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I bought some precooked whole shrimp. Do I need to peel and devein them before eating or is it possible to leave this step out? I intend to saute them in garlic butter.

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If they were not pre-cooked and you cooked them without deveining and peeling, would you eat them like that? –  s_hewitt Dec 30 '10 at 23:25

3 Answers 3

up vote 5 down vote accepted

Yes you need to devein them. The 'vein' is in fact no such thing; it is the intestine, and is thus filled with waste matter.

Yes, you need to peel them. Shrimp shells are indigestible, and serving shrimp (unless meant to be eaten with the fingers) with the shells on is, to my mind, indefensible. There is simply no good way to eat unpeeled shrimp with cutlery.

I would personally eat them cold, as I see no point in re-cooking something that has already been cooked. This will make the flesh tougher.

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+1 for "no recooking". Shrimp cook extremely quickly. If you're going to cook them, they ought to be uncooked to start. (They'll be cheaper as well) –  Satanicpuppy Dec 31 '10 at 1:27
    
How should I go about seasoning them, then? We were planning to eat them with our fingers. Should I leave it to everybody to devein their own? :-o –  VoY Dec 31 '10 at 7:33
    
deveining cannot be done at the dinner table--you need an extremely sharp knife. plus, there is something about handling poo during dinner that is somewhat distasteful. I would serve them cold, perhaps with a classic cocktail sauce (the easy way to make one is ketchup + prepared horseradish), or a remoulade. Sauce Gribiche could be nice as well. –  daniel Dec 31 '10 at 8:36
    
Ok, I'm thinking peel&devein them and them just tossing them very gently with some garlic butter... hopefuly that's not gonna overcook them. Then use the leftover shells for stock, maybe? –  VoY Dec 31 '10 at 14:32
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If your aim is to heat the shrimp through, tossing them in garlic butter will overcook them. Period. Adding enough heat to get them to a pleasantly hot eating temperature will overcook them, period. Again, your absolute best bet for something tasty and tender is to serve them cold. In addition, boxed-dinners is quite incorrect; shrimp shells on their own make an excellent stock, you just need lots--so keep the shells in your freezer until you have amassed a good amount. Heads will make the stock better, of course, and roasting the shells before making the stock will intensify the flavour. –  daniel Dec 31 '10 at 16:15

I disagree with Daniel, you can absolutely eat the "vein" in a shrimp. Whole un-peeled shrimp are called peel-and-eat and that's exactly what you can do. Basically, when you are first cooking the shrimp you get the make the shells on/shells off decision and if you go with shells off, you should de-vein, otherwise you just serve as is.

As for preparing already cooked shrimp, you can heat the butter then toss the shrimp in that off the heat. You won't get them hot, but you can knock the chill off while at the same time adding the flavors you want to the party.

I agree that already cooked shrimp is inferior to raw, but you can still make it taste amazing.

The fact that the intestine contains waste matter is a non-issue to your digestive tract, de-veining is mainly a presentation decision and not a health one.

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I thought it's mainly because the intestine would spoil the flavor of the dish... –  VoY Jan 1 '11 at 10:33
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The intestine doesn't taste that much, the biggest problem you run into is the texture change. It really doesn't become an issue until the shrimp get to a larger size as there is never enough in any one bite to be detectable. However once you start talking twelve-fifteens you really do need to devein as it possible to get a bite that is a higher ratio of intestine to shrimp, which can be off putting. –  sarge_smith Jan 1 '11 at 18:58

You can leave both steps out if you wish, although personally I would always devein my shrimp before using. While consuming the 'vein' is harmless, I don't like the idea of eating it.

It is fairly easy to deshell the shrimp before or after cooking, so that is up to preference and cooking application may have a factor. If your shrimp are going to be fairly dry after cooking (which is not true in this case) then its easy to peel them after the fact. Because the shrimp are going to be cooked in a sauce it will be messier to peel after cooking; but if you don't want to touch raw shrimp/don't care then peel after. As Sarge said, cooking in the shell is more flavorful.

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