Imagine yourself on a sunny summer day, surrounded by friends and family, with the delightful aroma of sizzling seafood filling the air. You want to impress everyone with your grilling skills, but you find yourself pondering: “How do you grill shrimp on the barbecue?” Well, fret no more! Our handy guide will walk you through the simple steps to achieve perfectly grilled shrimp that will have everyone coming back for more. Get ready to elevate your barbecue game and become the go-to grill master in your social circle! Grilling shrimp on the barbecue can be a delicious and enjoyable experience. It allows you to capture the natural flavors of the shrimp while imparting a smoky and charred taste. However, before you fire up the grill, there are a few things to consider to ensure that you choose the right shrimp, prepare them properly, and grill them to perfection. In this article, we will guide you through the entire process, from selecting the shrimp to serving them up on a platter.
Choosing the right shrimp
The first step in grilling shrimp on the barbecue is choosing the right shrimp. There are a few key factors to consider – whether to choose fresh or frozen shrimp, whether to go for shell-on or deveined shrimp, and the size of the shrimp.
Fresh or frozen shrimp
When it comes to choosing between fresh and frozen shrimp, it ultimately comes down to convenience and availability. Fresh shrimp are usually more flavorful and have a better texture, but they need to be cooked soon after purchasing. If you have access to a seafood market or can source fresh shrimp, that would be the ideal choice. However, if fresh shrimp are not readily available, frozen shrimp can be a good alternative. Just make sure to properly thaw them before grilling.
Shell-on or deveined shrimp
The decision between shell-on or deveined shrimp largely depends on personal preference and the type of dish you are preparing. Shrimp with the shells on tend to have a richer flavor and juicier texture, as the shell helps retain moisture during cooking. On the other hand, if you prefer to remove the shell before eating or plan to use the shrimp in a dish where the shell would be a hassle, then opting for deveined shrimp might be a better choice. Deveining the shrimp also removes the digestive tract, which can sometimes contain sand or grit.
Size of the shrimp
The size of the shrimp is another important consideration. Shrimp are typically labeled with a number, such as 16/20 or 31/40, which indicates the approximate number of shrimp per pound. The smaller the number, the larger the shrimp. The size you choose depends on personal preference and the desired outcome. Larger shrimp are generally better for grilling directly on the barbecue, as they are less likely to overcook and become dry. Smaller shrimp can be perfect for skewering or adding to dishes like salads or pasta.
Preparing the shrimp
To ensure the shrimp are ready for the grill, there are a few steps you need to take – thawing frozen shrimp, peeling and deveining the shrimp, and marinating them for added flavor.
Thawing frozen shrimp
If you are using frozen shrimp, it’s important to thaw them properly before grilling. The best way to thaw shrimp is to transfer them from the freezer to the refrigerator and let them thaw overnight. If you’re short on time, you can also place the shrimp in a sealed plastic bag and submerge it in cold water for about 30 minutes. Avoid thawing shrimp at room temperature, as this can promote bacterial growth.
Peeling and deveining shrimp
If you have purchased shell-on shrimp and prefer to grill them without the shells, you’ll need to peel them before grilling. To peel shrimp, start by holding the body of the shrimp in one hand and gently twist off the head. Then, use your thumb and forefinger to peel away the shells, starting from the legs and working your way down to the tail. Once the shells are removed, you can devein the shrimp by making a shallow incision along the back and removing the dark vein with a small knife or your fingers.
Marinating the shrimp
Marinating the shrimp before grilling is a great way to infuse them with additional flavor. You can create your own marinade using ingredients like olive oil, minced garlic, lemon juice, and herbs or use pre-made marinades available in stores. Simply place the peeled and deveined shrimp in a bowl or resealable bag, add the marinade, and let them marinate for at least 30 minutes or up to several hours in the refrigerator. This will not only enhance the taste of the shrimp but also help keep them moist during the grilling process.
