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Choose Fresh Head-On Shrimp
If you see head-on shrimp in the market, don’t be afraid to buy them. Head-on shrimp retain their natural moisture better, which makes for superior flavor and texture. Head-on shrimp might seem like a daunting task at first sight, but removing the heads (better known as "heading") is easy if a bit messy.
Buy the Best: Be sure to buy only very fresh shrimp. Avoid shrimp with black dots, as these indicate bacterial growth. Choose shrimp that are firm to the touch -- not mushy or... waterlogged. Let frozen shrimp defrost slowly in the refrigerator and be sure to allow the water to drain off as they defrost.Continue to 2 of 6 below.
02 of 06
Handle With Care
Mind Your Fingers: Use caution when handling head-on shrimp. In addition to the sharp point at the tail (the telson), there is an even longer point at the head (the rostrum). They’re easy enough to avoid if you’re moderately careful.
Pick the shrimp up one at a time -- don't try to grab a handful all at once.
If you do get stuck, clean the site well, as any puncture wound easily can become infected.Continue to 3 of 6 below.
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Hand #1 Position
Grip the Body: Protect your work surface before you start (or better still, work over a colander in the sink).
Begin by taking a shrimp firmly in your dominant hand, with the body curving toward you and your thumb and bent forefinger just behind the gill plates on opposite sides.Continue to 4 of 6 below.
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Hand #2 Position
Grip the Head: With your other hand, grip the shrimp head firmly with your thumb and forefinger on the gill plates on opposite sides.
The tips of your thumbs and the knuckles of your forefingers should be almost touching.Continue to 5 of 6 below.
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Snap Upward Quickly
In one quick movement, bring your forefingers up and your thumbs apart in a snapping motion. Remove the head and pull out the black digestive tract, if visible. Repeat with remaining shrimp.
Once you learn the process, you can keep a paper towel in your hand while snapping the heads off. This gives you a better grip on the heads, minimizes some of the mess, and aids in the removal of the tract.Continue to 6 of 6 below.
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