A while back, when I was under the weather, my husband actually went to the grocery store for me. I can count on one hand how many times he’s gone in the last 32 years, so I felt pretty honored by his effort.
My list was pretty short, but it included shrimp. I had been craving shrimp and doing something spicy with it. Hey – nothing stops me from eating.
But to make it easy, I had my husband pick up – wait for it – frozen, cooked shrimp. Trust me, this was a first.
Now, I know that working with raw shrimp is the far superior way to enjoy them, even though it includes some tedious peeling and cleaning, but I don’t really mind the process. I have noticed on blogs, however, that some people forego the preparation of shrimp, and opt for pre-cooked. Maybe not frozen pre-cooked, but pre-cooked nonetheless. It’s always surprised me, because good cooks who have cooking blogs should follow the adage of always using the highest quality ingredients. This means using the freshest raw shrimp that is available to you.
Let me just say that I couldn’t eat the shrimp my husband brought home. It wasn’t his fault – he bought what I asked for. I thawed them, rinsed them, and patted them dry, and yet they remained water-logged and tasteless. They had really lost any shrimp texture as well. So much for my plan. But I did learn a lesson that I knew anyway.
The shrimp I can get raw might have already been frozen once after being fished out of the Gulf of Mexico, but I’ve never had any issues with the quality. And I’ve always been happy with the results – nicely textured shrimp with good flavor.
I have friends who’ve never cleaned shrimp, but then, they don’t really cook either. But I thought I’d give a little primer on cleaning shrimp to help out those who’ve never done this prep work before. I can now say with 100% assurance that this is the only way to go. Experienced home cooks won’t need this information, of course.
How to Clean Shrimp
Start with 1 pound of the freshest shrimp you can get. Mine were medium-sized, because they look the best. I personally don’t like the really large Tiger shrimp that are available where I live, nor do I want to mess with the smaller sized shrimp.
But you’re not done. There’s still the tail to contend with, and there’s shrimp meat in there. Carefully pull on the shrimp’s tail with one hand while gently pulling on the shrimp body with the other. The tail meat will come out.
Holding the shrimp body with the back side facing (the opposite side from where the legs were), slice down the back of the shrimp about 1/4″ deep, from one end to the next. What is revealed is the shrimp’s intestine. And if you think about what’s in the intestine, well that’s why we want to remove it.
With the same small knife end, grab the intestine and remove it, pulling on it to get the whole length. Some shrimp will be dirtier than others, so just inspect the incision and make sure you got everything.
Place the shelled and cleaned shrimp back in the colander and give them another rinse. Then place them on paper towels or a clean dish cloth. If you’re going to be marinating or immediately grilling the shrimp, they need to drip dry. If you’re going to be poaching them, there’s no need.
Tomorrow I’ll post on poaching shrimp. It’s essentially a shrimp boil using your own herbs and spices. They’re good to eat as is, or to use in recipes. Stay tuned!
note: Some people like the tail left on the shrimp, but I don’t. If you prefer it that way, then just remove the main body peels and leave the rest on the tail. But still clean the shrimp as much as you can towards the tail end.