Unless you live by the sea and know where to get fresh prawns, you might want to know how to defrost prawns.
Frozen prawns are the best and safest way to enjoy this seafood at any time of year, but especially during the warm days of spring and in the middle of July and the summer heat.
There are lots of recipes you can cook that use frozen prawns. There’s no shame in cooking with frozen rather than fresh, as they’re super fresh, safe, and taste just as good as freshly caught.
Each of these recipes is a great example of how to showcase great seafood, and is packed full of huge flavours and taste. They also range in cooking methods and techniques, these include using an acti-fry, marinades, grilling, and using a wok to fry.
How quickly can you defrost prawns?
Do follow these rules, otherwise you may spoil your quality frozen prawns, or worse, get a bad case of food poisoning that will put you off even the sight of a prawn forever.
There are a few simple rules when it comes to defrosting fish and shellfish. Most of them a common sense, but the first is best to explain.
How to Defrost Prawns: The Rules
These are the three rules every chef and fishmonger swears by when it comes to defrosting any fish, shellfish, or crustacean.
The 1st Rule
NO microwaving, no matter what! Whilst some cooks, who may or may not have planned ahead, don’t mind using a microwave to thaw food quickly, this is a bad idea for fish and shellfish.
In essence, the ‘meat’ of the fish and shellfish is so high in protein that even the lowest defrost setting is too strong. Microwaves are simply too powerful to thaw high-protein and small cuts of meat.
So, if you can’t give it a quick nuke, you’re going to need to know how to defrost prawns quickly and safely.
You’re in luck, there’s a perfectly easy, and straightforward way to defrost prawns, and of course other fish too! It’s so quick, you just leave them to get on with it while you prep the rest of the recipe.
The 2nd Rule
Keep it COLD! This refers to both the frozen and thawing this shellfish, but also to the equipment and method used to defrost them.
By this, I mean cold water should be kept super chilled. Don’t leave the cold water to come up to room temperature. Doing so can be dangerous.
When you change the water, make sure you only use cold water, not hot water or even warm water. Warmer water won’t help with speeding up the defrosting, it will instead create a dangerous situation where bacteria will breed.
The 3rd Rule
Change is GOOD! By this I mean change the water in the bowl often. By changing the water from the cold tap frequently you are reducing the risk of bacteria breeding.
To successfully defrost either raw or frozen cooked prawns, you’re going to need two pieces of kitchen equipment:
- Colander: You’ll use this to lift, and drain or sieve your frozen prawns.
- Mixing bowls: are useful to soak and loosen the prawns, or fillets of fish, so you can break them up without breaking them.
Equipment to Defrost Frozen Prawns
The Quick Guide
The one of the quickest methods to defrost your prawns is to open the bag of frozen prawns, tip them into the colander. Then place the colander inside a larger bowl before adding 2 tablespoons/35gr of regular salt to 4 cups/1 litre of water.
Make sure the water completely covers the prawns; you can add a few ice cubes to keep it extra cold. How long to thaw frozen prawns? About 20 minutes, give or take depending on the number of prawns being thawed.
Once defrosted, lift the colander out – with the prawns in it – and drain. Rinse the prawns under cold running water, and then proceed with the recipe as you would with fresh prawns.
Is it safe to defrost prawns quickly?
Absolutely! What you don’t want to do is refreeze them once they’ve been thawed. Whilst you can freeze the thawed prawns once they’ve been cooked, it’s unsafe to refreeze raw prawns.
Now, if you have a bit more time, you can defrost your prawns in a similar method. This method is better for prawns that have been cooked, which only need to be gently reheated or served chilled.
Can you defrost prawns at room temperature?
Of course, you can! So long as you follow these simple steps: Place the prawns in a large bowl, cover them in water, change that water every 15-20mins.
The danger in defrosting prawns this way comes from the prawns sitting in the thawing juices. These juices then heat up to room temperature, and this then breed bacteria.
But, so long as you change that cold water frequently, or better yet thaw your prawns overnight in the refrigerator, then you’ll avoid that situation.
What does a defrosted prawn look like?
Well, much like it did when fresh from the ocean. If the prawn is raw, then it will be a pale-transparent colour mostly, with a few dark lines where the muscles bend.
If the prawn is cooked, then there will be a mix of white-ish flesh that has bright pink to orange coloured splashes where the muscles would have bent.
Shelled or peeled? This will be down to the packaging company and/or the fishmonger and supermarket where you buy them. Cooked and peeled prawns and shrimp are most common, but frozen raw prawns are equally great to cook with!
When it comes to cooking preparation, fresh prawns will be the most flexible to work with. They are well suited to marinades, and to taking on the flavours of the dish they’ll be cooked in.
Whereas a cooked prawn will be quite stiff, and as the flesh is already sealed due to the heat in cooking, they won’t take on flavours well. However, these prawn are great for salads, or the essential ‘prawn cocktail‘ where you can try my Marie Rose sauce.
Do you need to defrost frozen prawns?
The good news is that you don’t always have to thaw prawns. What? Can you cook prawns from frozen? Yes, you can!
Thawing or defrosting a prawn is only necessary prior to cooking if they haven’t been cleaned thoroughly, or if the recipe is more complex.
By complex, I’m referring to recipes where the prawn could be threaded onto skewers, or require other processes that are easier if the prawn is more flexible.
How to Cook Frozen Prawns
Cooking prawns from frozen is actually a really great way to keep your prawn-based meal safe. By adding the prawn frozen, you’re eliminating the risk of bacteria having developed during the defrosting.
Once you’ve thawed your prawns using cold water, you’re ready to start cooking. So, if you are cooking something like my korai recipe, using prawns as an alternative to chicken, as prawns cook very quickly, is a great idea.
Recipes like this a quite versatile, and really lend themselves to replacing one meat for another. You can also cook your prawns in soups, chowders, paella, risotto, gumbo, jambalaya, and Étouffée.
Well, if you’re wondering ‘can I cook prawns from frozen?’ Yes, you can, and it’s a great way to use them.
Can you freeze prawns when cooked?
What about after your prawns are cooked, can you freeze them then? As I mentioned briefly, yes! It’s perfectly safe to freeze your prawns once they’re cooked.
You want to make sure your prawns are well cooked, and then leave them in the fridge in a container to cool completely. Once cool, you can then freeze them either individually, or as a whole.
You can also freeze them in portions. Making them this way is great to quickly defrost later, or as an entire meal, that’s ready to reheat for later which will save you time. Just remember to defrost them safely, and heat thoroughly before eating.
So there you have it, everything you want to know about thawing all forms of fish, shellfish, and crustaceans. Not to mention, the best ways to cook with them once they’re defrosted.
I’ve also included some of my favourite recipes for you to try out, and I would really recommend that you do so, as they’re great for an evening meal or as a celebration.
Thawing is easily done, and you only need two pieces of basic kitchen equipment: a colander and a bowl big enough to sit it in.
Just remember, the next time you forget to thaw your prawn before you make dinner, at least you know how to defrost prawns quickly, easily, and safely!
- 200g (7oz) frozen prawns
- 30ml (2 tbsp) salt
- Mixing bowls
- Place the colander inside a large mixing bowl, and place both in the sink.
- Empty the bag of prawns into the colander
- Sprinkle salt over the prawns.
- Fill the colander/bowl with water, allow to sit for 15mins.
- Lift the colander clear of the mixing bowl, allow to drain completely.
- Empty the mixing bowl, and remove from the sink.
- Thoroughly rinse the prawns under running water.
- The prawns should now be thoroughly thawed, use as per recipe.