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A buyer’s guide to prawns

Count, single/double frozen and glaze…? It can be a jungle to navigate all the different technical terms and acronyms, when working professionally with prawns!

With more than 200 different species consumed worldwide, buying prawns can quickly become a tricky and daunting task for any newcomer in the industry. However, understanding the various terms and designations between the different product types and species can really pay off. Especially when it comes to prices and quality, it pays to know the differences before comparing products. We have made this short guide to terms, abbreviations and industry slang for you to better navigate the market and get the best product for your need.

Cold-water prawns or warm-water prawns?

One of the more basic distinguishing factors for prawns is whether they are cold-water or warm-water prawns.

Cold-water prawns live in – much like the name implies – cold, icy waters. There are numerous species of cold-water prawns and 3 species dominate the world market; Pandalus Montagui, Pandalus Jordani and Pandalus Borealis.

At Royal Greenland we are specialized in Pandalus Borealis – a prawn known worldwide for its sweet and sea-salty shellfish tang and delicate texture. All our cold-water prawns are MSC-certified and wild-caught either offshore from our own trawlers or from local fishermen in Greenland and Canada, who fish inshore.

Cold-water prawns are best served cold where their subtle flavours can take center stage. If you choose to serve them in a hot dish, add them just before serving.

Warm-water prawns are known for their bigger size and are particularly well suited to use in hot dishes such as stir fries or curries. Warm-water prawns come mainly from Asia or South America. A small proportion of these products are wild caught, but the vast majorities offered on the market are farmed as opposed to cold-water prawns cannot be farmed and are always wild caught. Be sure to pay attention to the ASC label when purchasing warm-water prawns. A farmed product does not necessarily mean a sustainable one!

There are - like cold-water prawns - numerous species of warm-water prawns and some of the most popular are Vannamei, Black Tiger and White Shrimp.

Another determining factor that differentiate the two types of prawns is how fast they grow. Cold-water prawns are wild caught at the age of 6-7 years. The low water temperatures cause the prawns to grow slow, which allows the prawn time to develop its complex taste and texture. In comparison, most warm-water prawns take only 6 months to reach their full size.

The different categories of MSC cold-water prawns

Within cold-water prawns, we distinguish between 3 different categories;

Shell-on prawns

Shell-on prawns from Royal Greenland are cooked and frozen at sea, which means they have been processed onboard one of our large factory trawlers within 3 hours of catch. The fast processing locks in flavour, juiciness and vitamins, making the shell-on prawns a first-class delicacy!

Cooked and peeled prawns

Cooked and peeled prawns are individually quick frozen (IQF) which make them fast and easy to thaw without compromising on flavour. Each prawn is carefully glazed to retain moisture in the meat. Once thawed, the prawns are ready to serve.

Prawns in brine

Prawns in brine are ready to use straight from the fridge. They are brined in a carefully developed brine to provide the best taste experience. Simply drain and serve!


Glaze is a thin layer of ice water coating each prawn. The glaze prevents the prawns from drying out and developing freezer burns. The ice works like a neat and natural ‘protective wrap’ made of pure water. At Royal Greenland we work with a standard glaze percentage between 8 and 12 % as this is the right amount to keep our products safe and protected from damage during handling, transport and storage.

Be sure to pay attention to the percentage of glaze in the product you choose and to calculate your net price ex. glaze – otherwise you will be paying a pretty penny for water.

To calculate your net price ex. glaze, simply set up the following formula;

Net. price = gross price x (1 + glaze %)

E.g. if you have a gross price of 100£ and a glaze percentage of 10, your formula would look like this:

100£ x (1 + 0,1) = 110£


Count is a measure for the size of prawns and indicates the number of prawns it takes to reach a certain number on the scale. Shell-on prawns are counted per kilo, whereas cooked and peeled prawns are counted by the pound. Common to both is this: The lower the count, the bigger the prawn!


Key takeaways

  1. MSC Cold-water prawns are wild-caught, better eaten cold and typified by a sweet and juicy flavour and pink colour – a prawn cocktail favourite!
  2. Make an informed choice when choosing between single frozen and double frozen prawns and take parameters such as quality, price and carbon footprint into the equation. Single frozen are perceived of higher quality with a more in-depth taste.
  3. Be sure to calculate the net price excluding glaze – or you will be paying for water!

See also

Read more about Seafood & Health