Tips for Grilling Shrimp

Here, we’ll show you what to look for when buying shrimp, the right size shrimp for grilling, how to clean shrimp, and how to prepare them for grilling.

At the Market
If possible, buy shrimp the day you plan to cook them. Frozen and thawed shrimp come without their heads, fresh shrimp with their heads on. Shells may be gray-green, pinkish, or brown, depending on the variety and where the shrimp were caught.

Shrimp thaw very quickly. If their aroma has turned to the odor of ammonia, ask for a just-thawed bunch.

The Right Size for Grilling
For grilling, buy big shrimp, at least jumbo size. Expect 12 to 15 jumbo shrimp per pound and about 10 colossal.

Smaller shrimp are difficult to handle over fire because they’re apt to slip through the rack or the grilling basket, and they’re hard to turn with long-handled tongs.

Cleaning Shrimp
Many recipes call for deveining shrimp. This refers to the large vein or sand track that is located along the back of all shrimp but is particularly visible in large and jumbo shrimp.

It’s not always necessary to remove the vein, but if it contains sand it will be gritty. If you can’t see the vein, it’s clean.

To Prepare Shrimp
Shrimp can be marinated and grilled with or without their shells.

  • To peel a shrimp, cut the shell along the back with scissors or a sharp knife. Peel off all but the tail shell.
  • To devein, use a short sharp knife to make a shallow cut along the back of each shrimp.
  • Pull out the vein or wash it out under cold running water.

Ready to Grill
Shell and devein the shrimp if desired. Arrange them in a grilling basket or thread them on skewers and place on the grill 3 to 4 inches above a moderately hot fire.

Brush the shrimp lightly with oil if not marinated, and cook until pink. Turn and grill on the other side. Allow 5 to 7 minutes total cooking time, half on each side. When done, the shrimp will be pink and the flesh opaque white.

To check if the shrimp are done, taste one. Overcooking toughens shrimp and robs them of flavor.

On the Grill

  • To prevent shrimp from slipping through the rack on a grill, use an oiled grill basket that hinges open and latches shut. The same basket can be used for burgers, buns and other foods.
  • As an alternative, thread shrimp on bamboo skewers that have been well soaked in water. Using only 2 shrimp per skewer leaves enough of a handle for turning the shrimp and removing them from the grill.
  • Jumbo shrimp can be butterflied for the grill. Shell and devein them, leaving the tail intact. Then using a sharp knife, slice them along the back, but not all the way through. Spread them flat.

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