How to prepare prawns - do you have to remove the poo chute?

Prawns have been part of the Australian cuisine long before Paul Hogan urged us to cook them on the barbie. Picture: Shutterstock
Prawns have been part of the Australian cuisine long before Paul Hogan urged us to cook them on the barbie. Picture: Shutterstock

So it's fine to suck the brains out of a prawn head but it's sacrilegious to leave the poo chute in?

Nothing divides Australians more than a prawn digestive tract (well, apart from Paul Hogan throwing some 'shrimp' on the barbie) - do you remove the thin black vein or couldn't you be knackered?

When faced with kilograms of the blighters at Christmas time, I'll admit there are times when I leave the chute be.

But do you need to remove it? The short answer is no. The only reason to remove it is for cosmetic reasons. Cooking the prawn kills whatever bacteria might be present. The only thing you might notice, and more noticeably in large prawns, is a little grittiness.

But for many people it's the whole idea of the poo in the chute that turns them off and therefore deveining is more likely.

A few seasons ago on MasterChef then judge George Calombaris refused to eat a prawn that had not been deveined.

On this season of MasterChef Back to Win, several contestants were admonished for not deveining their prawns.

I guess if you're throwing one or two in something fancy, go and devein to your heart's content but if you're faced with kilograms of them on Christmas Eve, and you've had too much gin, let the poo chute be.

If people are really turned off, let them deal with their own digestive tract.

Easy ways to peel them

The Australian Council of Prawn Fisheries has some good advice to make this chore less laborious.

First remove the head. Grab the body of the prawn just below where the head joins the first part of the body. Twist the head off.

Then remove the main shell. Hold the body firm and use your thumb to grip the legs and shell around the body of the prawn removing one section at a time. Repeat until only one or two sections remain.

Pop the tail. Squeeze the tail section and the rest of the prawn should pop out. (Or leave the tail section in place for an impressive presentation.)

There are also a number cool hacks doing the rounds. One involves removing the prawn head and then running a fork up its spine to remove the shell. Another involves removing the tail and then splitting the shell into segments. Check them out.

What to do with heads and shells?

Prawn heads make a great base for fish stock. Chooks absolutely love prawn heads but, if you don't have chooks, prawn shells and heads also make fantastic compost. If you live in an urban area and don't have chooks or a compost bin, double wrap your heads and shells in plastic bags, pushing as much air out as you can before tying off and sealing the bag. If it is a few nights until bin night, put them in the freezer rather than leaving them in the bin. Your neighbours will thank you.

This story Do you have to remove the poo chute when preparing prawns? first appeared on The Canberra Times.