Test Kitchen recipe: Skip gadgets, use scissors to devein and shell shrimp

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Q: When a recipe calls for cooking shrimp with shells on, what’s the best way to devein them?

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Q: When a recipe calls for cooking shrimp with shells on, what’s the best way to devein them?

— Elizabeth Kampa, Livonia, Mich.

A: There are many fancy kitchen gadgets for deveining shrimp. Although most of these shrimp deveiners and peelers are inexpensive, a small pair of scissors works just as well. I keep a pair of cuticle scissors in my kitchen drawer just for deveining shrimp — it works like a charm. But any small scissors will work.

Using the scissors, cut a slit through the shell and just a bit into the flesh along the back. You want to be able to expose the vein without cutting too deep into the flesh. Use the tip of the scissors to remove and discard the dark vein.

You can also use what are called EZ peel shrimp. These are shrimp that are pre-split along the back and almost to the tail so it’s easier to remove the shell. All you need to do is peel the shell away starting where it is cut. Most of these will also be deveined. But it’s a good idea to check each one, especially if you’re squeamish about it.

When buying shrimp, keep in mind it’s sold by the number you get per pound. The larger the shrimp, the fewer per pound, and the smaller they are, the more you get. Consider what you intend to make with the shrimp when deciding which size to buy. Unless labeled otherwise, most of shrimp sold in these parts are farm-raised and previously frozen.

Shrimp take to many cooking methods. But keep in mind they easily can be overcooked, resulting in shrimp that’s tough and rubbery.

Whether you bake, grill or broil shrimp, keeping the shell on is a good way to protect its delicate flesh from overcooking. Once cooked, remove the shell or have your guests do it. If you plan on cooking shrimp in a sauce or soup, remove the shell first.

Shrimp is one of my go-to ingredients. Having some tucked away in the freezer means I can whip up a dinner or appetizer at a moment’s notice. They are great for a quick dinner or unexpected guests because they thaw and cook quickly.

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It may sound silly, but before I cook shrimp, I brine them in a salt-and-sugar solution. This helps firm them up. The exception to this is, don’t brine shrimp that is set for a wet cooking method, like boiling or in a soup or chowder. Brining increases the moisture content of shrimp so it stays moist and tender during cooking.

For 2 pounds of shrimp, in a large bowl mix together 1/3 cup kosher salt and 1/3 cup sugar with 4 to 6 cups of cold water. Stir until the salt and sugar is dissolved. Add the shrimp and refrigerate 1-2 hours. Drain the brine from the shrimp, and rinse shrimp under cold water. Pat the shrimp dry with a paper towel.