Shrimp is the most popular seafood in the United States and accounts for 25 percent of all seafood consumed, according to Coastal Living. If you need any more proof of this, just look no further than Red Lobster's annual Endless Shrimp fest. Those tender and tasty crustaceans can be prepared in a variety of delicious ways, and if you've ever bought them raw, you probably know some prep can be needed before cooking.
In addition to removing the shell — which isn't always necessary — you may have heard of "deveining" shrimp. This entails using a knife to remove that little black line down the back of the shrimp. First off, this isn't actually a vein, but is the shrimp's digestive tract — as if that makes it any less gross. And that blackness is... you guessed it, shrimp waste (via The Spruce Eats).
Is it really necessary to go to the trouble to devein every single shrimp though?
Deveining shrimp is more preference than safety protocol
Before you yell, "Of course, you remove that gross black gunk!" let's examine what would happen if you didn't. Obviously, it's gross, but if it seems like too much trouble — and it is time-consuming — you can actually skip this step.
"It's not gonna kill you, but it's going to be a little grainy, maybe," Chris Bray, manager of Dirk's Fish in Chicago told The Takeout. "It's an aesthetic thing. And it's not gonna taste great." Not deveining the shrimp cooks that sea grit into the shrimp, and let's just say it doesn't add to the flavor.
Some shrimp might not even have that black vein in the back, so skipping it probably won't make much difference at all. This is particularly true in smaller shrimp, so if there's no visible vein, going to the extra trouble isn't worth it because it won't affect the taste.
When it comes down to it, choosing to devein the shrimp is more about aesthetics and taste — not seafood safety.
How to devein shrimp
Let's say you've got a bowl full jumbo shrimp and have chosen to devein a few. Doing so isn't the most difficult culinary maneuver, but you should be careful because you'll be using a knife and those little buggers can be slippery.
Make a shallow cut on the back of the shrimp along the black line. Don't apply too much pressure, as you're not trying to cut deep here. Now just use the tip of your knife to pull out that black gunk (via The Kitchn). Presto, you've just deveined a shrimp and ensured that your seafood will taste great and not like the bottom of the ocean floor.