Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Prawns - Storage and Selection

Fresh prawns from the market are mostly likely thawed frozen prawns

Prawns come in a variety of sizes and types. Raw prawns are a green/white-blue colour. When these prawns are cooked, the colour turns in colour from pink to bright orange-red due to a chemical change brought on by heat.

Prawns are normally graded by size and count, meaning the average number of prawns to make a pound weight. The higher the number, the smaller the prawns.

Prawns are highly perishable. Select firm prawns with a mild scent. If there is any hint of the aroma of ammonia, it is a sign the prawns are way past its prime. Some may have spots, an indication of poor handling. Commercially-sold prawns are defrosted, in which case the flesh will appear opaque. Truly fresh prawns will have almost translucent flesh.

Do not confuse the term "fresh" with never-frozen. Truth be told, you probably will be unable to find never-frozen prawns fresh from the ocean these days unless you net them yourself. This is not necessarily a bad thing. Nowadays, prawns are harvested, cleaned, and flash frozen on the boats before they ever reach the shore. This makes for a fresher product, until it reaches the market.

Once it reaches the market, you are at the mercy of the handlers. If it goes right into the freezer, all is well. If you are buying from the seafood counter, there is no telling how long the prawns have been defrosted, although icing it does help. You are better off buying frozen prawns and defrosting them yourself in the refrigerator. It does not take long to defrost.

Cooked prawns can be stored in a sealed bag no more than 3 days in the coldest part of your refrigerator. Both cooked and raw prawns may be frozen, but freezing raw preserves a better flavor. Raw prawns can be frozen with shell or without, but should have the heads removed. Raw frozen prawns will last 6 months in the freezer while frozen cooked prawns should be consumed within 2 months. Commercially-frozen raw prawns will last longer in the freezer without deterioration, since they are flash-frozen fresh with little handling.

Frozen cooked and uncooked prawns should ideally be thawed in the refrigerator in advance of need. They can be added frozen to casseroles and baked dishes. If you need to quickly thaw, you may put the prawns under cold water, not warm. Warm water will begin the cooking process

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