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Cyndi Allison - Grill Girl

Shrimp Grill Guide

Fresh Shrimp to Grill
Fresh Shrimp to Grill

The first time I grilled shrimp, my son (age 4 at the time) slipped through the hedge and told the neighbor, "We're having a cook out, but we aren't having no meat." The guy next door had to pop over to see what was up with that, and he had a good laugh when he discovered that we were having seafood. He joined us for a skewer and still asks us if we're shorting our kid on meat.

Cooking Shrimp on the Grill is Simple

It would be hard to find something easier to cook on the barbeque grill than shrimp. Though many outdoor cooks consider seafood gourmet cooking and avoid doing fancier feasts over fire, something like shrimp is quicker and also easier to judge on doneness.

Selecting Shrimp

Check at your local seafood shop or larger grocery and buy fresh shrimp if possible. Frozen shrimp is fine too, but it's hard (in many places) to find full sized shrimp in the freezer case.

Most American consumers buy shrimp with the heads off. If you can find shrimp with the heads still on, you'll have juicier shrimp. The head locks in the juices and flavors. If you can't find heads on, then don't worry.

You want fairly good sized shrimp to grill, because they have to be threaded on skewers. Though sizes vary some place to place, you'll generally be buying medium, large, or jumbo shrimp. If you're not familiar with the sizing, then the smallest shrimp you'd want to buy would be about 2 inches long (with heads off).

Preparing Shrimp

Use a sharp knife and cut a long slit down the back of the shrimp. You'll know that you're cutting on the right side by checking for a black line. That will be visible through the shell and is the bowel of the shrimp. You make the slit and take out the black vein, because obviously you do not want to eat that or serve to guests.

Don't remove heads (if you bought heads on) and don't peel the shrimp or pull off the tails. The little shell jackets protect the shrimp and hold in the seasonings.

Thread the shrimp on skewers. You can use metal skewers or wooden skewers. If you use wooden skewers, then you'll need to soak them in water before putting the shrimp on and putting them on the grill.

If you want to add other items between the shrimp to make the shrimp go further or just to give a nice contrast in taste, then thread those on as you skewer the shrimp. Since shrimp cook really fast, you'll need to select quick cook items to skewer with shrimp. Our favorites are tiny tomatoes and chunks of pineapple.
The next step is to marinate the shrimp. You can do this an hour or so before grilling or the night before and leave the skewers chilling overnight.

Marinating Shrimp

The easiest way to marinate shrimp is to buy a bottle of spicy Italian dressing. Do not buy the creamy type. You want the thin style with some zest. Just pour this over your shrimp skewers.

If you prefer to make your own marinade from scratch, then here is a basic recipe:

Shrimp Marinade

  • ½ cup olive or vegetable oil
  • ¼ cup lemon or lime juice
  • seasonings (garlic, cayenne, parsley, Old Bay or any other favorites)

Simply mix these together and pour over shrimp skewers.

To Grill Shrimp

Heat the grill to medium-low. If you are using charcoal, you want the coals white and not flaming. Do not use too many coals. It does not take much heat or time to cook shrimp.

Spray the grill grate with cooking oil to prevent sticking. Pam brand has a new version of cooking oil spray designed especially for grilling which works very well.

Place the skewers on the grill. Turn once so that both sides are cooked through. You may have to manually turn some of the shrimp the correct way, since they slip unless you have double pronged skewers.

With medium shrimp, you cook about 2 minutes on each side. For large shrimp, go about 3 or 4 minutes per side and jumbo about 5 minutes on each side. Shrimp will look an orange-white color when done. If they still look kind of gray, leave them on a bit longer. Do not overcook though, because shrimp will be tough if cooked too long.

Other Variations

Once you master basic shrimp on the grill, you may want to experiment. You can add barbeque sauce right before the shrimp are done and grill quickly to heat and darken the sauce for a treat. Bacon wrapped around the shrimp is also very tasty. You can take the shells off if you use bacon (though you don't have to), because the bacon will help seal in the juices.



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