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~ Melanie's Favorite Way to Skewer and Grill Shrimp ~

PICT0016Shrimp are persnickity.  They must be cooked correctly.  There is no middle ground.  If they are not cooked enough, they are distastefully undercooked and raw.  If they are cooked too much, they are ridiculously overcooked and rubbery.  Perfectly cooked shrimp are just cooked through, opaque in the center, juicy and succulent.  Cooking shrimp to perfection using moist heat cooking methods, like steaming or boiling, where the shrimp are surrounded by moist heat or immersed in hot liquid, is a simple matter of timing, which varies depending upon the size of the shrimp.  In the case of pan-frying or sautéing, the fat added to the pan (usually butter or oil), provides the venue for them to cook, by lowering the heat as necessary, to perfection. When it comes to dry-heat applications, like broiling and grilling, even well-seasoned chefs will tell you, "not so much".  

PICT0007Technically, you can grill any size of shrimp, but, I'm here to tell you if you want them to remain succulent and juicy, the bigger they are, the better they will be.  I'm using:

2  pounds, extra jumbo, 16-20 count shrimp  

Note:  All shrimp are sold by weight, so, "16-20 count" means there are 16-20 shrimp in each pound.  This means I am grilling somewhere between 32 and 40 shrimp today.

My tips for getting the shrimp ready for the grill:

PICT0006~ Step 1.  Thaw the shrimp if they are frozen, peel them, leaving the tails on, then devein them.  Your fish monger can do this for you.

~ Step 2.  Pat shrimp dry in paper towels. The shrimp are going to be brushed with EVOO before they go onto the hot grill grids, and, EVOO will not stick to wet shrimp.

~ Step 3.  Allow shrimp to come to room temperature, about 30 minutes.  Cold shrimp cause timing problems.  

PICT0008~ Step 4.  The way to control shrimp once they are placed on the hot grill grids (placing them on the grill, turning them during the cooking process, and, removing them from the grill) is to skewer them.

Note:  If you're using wooden skewers, you'll want to soak them in warm water for 20-30 minutes.  This will keep them from catching on fire.

Poke the point of the skewer through the shrimp where the tail meets the meat, and a second time through the thickest part of the body.  I'm placing 4 shrimp, side-by-side but not cramped together, on 8" skewers.  Not cramping them ensures even cooking.

~ Step 5.  Lightly brush the meat of the shrimp, on both sides, with olive oil.  Depending upon what I am serving, sometimes I use lemon-infused or chile pepper infused olive oil.  I do not season my shrimp prior to grilling.  Why?  Salt drys them out and seasonings burn.  I season my shrimp the moment they come off the grill, then, if it complements the dish I am serving, for added flavor and garnish:  I sprinkle them with some fresh herbs.

When grilling shrimp, the best offense is the best defense!

PICT0017The word "grilling" denotes hot and fast cooking.  I just adore perfectly grilled shrimp, and, as versatile as shrimp are, grilling them is a bit tricky.  Once placed on the hot grill grids, they quickly turn  pink, golden brown and beautiful, but, on the inside, they are (as stated above) distastefully undercooked and raw. What happens next is not pretty:  In order to cook them to perfection, which requires another minute or two, the pink, golden and beautiful shrimp end up gray, blackened and ugly. Now, if you are tempted to tell me to move them to indirect heat, that is even worse because they just dry out. 

PICT0002Meet my grill pan(s).  Diffusing heat means to displace it, or, spread it out, to make more efficient use of it. Nothing evenly distributes the high heat of a gas grill better than a grill pan placed on top of the grill grids.  Since the key to great grilled shimp is to cook them over the highest, most efficient heat possible, without it being so high as to sear it on the outside and leave it raw on the inside, diffusing the heat made perfect sense to me, and, after my initial experiment with it, I never looked back.  Folks, when it comes to perfectly grilled, moist, juicy, succulent shrimp, this is the way to go.  My grill pans are Nordic Ware, they are dual purpose (a flat-top griddle on one side, a grill grid surface on the other), and, they are about 10 years old.  I was pleased to see they are still available on for about $30.00 a piece.

PICT0016Once the shrimp are prepped as per the above directions and brushed with EVOO, it's time to place them on the grill pan, which has been preheated, over high heat, on the grill.  From here on out, this is nothing but fun.  Extra-jumbo shrimp skewers take about 2 1/2-3 minutes per side, or, 5-6 minutes total cooking time.  Remove from the grill, season with salt, pepper and garnish with fresh herbs:

PICT0012Melanie's Favorite Way to Skewer and Grill Shrimp:  Recipe yields instructions for perfectly grilling succulent, juicy shrimp... as many as you want to.

Special Equipment List:  paper towels; pastry brush; grill pan(s)

PICT2719Cook's Note:  I get asked this often: Why do upscale restaurants and shrimp connoisseurs leave the tails on shrimp?  People often complain that the tails are an annoyance. There are three reasons.  #1.  In the event the diner can enjoy the shrimp whole, it serves as a convenient "handle".  #2.  The last bite of shrimp, which is where the meat meets the tail, is the most succulent tasty bite of shrimp.  #3. This is an indication you are being served the best shrimp in the best way possible.  Restaurant chefs and savvy home cooks always adhere to this practice.

"We are all in this food world together." ~ Melanie Preschutti

Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2012)


Fiona! If shrimp are handled correctly in the home kitchen, there really is no need for anyone to invest in expensive equipment. That being said, if any of my restaurant chef friends are in the market for professional equipment, I shall allow your advertisement on my blog to remain. Best regards!

This shrimp looks delicious! Do you use professionalshrimp processing equipment when you prepare your shrimp? I'd really like to find good, cheap ways to cook shrimp without making me sick. Thanks for all the information!

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