The festive season is well and truly upon us and prawns are a common treat at the table on December 25.
But with so many places to buy the tasty crustaceans from and ways that they're presented, how do you know what to look for? Is it really an Australian prawn? What smell should they have?
We reached out to Australian Prawn Farmers Federation executive officer Kim Hooper to help us understand what to check before we buy.
Q: What are stock levels of Australian-sourced prawns looking like for Christmas this year?
A: In Australia we are so fortunate to be able to buy quality and sustainable locally sourced seafood and even with the challenges in the supply chain and labour shortages, there is an abundance of beautiful Australian farmed prawns again this Christmas.
We have had a bumper season and Christmas tables will not be left wanting!
Q: What are the quality of the prawns being caught, terms of size and overall health? Are there any states or regions which are looking particularly better than others?
A: Being farmed prawns, we do not rely on catch and are consistent in our supply.
Q: How much are prawns trading for per kilo?
A: We are producers and our prices have not increased, however it is the retailers that set the prices in the stores. But with the abundance of high quality farmed prawns again this year, I am sure there are bargains to be had and it pays to shop around your reputable seafood retailers and outlets.
Q: What qualities should I be looking for in prawns at the shops to know they're good? What colour, size, shape or feel should I look for?
A: Use all your senses - prawns should smell like the ocean, feel firm, look bright and lustrous. Any hint of ammonia or iodine is best avoided.
Prawns come in all sizes from giant tiger prawns to medium to smaller prawns and all have a beautiful sweet taste. Definitely ask your server to try one first.
Always take an esky with you especially if you have other shopping to do and your prawns are going to spend any time in the car - but make sure the prawns do not make contact with ice water or they can get waterlogged. Keep them wrapped and surrounded by ice.
Q: It's so hard to work out what is genuinely a product from Australian shores. What do I ask my seller to check that the prawns I'm buying are indeed Australian?
A: If people want to support local businesses and buy Australian, simply look for the Love Australian Prawns logo which many larger retailers have or ask your retailer where it has come from. Reputable retailers and seafood outlets will know.
Q: How do I store my prawns once I have them home? Both raw and cooked. How long do I have to cook/serve them?
A: Cooked and uncooked farmed prawns are immediately cooked and snap frozen to preserve the quality, freshness and flavour. If you buy prawns that have been frozen, it's best to keep them frozen until you need them, preferably at -18 degrees Celsius or lower.
There are a couple of great ways to defrost cooked prawns to ensure their quality remains. One is to defrost the prawns in a bowl with cold water and add salt (roughly 2 tablespoons per litre) until it tastes like the ocean for about 10 minutes until they are firm, then drain and cook or serve if already cooked.
The other is thaw frozen prawns in an airtight container in the fridge 24 hours before you need them, but make sure they are not sitting in ice water or their own juices.
Keep fresh prawns in the fridge at below 4 degrees Celsius, preferably with a bit of ice around the prawns and in a strainer so they are not in their own juice or they could get soft. Use as soon as possible.
Q: How do you personally feel prawns are best eaten?
A: I buy the 3-5kg frozen bags and keep the in my freezer and just break off how much I need and defrost them. It's a great cost saving and I can quickly serve up different prawn platters/dishes whenever anyone drops around or I don't feel like going to much bother.
There are so many great recipes and the Love Australian Prawns website has some fantastic, easy to follow recipes (including some amazing dips). Go to www.australianprawns.com.au for more.
My favourite recipes change all the time; at the moment it is Mango and Lime Prawn Cocktails - a twist on a classic!
Q: How do I get rid of the fish smell from my plates once I've served them?
A: Just put a bit of bicarbonate of soda on your dishcloth with water and use on the plates before washing or I find lemon works just as well.
Click here for more information.
Sign up for our newsletter to stay up to date.