How to Clean Prawns and Schrimp

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How to Clean Prawns and Schrimp

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Cleaning the daily delivered seafood is usually done first thing in the morning in restaurant kitchens. The kitchen is spotless and clean, the air is free of the stress of service and the coffee is deliciously fresh from the first press of the espresso machine.

As enjoyable as handling and portioning beautiful fresh fish can be, one part of these duties that is never very enjoyable is cleaning pound after pound of prawns. I’m sure every apprentice Chef and Kitchen Hand out there will agree with me on this, especially if you have a demanding Head Chef that expects all of them to look perfect.

To help you through your own Prawn Perils here are some techniques that will help make cleaning prawns and shrimp as painless as possible.

How to Clean Prawns

    1. Partially tilt the head of the prawn downwards, revealing the tract in the back of its neck that runs down its spine.
    2. Place the back (dull part) of the knife under the tract and gently pinch the tract to the knife.

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    1. Carefully lift up until you can pinch the tract with two fingers.
    2. Remove the knife, hold the prawn’s tail straight and carefully pull the tract out.

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  1. That’s it, it is now clean and can be cooked whole, it may take a few attempts to get the hang of it and some tracts will break but they can still be used in the ‘Cleaning Peeled Prawns’ method.

How to Peel Prawns

    1. Hold the prawn in your left hand with its back down, its head at the top and its legs facing you.
    2. Slide your thumb between the legs at the top nearest the head and slide to the right, getting under the right side legs and shell.

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    1. Work your way down all the right legs until they are all loose and then simply pull the skin off all the way around the length of the prawn.

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  1. The head can be left on for presentation or it can be removed.

Cleaning Peeled Prawns

  1. Make a small incision in the middle of the prawns back and use the back (dull side) of the paring knife and tease out the tract until you can pull it all the way out.

Butterfly Cleaning Prawns

    1. Make a small incision the length of the prawns back and remove the tract.

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  1. This incision will cause the flesh to butterfly and the prawn to curl when cooked.
  2. This technique gives a nice presentation and is often used in Seafood Laksa and other Asian soups.

Did you finish cleaning your prawns? Then you are all set for these delicious prawns and shrimp recipes:


Paul Hegeman

Paul is a personal Chef to exclusive Sydney clients and is also our most frequently contributing writer. Paul was born in The Netherlands and moved to Canada at a very young age. Experience with traditional European meals at home and the diverse multicultural influence of foods in Canada gave Paul a great appreciation for different culinary styles. Over the years Paul traveled extensively and worked at every level of professional kitchens, from the deep fryer in the local burger joint, to the Head Chef in Five Star Hotels. He now resides full time in Sydney, Australia with his wife and their children. You will find his recipes emphasize natural, uncomplicated flavours and fresh ingredients such as those found in Mediterranean and South East Asian cuisines.

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