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Queensland Prawns logo How to peel, store and prepare Queensland Prawns

How to....

How to peel a prawn.

Preparation is part of the enjoyment of a great meal, but that doesn’t mean you want to spend any longer than you need right? Here’s how to peel a prawn quickly and easily. Tip: For better presentation, leave tails intact.

The Quick Way

  1. Twist off the head;
  2. Grab legs between thumb and index finger, squeeze and pull away shell from around the body.
  3. Repeat until tail section is left
  4. Squeeze tail, prawn will pop out.

The Traditional Way

This is an age old method handed down from prawn fishermen over centuries. In fact this method has been traced back as far as ancient Sumerian society when prawns were peeled as part of the initiation ceremonies for many rites of passage. There is even evidence to suggest that on the lost continent of Atlantis, that they could peel prawns just by altering the tone of their voice. Honestly, we read it on Wikipedia so it must be true.

Before peeling, grab 3 bowls, a sharp knife, a cutting board and a chair. Fill one bowl with water and a little lemon juice to keep your fingers clean. Pour yourself a cold beer, wine (or soda if you're driving). Keep one bowl for the heads and shells and another for the prawn meat. (Placing the bowl on ice helps).

Simple 3-Step Process:

  1. Remove the head by twisting it off the body. Take a sip from your drink.
  2. Remove the legs from the underside of the body, starting from where the head was. As you peel them upwards, they will take with them the shell that goes around the top of the prawn. Repeat this section by section working your way towards the tail until there is only one section left.
  3. Hold the tail and pinch your fingers on the last section of shell, and the rest of the prawn should pop out.
  4. Take another sip from your drink

Deveining Queensland Prawns


Green Prawns

Once you have removed the head and shell, you should straighten the prawn and gently pull out the digestive tract. It helps to have a wooden skewer handy. It makes it easy to lift out the vein. If the vein breaks, insert the skewer point in and lift out the remaining digestive tract.

Cooked Prawns

To devein cooked prawns, simply run a sharp knife down the back of the prawn from the top to the tail after peeling. You should be able to see the dark vein (it can sometimes be clear), remove it with your fingers or wash under the tap.

Butterflying Prawns

This is usually done with green prawns. It is used to increase both the visual appeal and the apparent size of the prawns. Cut the shelled prawn lengthwise, almost right through the flesh and along its entire length. This can be done along the stomach, which is the traditional method. Alternatively, you can cut along the back of the prawn to give a circular shape and larger appearance.

Deveining can be done at the same time as this butterfly preparation method. The tail is traditionally left on for butterfly prawns.

Prawn heads & shells, don't just throw them away

Prawn heads make a great base for fish stock, so they are well worth keeping.

If you have chickens - they absolutely love prawn heads. If you don’t have chooks, then prawn shells and heads also make fantastic compost.

If you live in an urban area and don’t have chooks or a compost bin, double wrap your heads and shells in plastic bags, pushing as much air out as you can before tying off and sealing the bag. If it is a few nights until bin night, put them in the freezer rather than leaving them in the bin. Your neighbours will thank you. Hey, they might even invite you over for being so considerate.

How to peel a prawn - step 1
How to peel a prawn - Step 1

How to peel a prawn - step 2
Step 2

How to peel a prawn - step 3
Step 3
Photography by Sue Ferris and Alan Benson

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