Preheating and preparing the grill
Before you start grilling, it’s essential to properly preheat and prepare the grill. This ensures that the shrimp cook evenly and don’t stick to the grates.
Preheating the grill
To preheat the grill, start by cleaning the grates (we’ll discuss this in detail later) and then ignite the grill to medium-high heat. Close the lid and allow the grill to heat up for about 10-15 minutes. This will ensure that the grates are hot enough to create those beautiful grill marks and give the shrimp a nice sear.
Cleaning the grill grates
Clean grill grates are crucial for achieving a successful grilling experience. Before preheating the grill, take a wire brush and scrub the grates to remove any leftover debris or charred bits from previous grill sessions. This will prevent any unwanted flavors from transferring to the shrimp and also reduce the chances of them sticking to the grates.
Oil the grill grates
Once the grates are clean, lightly oiling them will further prevent the shrimp from sticking. Using tongs and a folded paper towel soaked in vegetable oil, brush the grates to create a thin, even layer of oil. This will provide a non-stick surface and help achieve those beautiful grill marks on the shrimp.
Direct vs indirect grilling
When it comes to grilling shrimp, both direct and indirect grilling methods can be used, depending on the desired outcome.
Direct grilling involves placing the shrimp directly over the heat source. This method is ideal for smaller shrimp or when you want to quickly cook the shrimp and achieve a slightly charred exterior. To direct grill shrimp, simply place them on the preheated grill grates and cook for 2-3 minutes per side, or until they turn pink and opaque. Be sure to keep a close eye on the shrimp, as they can cook quickly and become dry if overcooked.
Indirect grilling is better suited for larger shrimp or when you prefer a more gentle and even cooking process. To indirect grill shrimp, you’ll need a grill with a lid. Start by preheating the grill as mentioned earlier. Once the grill is hot, turn off the burner(s) directly under the shrimp and leave the burner(s) on the opposite side of the grill on medium-low heat. This creates a zone of indirect heat. Place the shrimp on the side of the grill without direct heat, close the lid, and let them cook for about 4-6 minutes per side, or until they are pink and opaque.
Grilling the shrimp
Now that you have prepped the shrimp and preheated the grill, it’s time to grill them to perfection. Skewering the shrimp, seasoning them, and managing the grilling time and temperature are the key elements in achieving delicious results.
Skewering the shrimp
To make grilling easier and prevent the shrimp from falling through the grates, you can skewer them. Soak wooden skewers in water for about 30 minutes before using to prevent them from burning on the grill. Thread the shrimp onto the skewers, piercing through the thicker part of the shrimp near the tail and up towards the head. Leave a small space between each shrimp to ensure even cooking.
Seasoning the shrimp
Before grilling the shrimp, you can enhance their flavors by seasoning them. A simple combination of salt, pepper, and a sprinkle of paprika or your favorite seasoning blend can add a delicious taste to the shrimp. Alternatively, you can brush the shrimp with the remaining marinade to further enhance their flavor.
Grilling time and temperature
The grilling time and temperature can vary depending on the size of the shrimp and the desired doneness. As a general rule, grill shrimp for 2-3 minutes per side for direct grilling or 4-6 minutes per side for indirect grilling. The internal temperature of cooked shrimp should reach 120°F to 145°F. Cooking times may vary, so it’s always a good idea to keep an eye on the shrimp and use a digital thermometer to check for doneness.
Turning and basting the shrimp
While grilling the shrimp, it’s important to know how and when to turn them. Additionally, basting the shrimp with marinade or sauce can add extra flavor and moisture.
Flipping the shrimp
When it’s time to flip the shrimp, use tongs or a spatula to carefully turn them over. Be gentle to prevent them from breaking apart. Shrimp cook quickly, so they will only need a couple of minutes on the second side before they are ready.
Basting with marinade or sauce
During the grilling process, you can baste the shrimp with any reserved marinade or your favorite sauce to add an extra layer of flavor. Brush the marinade or sauce onto the shrimp a minute or two before they are done cooking. This will help create a glaze and infuse the shrimp with additional taste.
