Let’s face it, grilled shrimp is delicious. And, if you are new to the concept, our easy how-to-grill shrimp guide will help you through the process.
Grilled shrimp is a delicious and versatile dish that can be prepared in various ways. This how-to guide will explore the right type of shrimp for grilling, how to select fresh shrimp and some of the most popular ways to prepare them. With these simple steps, you’ll be able to enjoy perfectly cooked, juicy, grilled shrimp in no time!
What is the best size of shrimp for grilling?
Shrimp come in various sizes, usually labeled as count per pound. The size of the shrimp refers to the number of individual shrimp in one pound. Here are some of the common sizes:
- Extra Colossal-U/10: 10 or fewer shrimp per pound. These are large, jumbo-sized shrimp and are best for grilling.
- Super Colossal-U/12: 12 or fewer per pound. Slightly smaller than extra colossal and a great choice for grilling or frying.
- Colossal-U/15: 15 or less per pound. Similar to the other colossal sizes, only a smidge smaller.
- Extra Jumbo- U/16/20: 16 to 20 shrimp per pound. These are also large shrimp and are good for grilling, but not as large as the U/10/12/or 15 sizes.
- Jumbo- 21/25: 21 to 25 shrimp per pound. These are medium-sized shrimp and can be grilled, but they tend to dry out more easily than larger shrimp.
- Large-31/40: 31 to 40 shrimp per pound. These small shrimp are good for sautéing or stir-frying but can easily overcook on the grill.
Tip: It is important to choose extra colossal to extra jumbo-sized shrimp (U/10 to 16/20) as they retain moisture and flavor as they cook. Smaller shrimp tend to overcook on the grill and become dry and rubbery.
When shopping for shrimp, choosing a fresh and high-quality product is important for ensuring the best taste and texture. Here are a few tips on how to choose fresh shrimp:
- Smell: Fresh shrimp should have a slightly sweet and salty ocean smell. Avoid shrimp with a strong fishy ammonia-like odor. These bad odors signify that they are no longer fresh.
- Appearance: Look for clear, translucent shrimp, free from discoloration or brown spots. Shells should be firm and not sticky or slimy to the touch.
- Check the Texture: Fresh shrimp should have a firm and springy texture. If shrimp is soft or mushy, that is a sign that they are not suitable for consumption.
- Read the Label: Look for wild-caught or sustainably sourced shrimp. Avoid “farm-raised” or “chemically treated” products, as they could contain chemicals that alter the flavor of the shrimp.
- Seasonality: We recommend purchasing shrimp during peak season, typically between March-October.
What is the best way to thaw frozen shrimp?
Once you’ve purchased the right size frozen shrimp, the next step is thawing them properly. There are three easy ways to do this, though the first two are the best methods for retaining texture.
- Thawing the Refrigerator: This is the safest method as it prevents bacterial growth. Place the bag in a resealable plastic bag and store it in the refrigerator for 6-8 hours.
- Thawing in Cold Water: Place the frozen shrimp in a resealable plastic bag, and immerse it in a bowl of cold water. Change the water every 30 minutes to ensure that the shrimp thaws evenly. This method typically takes 30 minutes to 45 minutes.
- Try Thawing the Microwave: Place the frozen shrimp in a microwave-safe bowl and microwave on the defrost setting for 2 minutes or until the shrimp are partially thawed. Set the bowl in cold water to continue thawing. This method is not recommended for small to jumbo-sized shrimp, as the microwave can partially cook them.
Regardless of which method you use, it’s important to cook the shrimp shortly after thawing to ensure food safety. Marinating them in your fridge is okay, but only do so for 20-30 minutes, then cook immediately. Remember that thawed raw shrimp should never be refrozen.
How do you peel shrimp?
Peeling shrimp can be messy, but with the right technique, it can be done quickly and easily. With these simple steps, you should be able to peel shrimp like a pro in no time. Enjoy!
- Start by holding the shrimp by the head and twisting off the legs and antennae.
- Locate the shrimp’s underside and look for a thin line that runs down the center of its back.
- Using your thumb, gently lift the edge of the shell and peel it off, starting from the head and working towards the tail. You may need to use a sharp knife to cut through the shell and remove it.
- Remove the dark vein that runs down the center of the shrimp by using a small knife or your fingers. Rinse under cold water and blot dry with paper towels.
- Repeat the peeling process for the rest of the shrimp.
Tip: Don’t throw those shells away! You can pop them into a medium pot with 1 1/2-2 cups of water, 1 clove of garlic, peeled, and 1/2 teaspoon (or more) of kosher salt. Simmer for 6-7 minutes, and voila! Shrimp stock! Strain and cool completely before freezing.
