Have you ever wondered what the black stuff is that you sometimes see running down a shrimp’s back?
This can be present whether you are eating shrimp at a restaurant, buying it in a supermarket to prepare at home, or catching it straight from the sea.
You can get rid of this by a process called deveining, but it isn’t necessary in order to enjoy eating the shrimp, as it is simply a cosmetic issue.
Many people are concerned that they are eating the poop of the animal, because that’s what it looks like, and it’s not an appetizing thought.
What you are seeing is in fact the digestive tract of the shrimp, and the dark stuff inside it is grit.
Shrimp consume a lot of grit from the bottom of the ocean where they live, because they are not picky about what they eat.
This grit ends up in their digestive tract until it has completely passed through their system. When the shrimp are caught, the last meal they ate is still inside them.
Is Deveining Shrimp Essential?
As we have mentioned, you don’t need to devein your shrimp if you don’t want to, and it is just a matter of personal preference.
Certain people may be put off if a dark vein is visible, so this is something to think about if you’re serving it at a dinner party.
However, it isn’t unhygienic to leave it in, and it shouldn’t affect the taste of the shrimp if you skip the deveining stage.
According to some, deveining makes the meat taste better, but this is mainly just a psychological phenomenon.
A lot of the time, you can purchase shrimp that has already been deveined, to save you the hassle of doing this yourself.
Deveined shrimp can be refrigerated or frozen, and you might find some that are fully intact or even still in their shell!
Industrial deveining processes can make this process easier and quicker to complete.
While you don’t need to devein your shrimp if you don’t want to, you should always make sure you wash your hands thoroughly when handling raw shrimp.
Seafood carries harmful bacteria that can cause food poisoning if you don’t take the proper precautions.
Is Deveining Shrimp Difficult?
Deveining is quite easy to do with larger shrimp, but the smaller ones are more fiddly.
Many chefs are inclined not to devein shrimp that fall into the latter category, because it is not really worth their time if they don’t look particularly dirty.
Suppliers will often provide deveined shrimp for catering purposes, so they have this option to help them out a bit.
How To Devein Shrimp
If you haven’t deveined shrimp before, it can seem a little daunting. Here is a step-by-step guide for how to do it.
Remove the head and the legs from your shrimp. You can do this simply by pulling them off with your hands.
Peel the shell, starting from the end nearest where the head was. While you can cook shrimp in their shells, it is much easier to remove them first, particularly if you don’t have much shrimp experience.
Shrimp companies can sometimes devein shrimp with the shell still on, but this isn’t really viable with only household kitchen equipment to hand.
Make a cut along the shrimp’s back with a small, sharp knife – a paring knife is usually best for this purpose. The cut should be roughly a ¼ inch deep and down the middle of the entire back.
You should be able to see the digestive tract just under the surface; if you can, use the tip of your knife to gently prise it out.
Some people use their fingers, but it can be more fiddly that way. If you can’t see the ‘vein’, then it’s not a noticeable one and can be left alone.
Some shrimp have their tract on the underside of their body, in which case the process is similar – you just need to make the slit down the inside rather than down the back.
Collect your prepared shrimp in ice water to keep the meat at its best until you intend to cook it.
Is It Dangerous To Eat The Contents Of A Digestive Tract?
As we have mentioned, it is completely fine to eat the black grit in the digestive tract, and you most likely won’t even notice it’s there when you’re enjoying the delicious shrimp.
As long as the fish is prepared and cooked properly, you shouldn’t experience any negative side-effects.
If you’re squeamish or about to eat your dinner, then look away now.
We will be completely transparent with you and say that the dark substance in the digestive tract is food that is near the end of the digestion process, which technically makes it the shrimp equivalent of feces.
This thought might gross you out, but it’s really no different from eating any meats or other products that contain waste materials.
Even honey is suspicious if you look at it from this angle – while it isn’t technically bee poop, the nectar does get stored in the stomach of the bee before passing through the body and being excreted.
An argument can be made for the notion that the thin black tube you see on a shrimp contains poop.
However, it is mainly just made up of grit and similar particles that occur naturally in the ocean and won’t cause you any harm.
It is often best not to think too deeply about the minutiae of consuming any animal products, unless you have ethical objections – as long as you follow all the cooking directions, you will be perfectly safe to eat meat.
Many people prefer to remove the digestive tract for aesthetic reasons, and it is relatively simple to do this.
Hopefully, after reading this article, you will feel more comfortable eating and preparing shrimp, so you can enjoy it in the best way possible – with or without the black stuff.
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