Checking for doneness
Determining when the shrimp are fully cooked can be a bit tricky. However, there are a few indicators you can look for to ensure they are done and safe to eat.
Color and texture
The shrimp should turn pink and opaque throughout, indicating that they are fully cooked. The flesh should be slightly firm to the touch, with a springy texture. Be cautious not to overcook the shrimp, as they can become tough and rubbery.
While color and texture are good indicators, checking the internal temperature with a digital thermometer is the most accurate way to ensure the shrimp are cooked to perfection. The internal temperature should read between 120°F to 145°F when measured at the thickest part of the shrimp.
Removing shrimp from the grill
Once the shrimp are fully cooked, it’s time to remove them from the grill. Carefully use tongs or a spatula to lift the shrimp from the grill grates, ensuring not to leave any behind.
Using tongs or a spatula
Tongs or a spatula are the best tools to remove the shrimp from the grill without damaging them or causing them to fall apart. Gently grip the shrimp with the tongs or slide the spatula underneath and lift them off the grates, holding them horizontally to avoid any drips.
Placing the shrimp on a platter
After removing the shrimp from the grill, place them on a platter or serving dish. Arrange them in an appealing manner, ensuring that they are evenly spaced and not overcrowded. This will make them more visually appealing and easier to serve.
Garnishing and serving
Now that the shrimp are perfectly grilled and placed on the platter, it’s time to add some finishing touches and serve them up.
Adding fresh herbs or lemon wedges
To enhance the flavors of the grilled shrimp, you can garnish them with fresh herbs, such as chopped parsley, cilantro, or basil. The bright, aromatic herbs will not only add visual appeal but also provide a burst of freshness. Squeezing fresh lemon juice over the grilled shrimp or serving them with lemon wedges is another great way to add a citrusy zing.
Grilled shrimp can be served on their own as a main dish or incorporated into various recipes and dishes. They pair well with a variety of accompaniments, such as a fresh salad, rice, pasta, or grilled vegetables. Consider your personal preferences and the occasion when choosing the perfect accompaniments for your grilled shrimp.
The temperature at which you serve the grilled shrimp can significantly impact their taste and texture. Ideally, serve the shrimp immediately after grilling while they are still warm. This will ensure that they are juicy and flavorful. If you are preparing the shrimp in advance, make sure to keep them covered to retain their warmth or refrigerate them if you plan to serve them chilled.
Safety precautions and tips
While grilling shrimp on the barbecue is a fun and delicious activity, it’s crucial to take certain safety precautions to ensure food safety and prevent any mishaps.
Handling raw shrimp
When handling raw shrimp, it’s important to follow proper food handling practices. Wash your hands thoroughly before and after handling the shrimp to prevent cross-contamination. Use separate cutting boards, utensils, and plates for raw and cooked shrimp to avoid spreading bacteria.
To prevent cross-contamination, it’s essential to keep raw shrimp away from other foods, especially those that will be consumed raw, such as fruits and vegetables. Store the shrimp in a separate sealed container in the refrigerator and clean any surfaces and utensils that come into contact with raw shrimp with hot, soapy water.
Properly storing leftovers
If you have leftover grilled shrimp, it’s important to store them properly to maintain their quality and safety. Allow the shrimp to cool down to room temperature, then transfer them to an airtight container and refrigerate them within two hours of cooking. Leftover shrimp can be kept in the refrigerator for up to three days. If you do not plan to consume them within that time frame, consider freezing them for longer shelf life.
In conclusion, grilling shrimp on the barbecue is a fantastic way to enjoy these succulent crustaceans. By carefully choosing the right shrimp, preparing them properly, and grilling them with precision, you can create a culinary masterpiece on your grill. Remember to prioritize safety precautions and experiment with different flavors and seasonings to make your grilled shrimp experience even more delightful. So, fire up the barbecue, gather your friends and family, and embark on a flavorful journey with perfectly grilled shrimp!