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How to Cook Spot Prawns

Bowl of prawns

Spot prawn season is finally upon us again. Learn everything you need to know about buying, preparing and cooking with spot prawns.

Every year from May to June, British Columbians run to their favorite fish monger for the opening of spot prawn season. Suddenly, spot prawns are seen on every menu in town, cooked 100 different ways. It’s a glorious and delicious time to be living on the West Coast.

Spot prawns have a rich, buttery flavor that has been described as a cross between dungeness crab and lobster. Not only do they taste heavenly, but they’re sustainable, too. Spot prawns are endorsed by both SeaChoice and Oceanwise.

In the spirit of the season, we’ve assembled all the information you need to know about spot prawns—from what to look for when buying, how to freeze them, to everything in between. Soon you’ll be cooking spot prawns like a pro and if you’re smart, freezing them to enjoy throughout the summer.

Buying Spot Prawns

Bowl of prawns Ideally, you’ll want to purchase prawns that are still alive (that is, heads on). If the idea of beheading them later is too ghoulish for you, look for tails that are firm and packed on ice. Like all good seafood, the smell should not be overly fishy.

Live prawns should be lively and translucent with firm heads. If the heads are soft, then the meat will also be soft and mushy. The heads should also be free of any black spots. Discoloration means the meat has already started to deteriorate.

Preparing Spot Prawns

For best quality and flavour, you’ll want to cook your spot prawns immediately. If you have to wait for more than an hour until cook time, then prep them for refrigeration.

Whether or not you’re cooking them immediately or storing them for later, remove the heads as soon as possible and rinse the tails thoroughly. Spot prawns release an enzyme that will quickly deteriorate the meat if left alive too long out of water. Do not place them in tap water. The chlorine in our water will kill them immediately and quickly destroy the meat.

Removing the Heads

Carefully remove a spot prawn from their bag. The nose ends are sharp and pokey, so handle with care. If they’re still lively, you’ll want to assume a good grip as they could jump out of your hands.

Grab the body with your dominant hand and pinch the head between the thumb and index finger of your other hand. Quickly and forcefully twist the body away from the head until it’s removed. Rinse the tail thoroughly.

Remove-head-1Remove-head-2Remove-Head-3remove a prawn's headRemove-head-5Heads

Don’t throw the heads away if you can help it! The heads and shells can go towards making your own seafood stock later.

Refrigerating Spot Prawns

After you’ve removed the heads and thoroughly washed the tails, place your spot prawns in a container surrounded by bagged ice and refrigerate. Replace the ice daily for up to three days of refrigeration.

Freezing Spot Prawns

If you need to keep your prawns raw for longer than three days, then you’ll want to freeze them. Remove heads and wash tail thoroughly. Place them in a freezer safe bag and ensure the prawns are covered with a saline solution (1 tsp salt to 1 1/2 cups water). Keep in mind that the water will expand once frozen.

Thawing Frozen Spot Prawns

Once you’ve taken your frozen prawns out of the freezer you can let them defrost in the refrigerator overnight. If you need them sooner, let them thaw in a cool water bath.

Shelling Spot Prawns

Some recipes ask that you shell spot prawns before cooking. First remove the legs. To remove the meat from the shell, turn the prawn on their backs and gently peel back the shell. Work slowly so that the meat does not tear away with the shell.

Peeling a spot prawn Peeling-2

Cooking Spot Prawns

Spot prawns have such a beautiful flavor that you don’t need to get overly fancy with your cooking skills. The most important secret is not to overcook them. You’ll only want to cook each side for about 1 to 2 minutes, but it may vary slightly depending on your method. Quickly take them off the heat once they turn pink and opaque. Slightly under cooking spot prawns is preferred as they will continue to cook once removed from the heat.

Our method for cooking prawns allows you to be flexible and creative in how you decide to serve them. The important thing is not to cover up their gorgeous flavor, and we do that by using a few simple, but quality ingredients: some olive oil, a little garlic, and of course, ingredients from the Urban Cultivator. Check out the recipes for some delicious meal ideas featuring B.C. spot prawns and microgreens from the Urban Cultivator.

Excited about spot prawn season? Let us know in the comments below!

Bon appétit!

Check out or infographic on how to prepare and cook spot prawns here!

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