Leave the shells on for flavorful grilled shrimp.
It’s important to note that not all shrimp need to be peeled before cooking. Leaving the shells on adds flavor and keeps the shrimp juicy and tender as they cook. The shells also protect the delicate flesh from the grill’s searing heat. Follow these steps to prepare grilled shrimp with the shells on.
- Clean the shrimp by removing the heads and the legs, leaving the shells and tails intact.
- Devein the shrimp by making a shallow cut down the back of each shrimp and removing the black vein.
- Rinse the shrimp and pat dry with clean paper towels. Marinate as directed below.
How do you add flavor to seafood?
- Use a marinade: The easiest way to flavor shrimp is by using a marinade made of oil, acid(citrus juice), garlic, salt, and pepper. From there, you can add chopped fresh herbs or additional spices.
- Spice mixture: You can also season the shrimp with a simple spice rub before placing them on the grill.
- Use a sauce: Brush them with a butter mixture or BBQ sauce as they cook.
Different ways to grill shrimp
Grilling Directly: Colossal shrimp (16-20 count per pound) should be grilled for 3-4 minutes on each side until they are opaque and firm to the touch. Smaller shrimp (31-40 count per pound) will cook faster and should only be grilled for 2-3 minutes on each side.
Skewers: One of the easiest ways to grill shrimp is by sliding 3-4 raw seasoned shrimp onto a skewer. Doing this holds everything together and keeps the smaller shrimp from falling through the grates.
Wood Plank: Cedar-planked shrimp is delicious! Always use a food-safe wooden plank for grilling. These are easy to find online or at most larger grocery chains. The cedar plank will infuse the shrimp with a light smoky flavor. And the plank makes the perfect serving dish that you can take straight from the grill to the table.
Cook in Cast-Iron Skillet or on a Flat Top Grill: Cast-iron is great for saucy shrimp dishes like scampi or New Orleans BBQ shrimp. The Flat top grill is a great surface for evenly seared shrimp used in tacos or served blackened over cheesy grits.
- If you’re using wooden skewers, soak them in water for at least 30 minutes before assembling the shrimp kebabs.
- Oil your grill grates with a high smoke point oil.
- Add fresh or dried herbs such as finely chopped basil, cilantro, or parsley to the marinade for extra flavor.
- Add red pepper flakes, diced chilies, or hot sauce to the marinade for spicier grilled shrimp.
- Remember to keep an eye on the shrimp and not overcook them, as this can result in a rubbery texture. A good rule of thumb is to remove the shrimp from heat when they turn pink and are firm to the touch.
How to serve grilled shrimp
Grilled shrimp can be served as an appetizer or a main course for lunch or dinner. Use in salads, wraps, tacos, or serve with cocktail sauce. They are fantastic over grits or polenta, or served with steak. For sauce-based shrimp, serve over rice or with fresh-baked crusted bread.
Leftover cooked shrimp can be stored in the refrigerator for up to 3-4 days. To maximize its shelf life, store the shrimp in an airtight container and keep it at a temperature of 40°F or below. Before consuming leftover shrimp, inspect it for any signs of spoilage, such as a strong odor, sliminess, or discoloration. If the shrimp doesn’t look or smell fresh, it’s best to discard it to avoid foodborne illness.
More shrimp recipes!
- Grilled Achiote Shrimp Skewers
- Grilled Za’atar Shrimp
- Shrimp Marinade
- Louisiana BBQ Shrimp
- Grilled Achiote Shrimp Skewers
Easy Grilled Shrimp
- 1 pound of extra large to jumbo shrimp peeled and deveined
- 1/4 cup of olive oil
- 2 tablespoons of lemon juice
- 2 cloves of garlic minced (or 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder)
- 1/4 teaspoon onion powder
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
- 4-6 wooden skewers presoaked in water for 30 minutes
- Whisk the olive oil, lemon juice, garlic, onion powder, salt, and black pepper in a large bowl.
- Add the shrimp to the bowl and toss them in the marinade mixture until well coated.
- Cover the bowl and place it in the refrigerator for at least 20-30 minutes to allow the flavors to absorb.
- Working with clean grill grates is a must when grilling shrimp! So, clean them well before cooking.
- Prepare your grill for medium-high heat (375-400 degrees F). Oil the grill grates well.
- Remove the shrimp from the marinade and slide 3-4 onto each skewer.
- Place them on the grill grates, spacing the skewers evenly apart. Cook for 2-3 minutes on each side or until the shrimp turns pink, opaque, and firm to the touch.
- Promptly remove the shrimp from the grill and serve as an appetizer or pair them with your favorite side dish.