It is a fact – most people cannot tell the difference between shrimp vs. prawn. Sure, they know that they are different in size, but this is pretty much it. People use these words interchangeably without realizing that there is more than just one difference between them. In fact, this aspect represents one of the most popular misconceptions in modern kitchens.
Shrimp vs. Prawn
Believe it or not, you will find this issue in both residential and commercial kitchens. Now, what are the differences between shrimps and prawns?
Although they are both crustaceans, shrimps and prawns come from two distinctive branches of this family – pleocyemata, and dendrobranchiata. Their anatomy is obviously different too. They both have 10 legs and a similar body construction, but the body form will surprise you.
The thorax in shrimps covers both the abdomen and the head. In prawns, one segment will only cover the one under it. This is the main reason wherefore prawns cannot bend their bodies so much, while shrimps do it all the time.
Legs are a bit different too. Major differences can be observed in the reproduction process too.
Live in Different Environments
Shrimps are most commonly found in cold and warm waters all over the world. About 75% of all the shrimp species live in saltwater. They usually hang around the bottom. Certain species go on the surface too and cling to seaweeds and leaves.
Prawns, on the other hand, tend to live in freshwater, yet some species can be found in freshwater. Unlike shrimps, they mostly like warm waters, with a few exceptions. They usually perch on rocks or plants, so they are less likely to go down at the bottom.
Have Different Sizes
When comparing shrimp vs. prawn, most people can only think about the size difference. Prawns are generally larger than shrimps. It is not a general rule though, as there are no standard sizes for either of them.
Professionals usually count the size by the pound and the measurement applies to both shrimps and prawns. A large count is around 40 units per pound, while a small one covers about 60 per pound.
The size is not always the right indicator to tell the difference between shrimps and prawns though. Surprisingly enough, it is what most people think about.
Different Nutrient Values
Deciding between shrimp vs. prawn in a restaurant can be tricky because they both taste delicious. If you are more concerned about nutrient values, you should know that there are a few differences – not too major.
They are both rich in protein and low in calories – ideal for those who want to lose weight or get ripped. There are no professional studies, but based on labels in commerce, shrimps contain more protein than prawns for the same quantity.
Both have high amounts of cholesterol, but also Omega 3 fatty acids, selenium (up to 50% of your daily recommended dose from 3 ounces only), phosphorus, vitamin B12, and iron.
In the Kitchen
Shrimps and prawns are similar in taste. When mixed with other foods, it is almost impossible to tell the difference. The texture is less likely to help you. To some people, prawns feel a bit meatier, while shrimps feel softer.
These aspects vary based on the habitat and diet. Whether they are steamed, fried or grilled – with or without the shelf, shrimps and prawns are used interchangeably. It depends on what you can find at the local store. The good news is that both cook fast.
Bottom line, there are quite some obvious differences between shrimp vs. prawn. However, no chef really cares about scientific facts, their diets, and habitats. When it comes to the kitchen, all these differences are pointless, hence their interchangeable uses.
See also: Ground Chuck vs. Ground Beef