Shrimp is an easy-to-use ingredient that’s even easier to prepare. Although you can purchase cleaned and butterflied shrimp from your butcher or supermarket, you may be able to save a few dollars by buying whole shrimp and preparing it yourself. Fortunately, it’s not difficult to clean or butterfly shrimp.
You do not need special tools or techniques to accomplish this seemingly daunting task. Even though shrimp looks like a complicated ingredient, it’s actually one of the easiest “meats” to clean, because there is really no fat to trim or bones to deal with. You will, however, need a knife that is quite sharp, a pair of kitchen shears or scissors, and some patience and steady hands.
First, wash the shrimp thoroughly and be sure that it has thawed completely. It is much easier to butterfly large shrimp because they are generally easier to handle. Once your shrimp is washed and defrosted, you will need to take your kitchen shears or scissors and cut the “whiskers” off from the shrimp’s head. You can leave the head on or take it off. Remove the head by simply twisting or cutting it off using the shears.
Next, peel each shrimp. This is not difficult to do if you start from the top and move down to the tail. If you start from the tail, you run the risk of ripping off the end of the shrimp, removing a good portion of meat. It’s best to start from the top, especially if you decided to remove the head, too.
Now, it’s time to de-vein the shrimp. Have your sharp knife handy and make an incision along the shrimp’s “back” with the tip of the knife. Don’t press the knife in too far, but just enough to see the dark vein that runs along its back. Take the tip of your knife and gently lift up the vein and discard. Sometimes you will be able to remove the vein by one quick stroke. However, often you will have to remove several pieces separately. After de-veining the shrimp, you will need to wash them again.
Finally, it’s time to butterfly the shrimp. Again, take your sharp knife and start from the back. If you are using very large prawns, you can do this easily starting from the inside or from the back. Put your knife in deep enough to almost cut through the shrimp. Don’t let your knife’s edge reach the other side of the shrimp. Otherwise, you will wind up with two pieces of shrimp cut in half lengthwise. You will want to leave the two sides attached, and you can achieve this by gently running just a small portion of your blade through the shrimp.
This technique is similar to butterflying a chicken breast or porkchop. If you successfully butterfly your shrimp, it will indeed look like a butterfly, and it’s ready for any dish that calls for butterflied shrimp.