Our Step-by-Step Guide for Perfectly Grilled Shrimp
05.04.2020 Meat Tip Monday
Shrimp is not only an affordable crustacean, but it’s also the fastest-cooking protein you can throw on the grill. Grilled shrimp feels fancy, but it’s quick and easy to prepare on a busy weeknight. Plus, grilled shrimp can be served as the main dish or as an appetizer while the main grilled entrée rests. Shrimp can be flavored in a variety of ways, including the smokey flavor we all know and love from the grill.
The secret to perfectly grilled shrimp begins with the preparations: from selecting the shrimp to seasoning and skewering it. The actual grilling part is very simple and extremely fast. However, overcooking shrimp is the biggest mistake backyard chefs make. We’ll walk you through each step, giving you the keys to great grilled shrimp every time.
Choosing the Best Shrimp for Grilling
Large or jumbo shrimp are ideal for the grill because their size prevents them from falling through the grill grates and easily overcooking. When determining how much shrimp you’ll need, keep the count per pound in mind. For large shrimp, there’s approximately 30 shrimp per pound. For jumbo shrimp, there’s about 20 shrimp per pound. If shrimp is your main dish, plan for 1/3 to 1/2 pound per person. If you choose to leave the shrimp’s shells on, plan for 3/4 pound per person.
Prepping Shrimp for the Grill
There are two great debates when cooking shrimp: shell or no shell and vein or no vein. Each has its advantages and there is no right or wrong answer. While most Americans prefer shelled shrimp without the vein, the whole shrimp is preferred in much of the world. The main advantage of the latter is that you get to enjoy all of the crustacean’s flavor. The shell will also protect the shrimp from drying out on the grill.
Although, you must remove the shell to devein a shrimp. Because of this, your decision whether or not to keep the shell on if you’re on Team Deveined may be already made for you. Depending on the type of shrimp you purchase, they may already be peeled and deveined with only the tail left on. Here at UW Provision, we carry peeled and veined shrimp with both the tail on and off.
Leaving the shrimp in the shell quickens your prep time, but your guests will have to remove the shells as they eat. If you’re outside enjoying a meal in the backyard, the mess of peeling shrimp is not a big issue. On the flip side, shrimp without the shell and vein are easier to skewer. This is also the better choice if you plan to season your shrimp with a marinade because peeled shrimp allows the flavor to get in the meat where it will have more of an impact.
If you choose to remove the shrimp’s veins yourself, simply use a small pairing knife or deveiner. Cut a slit along the back and remove the black, stringy vein.
Seasoning the Shrimp
Once your shrimp is prepared, it’s time for the fun part: seasoning! Seasoning shrimp can be as simple or complex as you like; with so many flavor combinations, it’s hard to choose. If you’re looking for a simple seasoning recipe, coat the shrimp in olive oil, butter, or barbecue sauce. You can brush these ingredients on while the shrimp are grilling, but you will have to work quickly.
You can also add a variety of herbs and spices to create your own custom marinade. Garlic, paprika, or cayenne will result in spicier shrimp that pari well with melted butter. A marinade of lemon juice with cilantro, basil, and garlic give shrimp a tangy, herbal taste. Typically, marinating shrimp only takes about 30 minutes.
Full-fat yogurt is also a secret ingredient for flavorful grilled shrimp. The acidity of the yogurt gently tenderizes the shrimp before grilling. The yogurt is an efficient vehicle for seasoning shrimp with the addition of fresh herbs, garlic, and lemon juice, The fat in the yogurt protects the shrimp from drying out on the grill.
Skewering the Shrimp
Even though you can simply toss individual shrimp on the grill, skewering your shrimp prevents them from falling between the grill grates into the flames below. You can also flip a skewer and remove it from the grill much faster than individual shrimp. It’s best to soak wooden skewers in water for two hours (or overnight) to prevent the wood from burning and reduce the chance of eating splinters. If you use metal skewers, a small amount of cooking spray will make getting the shrimp on and off easier.
After choosing between wooden or metal skewers, you must decide which of the three following ways to skewer your shrimp:
- Straight Down the Middle: This method is used more often for prawns because they have a straighter body, but you can skewer shrimp lengthwise too. Skewering down the middle may be easier if you chose to keep the shell on because this results in nice and straight grilled shrimp.
- Top & Bottom Curve: The most common method is to skewer shrimp in two places which highlights their tight curve. To do so, simply skewer each shrimp once through the top and again near the tail.
- Double Skewer: To ensure no shrimp fall off, use two skewers. Stick each shrimp in both the head and tail as well as a second time with another skewer. This method makes flipping the shrimp super easy!
No matter which way you skewer your shrimp, don’t overcrowd them. Leave a little space between each so that they can grill evenly. Because shrimp grill quicker than vegetables, it’s best to keep shrimp on separate skewers rather than mixing the two in a traditional kebab.
Grilling the Shrimp
Once you’ve prepped, seasoned, and skewered your shrimp, it’s finally time to grill! The secret to great grilled shrimp is to avoid high heat because it cooks the shrimp too fast, causing overcooked and rubbery shrimp. Instead, wait for the grill to get down to medium heat. You should be able to hold your hand over the grill grate for four seconds.
After you reach the ideal temperature, place your skewered shrimp on the grill and spread them out so they aren’t crowded. Raw shrimp is done once the entire body turns a different color – usually from gray to pink and it has a pearly, opaque appearance. Grilling shrimp only takes about five minutes total, although you should flip them halfway through.
If you’re grilling precooked shrimp, your goal is to simply heat them up and add the smokey flavor. This should only take 30 seconds to 1 minute on each side. Since you can’t tell by the shrimp’s color (as they’re already pink), you’ll have to use your best judgement. In total, precooked shrimp shouldn’t be on the grill for longer than two minutes.