When is a prawn a shrimp?

I have seen that some of you guys across the pond call a shrimp a prawn. What’s the deal with that? I know it’s a little bit odd that we have jumbo shrimps… do you call jumbo shrimps prawns? Let’s have some clarity here so that when us Yanks go over there, we don’t ask for a shrimp (when we probably want a prawn) and end up with a shrimp (if you get my drift!).

Re: When is a prawn a shrimp?

As I understand it from the extensive research I have done (a quick web search), Shrimp and Prawns are different creatures of the same family of crustaceans. In culinary contexts, the British generalize to the name Prawn, whereas Americans generalize to Shrimp.

Re: When is a prawn a shrimp?

There is a great deal of confusion about what a prawn is and it is fueled by the American desire to call jumbo sized shrimp prawns. I suspect this comes from restaurants and fishmongers adding fancy labels to justify high prices. But rest assured that shrimp and prawns are different species that happen to share delicious taste similarities.

Shrimp, which is popular in America comes mostly from the nearby waters of the Pacific, Atlantic and the Gulf of Mexico. There are hundreds of shrimp species and they can be loosely divided into cold water and warm water categories. As a general rule of thumb the colder the water the smaller and more succulent the shrimp. Maybe that’s why the American’s call the less tasty but impressive looking jumbo shrimp Prawns.

Prawns on the other hand are part of the lobster family. They have bodies shaped like Maine lobsters, albeit much smaller. They are generally 6” to 8” long and have a sweet and delicate flavor. These I believe are what are more popular in the UK.