Deshelling 3 myths about frozen thawed prawns

Are you a prawn lover but don’t know enough about frozen thawed prawns? Are they better or worse than ‘live’ fresh prawns? We’ll help you deshell 3 myths of these curvalicious crustaceans!

So you’re at the fresh seafood bay and you wonder why there are frozen thawed prawns. Isn’t everything on the seafood bay supposed to be ‘live’ and fresh? Are they inferior prawns or less tasty or nutritious? Here are some facts you should know.

Myth #1: Fresh is always better

Ditch the belief that fresh is always better than frozen. Frozen thawed prawns are just as fresh. Since fresh prawns have a brief shelf life, almost all prawns are frozen right after being harvested. This freezing process preserves the freshness during shipping. So, with the exception of those shrimp purchased right along the Gulf of Mexico and from live tanks, the vast majority of “fresh” prawns are frozen prawns when they arrive at the store. The prawns are thawed once they reach their destination and then labeled as “frozen thawed”.

Ryan Chee, who handles frozen thawed prawns at FairPrice’s fresh seafood department explains that these are almost the same as ‘live’ prawns. The prawns are alive before quick freezing, which will lock the nutrition of the prawn and protect the cells, maintaining the nutrition and juiciness of the prawns. Even after the prawns are thawed, the nutrition will still be locked in these unbroken cells.

Remember, defrosted prawns are only good for about two days.

Myth #2 They are simply thrown into a big fridge during freezing

If only it were that simple! For frozen thawed prawns, professional processing plants harvest them and freeze them in a strict and proper manner. In a reference manual from Food and Agriculture of the United Nations¹ , the freezing process at these plants are professionally done to avoid physical damage to the muscle structure of the prawns. This freezing process also decreases the production of “drip” (leak) at the moment of thawing, so they preserve the look and taste of the prawns the same as before freezing.

FairPrice only imports live frozen prawns from various processing plants that have their own fresh farms which are within 30 minutes’ drive range. All fresh prawns are ‘live’ when they arrive at the processing plants. The transport trucks have water tanks with the oxygen supply machine on board to make sure the prawns are live when they arrive at the processing plant.

A grading machine will proceed grade the fresh live prawns to different sizes within a few minutes after arrival. The live prawns are then subsequently frozen individually at -40 degree Celsius and the entire process is under 30 minutes. The fresh prawn are alive before they are quickly frozen, which keeps the cell unbroken to lock the nutrition and freshness of the prawn.

Myth #3: Frozen thawed prawns don’t taste as good

Now that you know how these little ones are professionally frozen, you can be assured that frozen thawed prawns have less hurt cells and juicy goodness are sealed properly! Frozen thawed prawns taste just as good and they are suitable for all fresh prawn cooking methods such as boiling them for a soup, stir-frying or just smoking them up on a grill.

Looking at how to select the freshest of the lot? Here are some tips:

  • Smooth and shiny shell: if the shell looks shiny and smooth on the surface, the prawn are fresh.
  • Avoid black heads: prawns would die a few hours after harvesting, the protein in the brain is the first to decompose, looking black, which means it isn’t fresh.
  • A firm body: fresh prawns’ meat texture should be firm.
  • Fresh smell: fresh prawns should have a slightly salty smell, if it produces a foul smell, that means the protein from the broken cell is rotting.

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References:

¹ New, M, FAO, Chapter 7: Harvesting and Post-Harvesting Handling, viewed 20 March 2021

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