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Prawns & Shrimp

Friday, 27 November 2009 | Tags: , , ,

Fresh or frozen? It's a frequent question we have for all kinds of food. And when it comes to seafood, freshness makes all the difference. But frozen doesn't always mean it's not fresh. We find out more about fresh vs. frozen prawns.

The Basics

  • Though the terms are often used interchangeably, shrimp and prawns have slightly different gill structures.

  • The types of prawns most commonly sold raw are tiger or king, which are big and juicy, and the smaller North Atlantic prawns. You’ll find them either whole, or with their heads removed and shells on, which is called prawn tails.

  • Most seafood caught these days is “flash-frozen” on the boat. This means it’s frozen within 2 hours of being caught, and can often taste as fresh as just-caught fish.

  • The freezing process doesn’t alter the flavour very much, which makes it a good option for preservation. In fact, frozen can sometimes taste much better than fresh, since fresh may sit refrigerated on a truck or travel for a couple of days before arriving at market.

Buying Tips

  • For the best flavour, try to purchase fresh shrimp/prawns. This isn’t always possible since most sold in the markets have been frozen and then thawed for sale.

  • The main thing to remember is that fish of any kind should look, smell, and taste like it just came out of the water. If it smells fishy or like ammonia, then it could be spoiled.
  • Shrimp/prawns are usually displayed on ice, which is the best way to store them until they are needed for cooking.

  • Buy shrimp/prawns with their shells on and cook them in their shells if possible too, as much of the flavour, moisture and juices will be retained.

  • Look for the following qualities when buying fresh prawns or shrimp:

    • Shells should be firm and glossy. Avoid ones with broken or slippery shells.

    • The heads and shells should have a uniform colour. If there’s any discolouration, it means it’s starting to go bad.

    • They should smell fresh and salty. Avoid if there is even a hint of an ammonia odour.

    • The eyes should be prominent and shiny, not shrunken inwards or missing.

    • Pick shrimp with firm white meat and a full shell.

    • Buy small- to medium-sized prawns. Smaller prawns taste sweeter had have a finer texture than large prawns.

    • When buying raw prawns or shrimp, they will be a translucent, grayish colour. The typical pink colour you’re used to on your plate occurs only once cooked.

  • Fresh shrimp and prawns are highly perishable, so buying frozen, raw shrimp or prawns is also a good choice.

  • When buying frozen, choose prawns and shrimp that still have their shells, which protect the meat better from freezer burn.

  • When buying unshelled prawns, they should cost less than peeled prawns. Remember to buy double the weight of peeled prawns to make up for the weight of the shells.

  • Avoid prawns or shrimp that have been shelled, cooked and then frozen, as they are often tasteless and watery. A complete waste of money!

Cooking & Storage Tips

  • To defrost raw shrimp/prawns, place under cold running water to melt ice then refrigerate for several hours or until they reach an edible temperature.

  • To store fresh shrimp/prawns, rinse quickly under cold water, shake off excess water, place unshelled into airtight container or onto a plate, and cover with plastic wrap.

  • Refrigerate up to 3 days.

  • When cooking, it’s better to keep the shells on to help to retain flavour, moisture and juices.

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