrimp or a prawn and inexplicably tasted something gritty? If you have, then you probably ate hipon that wasn’t deveined. Deveining a shrimp is easy, especially if you know the tips and tricks to do it.

However, how important is it to remove a shrimp’s vein? Is deveining shrimp necessary? 

No, it’s not. However, removing it does make the shrimps look more appetizing, especially for conscientious eaters. This is because the vein on its back is the intestine of the shrimp but not all shrimps are deveined. You might notice that small shrimp are largely not deveined and that only the larger shrimp and prawns are commonly deveined if at all. This is because the bigger the veins, the more likely you will notice any off textures or tastes. Removing the vein on the back of the shrimp is therefore mostly for looks and if you find it unappetizing

Photo by Patrick Martires

There are two ways to devein your troupe of shrimps if you think it’s necessary to do: you can use a knife or you can use a toothpick. 


If you use a knife, here’s what to do: 

  • 1 Grasp the shrimp’s head with one hand and remove this from the main body. Repeat with the legs, then remove the body shell. Repeat with the rest of the shrimps. Reserve heads, legs, and shells for making a delicious seafood stock. 
  • 2 Place shrimp flat on a cutting board. With a small knife, make a shallow slice along the back of the shrimp from head to tail. 
  • 3 Open the slit and use the knife to gently scrape out the vein. Discard. Repeat with remaining shrimps.

You can also use a toothpick to not only keep the shrimp as whole as possible, but you can remove the vein without removing the shells. It’s trickier than using a knife but the results are impressive. Here’s what you do: 

  • 1 Hold the shrimp by the back in one hand with the tail end up, and a toothpick in the other. Aim the toothpick at a spot that’s just under the vein on the back of the shrimp near the last tail segment.
  • 2 Pierce the spot with the toothpick. (You should go straight through the shell and under the vein.)
  • 3 Hold firmly and begin to lift the toothpick through the back of the shrimp where you just pierced. Go slowly so to hook the vein as you lift. If needed, grasp the vein as it appears so it won’t break and pull it out. Discard and repeat with remaining shrimps. 

You can start practicing these tips and tricks on the next batch of seafood you have ordered! 


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