How to buy & store prawns
Before You Buy
The key to maintaining freshness is temperature — the colder the better.
Bring an esky with ice when you buy your prawns especially if you have other shopping to do and your Australian prawns are going to spend any time in the car.
Make sure the prawns are not in direct contact with pure ice water, they can get waterlogged. Best to keep them wrapped and surrounded by ice.
A great way to save money is buying Australian prawns packed frozen into 3 or 5 kg boxes. Learn more about buying Australian prawns in bulk.
Use all your senses — prawns should smell like the ocean, feel firm, look bright and lustrous (not slimy). Look for intact legs, feelers and eyes. If your prawns look like this, they should taste great.
Natural prawn colouring can vary from almost translucent for some types of uncooked Banana prawns through to the vivid orange of cooked farmed tigers.
Black heads and spots on the body or discolouration around the joints mean a prawn isn’t in the best condition, however, even with these, the flesh can still be unaffected, but best to be wary. (Endeavour prawns can still be fresh, even with dark heads click here for more info.) Any hint of ammonia or iodine when you smell indicates the prawns are definitely past their best and should be avoided.
Soft shells may not be a decisive indicator of poor eating quality as the shell may be soft because the prawn has just moulted. In this case, use the other checks we outlined here.
Fresh & Frozen Prawns
Most prawns caught a sea are sorted and packed within moments of being caught.
Prawns can be cooked at sea and frozen, stored fresh in an ice/brine mix or frozen uncooked or “green” at sea.
Freezing prawns soon after catch immediately preserves the quality, freshness and flavour, enabling them to be transported and stored while keeping quality high.
HANDY HINT: Buy frozen and save money
Here’s a great way to save money and ensure you’ll always have prawns year round. All you have to do is make some room in your freezer.
Prawns are often packed frozen into 3 or 5 kg boxes. This way, they can keep for up to 18 months with no trouble at all at freezer temperatures around -18 degrees. Purchasing a 3 or 5 kg box, rather than loose thawed prawns can save you tens of dollars per kilo.
Boxes can be purchased from retailers, ordered online or found at markets. Whenever you need prawns, simply break off the prawns you need from the 5 kg box in your freezer, thaw and cook or serve. Often retailers run specials on 5 kg boxes. It might seem like a lot of prawns for one purchase, but when you have them handy all the time and save money, it makes a lot of sense.