The trick to choose the best prawns

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They always return home for Christmas, to which they bring elegance and delicious marine touch. But not all varieties of this crustacean are the same. What aspects should we look at?

Christmas table is not understood without the presence of prawns, to which they provide an elegant marine touch and in which they usually look on a scrupulously ordered tray, drawing a circle and with their heads facing the center. Although in our market the most common is the Mediterranean – Penaeus kerathurus -, there are also many other species such as the giant tiger or jumbo -Peneus monodon-, the equatorial or white -Penaeus vannamei- or the brown tiger shrimp -Penaeus esculentus- .

Likewise, each of these googly-eyed mustache crustaceans has its own organoleptic characteristics, so they provide a different taste and, incidentally, make our choice very difficult. If we also take into account that, according to the OCU, 95% of them are sold frozen and a third already cooked, the task is further complicated, especially if we relegate it at the last moment. So, what should we look at when choosing prawns for this Christmas?

Inbox or in bulk?

As we have mentioned, the vast majority of shrimp that inhabit the market is frozen, a good percentage packed in boxes. Undoubtedly, they are a very comfortable and helpful option, because you just have to remove them from the container, thaw them and finally cook them. According to the OCU, they do not present nutritional differences with respect to those sold in bulk, nor a lesser degree of freshness. Of course, we must bear in mind that many commercial proposals have salt content to consider, so those who have stress problems should consume them in moderation.

If we finally decide to take the packaged version, it is important to look closely at the appearance of shrimp. If these show a dull color, pulling straw, or contain frost, it indicates that they have not had an adequate cold chain, have dried out and, therefore, lack the quality that is assumed. It is convenient to choose those that look more similar to the fresh version. Equally, size matters: the larger they are, the fewer pieces there will be in the box and, therefore, the more expensive the choice will be.

95% of the prawns sold are frozen and a third, already cooked,

On the other hand, cooked prawns sold in bulk have been previously frozen. The great advantage is that they are ready to serve but, on the contrary, they are more delicate and deteriorate more quickly. In addition, “the hygiene and freshness of defrosted products are worse”, as indicated by the OCU. And although they are very helpful, “they are not cheaper than those sold in boxes.” To which is added that we should not freeze them again, because their organoleptic qualities would be affected, as well as their flavor. Therefore, acquiring these unpackaged crustaceans is only advisable if we are going to taste them immediately. When selecting, refuse those pieces that show arrange and pale tone and distill an intense smell.

How to choose fresh prawns?

The percentage of fresh prawns present in the market is quite small; in fact, it hardly reaches 1%. Its price is also higher, which increases – it triples – as the Christmas dates approach. This incessant demand can lead us to think that the quality of the copies, in general, is optimal, which leads us to introduce them in the shopping cart. However, thinking like this is a mistake. Many do not have the quality they should, unfortunately, we realize when it comes to enjoying them, either when we are going to remove their skin or when they decapitate on their own. How can we identify a quality shrimp? The outer appearance is what gives them away. Thus, the shell has to be hard, bright and of intense color, while the area that joins the body with the head should look a light color. In addition, its aroma should not remind us of that of ammonia.

Cooked or fresh?

As is well known, fresh products retain much better organoleptic characteristics and, therefore, are tastier. With this in mind, the ideal is to buy fresh prawns and cook them at home. Its preparation does not require being an experienced chef, although it does require the follow-up of some guidelines. For example, we must cook them in batches in an amount of water that is twice that of prawns, which must be accompanied by a bay leaf, a slice of lemon and a pinch of salt. As for the cooking time, the idea is to introduce them in the pan at the moment when the water breaks to boil and take them out when it reaches the boiling point again. Another option is to throw them when the water boils, turn off the heat and let them cook for two or three minutes, depending on the size.

The golden rule to achieve delicious prawns is to introduce them freshly cooked in a bowl with ice, water, and salt for approximately five minutes. The reason is that this way we cut the cooking process, preventing its interior texture from passing and, therefore, it is not very juicy. Then, we dry them and keep them covered with a cloth dampened with saltwater in the fridge.

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