The Best Way to Cook Prawns

by Mackenzie Wright

    A lot of people use the terms prawn and shrimp interchangeably. Prawn is more commonly used in the UK while Americans prefer shrimp, however there are some biological differences between the two. Prawns are much larger and thus better suited for certain dishes and methods. Prawns can be a delicacy if properly cooked; however, if you don’t know the right methods to bring out the flavors, you may end up with rubbery, flavorless crustaceans on your plate.

    Boiling is a common method for cooking prawns, but poaching is actually better. America’s Test Kitchen found that cooking shrimp at a boil was too harsh, but gentle poaching temperatures resulted in a much better texture and flavor. Boiling causes proteins to tighten, and they actually wring themselves of juice. Poaching at 140 to 150 degrees prevents the liquid temperature from exceeding the ideal temperature for crustaceans, preventing overcooking and drying. This also applies to prawns, which can be cooked using the same methods as shrimp. Add extra flavor by poaching your prawns in a fish broth or wine; or by adding herbs, spices and lemon to the poaching water. Serve your poached prawns with a tropical-flavored salsa. Combine pineapple chunks, onion, pepper, lime juice and dry ranch seasoning mix for a slightly sweet, kid-friendly pineapple salsa.

    Food writer Russ Parsons of the "L.A. Times" advocates salt-roasted prawns because the cooking method leaves them tender, juicy and brings out their natural flavors. This method requires two to four pounds of kosher salt, depending on how many prawns you want to cook. After heating the salt in a 400 degree oven for 30 to 60 minutes, lay the prawns on a bed of salt in a tray or baking dish, and cover them with salt so they are buried. They must cook another 8 minutes approximately, until opaque. You can add flavors like putting rosemary sprigs on the salt or drizzling the finished prawns with olive oil, lemon juice or creamy dressing.

    For a fuss-free prawn dinner in minutes, a favorite cooking method that is flavorful and versatile is pan-fried prawns. Lay your peeled prawns in a hot pan of sizzling butter or oil over high heat. They’re ready to flip in just 30 to 60 seconds, so keep on top of them and turn them over once with tongs. They should be opaque and perfect in less than a minute. You can give your prawns even more flavor if you marinate them or brine them before pan-frying. Serve these prawns with a smooth dip made with avocado, lime juice and creamy dressing.

    Prawns are a real treat when battered and fried. Peel your prawns except for the tail, which makes a convenient tool for picking them up when eating them. You can dip your prawns in your favorite beer batter recipe, or dredge them in flour, egg wash and seasoned breadcrumbs. The Help With Cooking website recommends dipping prawns in milk then flour to prepare them for frying. Heat your oil – about two to three inches deep – and keep it at a steady 375 degrees to prevent it from burning or overcooking the prawns. Give the prawns plenty of space when they are frying, opting for small batches instead of crowding. They only need to cook in the oil for 2- to 3-minutes, after which you can transfer them to a drip rack to cool. Serve these kid-friendly prawns with either cocktail sauce, tartar sauce or creamy salad dressing.

    About the Author

    Mackenzie Wright has been freelancing since 2002 in the realms of writing, painting, photography, crafts and teaching the arts. Her writing has been featured in publications such as the "Saint Petersburg Times," "South Florida Parenting Magazine" and "Home Education Magazine." She holds a Bachelor of Arts in English and education.

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