Shrimp may be the most universally enjoyed seafood. They are small, flavorful, and can be coated in a variety of sauces and flavorful marinades. Even better, shrimp can be added to something such as a salad or pasta or stand on their own as a total meal.
Shrimp are also great because they can be prepared in a number of ways. Boil them, cook them up in a pan, or throw them into a pot with lots of other ingredients to create a spectacular seafood dish that doesn’t ever taste too “fishy.”
Another method for cooking your shrimp can be to throw them on the grill. During the summer especially, grilling can become a regular occurrence that provides smoke and char to dishes in a way that is not possible otherwise.
Using skewers is perhaps the most common method of cooking shrimp on the grill. Because they are small, shrimp don’t take long to cook properly. When they sit on the grill for too long, they can overcook, turning them rubbery and even burning them on a scorching hot surface like the grill.
Skewers are so beneficial because they can be used to cook your shrimp evenly so that you don’t have different shrimp with different cook levels. But skewers are not necessarily a household item.
So, what are you supposed to do if you want to cook up some shrimp but don’t have the skewers necessary?
Grilling Shrimp Without Skewers
The first way that you can cook your shrimp on the grill is to simply put them on the grill individually. This is best achieved on grills that have upper racks. These are for foods that cook quickly or that you don’t want to char.
Make sure to use a cooking spray to prevent them from sticking to the grates and you should be able to provide ample heat without charring them or turning them rubbery.
Even better, there are some grills that have flat-top components to them for smaller foods that can fall through the grating. These are particularly great for adding seasoning to your food as you cook.
This is still a somewhat delicate process and it can be easy to overcook the shrimp. It is important to work within specific temperature ranges to ensure even cooking of the shrimp throughout the process.
But if you’re looking for a more effective way of cooking shrimp on the grill, there is another way: use foil.
Grilling Shrimp with Foil
Foil can be a great way to provide a complete, even cook to your shrimp without fear of charring or blackening them (though some people actually do enjoy this). Start out by setting your grill in the 350- to 450-degree Fahrenheit range.
Most grills should have temperature gauges somewhere on the exterior; there are even some that have knobs with the temperature marks on them.
If you are using a charcoal grill for this, pile up your charcoal in the shape of a pyramid at the bottom of the grill. Follow that up with a splash of lighter fluid and light the coals up.
Let them die down and then give it about 10 minutes or so to ensure that your coals are all at the proper temperature for your shrimp to cook. If your charcoal grill has an automatic starter, you can press the start button right after you have loaded up the grill with charcoal.
Next, place your shrimp in a large piece of foil. Make sure that it is just large enough to accommodate the amount of shrimp that you plan on cooking. Do any marinating or seasoning prior to adding them into the foil, though you can also accommodate the shrimp with things such as sausage, corn, and garlic to form a truly flavorful packet.
If you plan to cook a good amount of shrimp, creating multiple packets may be the best idea to provide a more even cooking experience.
When you have laid out all of the shrimp on your foil, it is time to fold up the sides. This will create a packet that will seal the foil. Roll both the bottom and top edges of the foil to keep everything contained within the packet.
It is imperative that you make sure that the packets are totally sealed before you put them on the grill. The foil will get very hot and if you need to make an adjustment, it won’t be possible until the foil has cooled off sufficiently.
With your packets properly sealed, place them on the grill for about 10 or 15 minutes. If you have added other ingredients into your packet, skew closer to the 15-minute mark.
This is great because, as the shrimp cooks, it will take in all of those spices and the marinade that you have included in the packet.
When the shrimp have sufficiently cooked, you can unwrap the foil and then serve up your shrimp immediately as they are best when they are piping hot. You can even add a splash of acid – lemon juice is great – or butter on top as an extra bit of flavor.
How to Buy Shrimp
Before we can worry about cooking the shrimp, it is important that we buy shrimp that is as fresh as can be. Going to the grocery store is likely fine, though fish connoisseurs will likely turn their nose up at this option.
Find a local fish market or fishmonger that you can trust and then choose between a domestic shrimp or wild-caught (think gulf shrimp) if they have them. Another thing to consider is the rest of your schedule.
If you aren’t going right home after purchasing your shrimp, make sure that you have an ice chest or cooler to keep them fresh and cool until you get home.
When fresh isn’t an option, frozen is perfectly acceptable and won’t compromise the taste of your dish. In some cases, it’s actually preferable to buy frozen shrimp.
When you buy from a market, it can be difficult to tell just how long that “fresh” shrimp has been sitting there behind the counter. When you buy frozen, you have control over defrosting them and you can cook them as soon as they become more pliable.
In addition to the freshness of the shrimp that you purchase, the size is another important consideration. Shrimp aren’t universal; they can come in many sizes ranging from small to jumbo. Yes, it absolutely matters which one you buy.
Shrimp have different applications at different sizes, and they can cook much differently as well. Depending on how you want to deploy them, the right size of shrimp can make the difference between an even cook and one that causes a litany of issues.
Smaller shrimp are the best choice for pasta dishes, salads, and soups, for instance. For high-heat cooking such as sauteing and grilling, you might want to go with a larger shrimp. Instead of focusing on the name – small, large, jumbo – pay attention to what their count per pound is.
Small shrimp will come in large quantities; around 50 to 60 per pound. Medium shrimp will be in the 35 to 45 per pound range. Large shrimp come in the 30 to 35 per pound range, jumbo about 16 to 20, and colossal with 15 pieces of shrimp or less.
As always, make sure that you check the quality of the shrimp before you cook them, whether they are fresh or frozen. You want the flesh to be firm and for there to be a slightly salty smell to them.
If the shrimp is fishy smelling or mushy to the touch, throw them out. You do not want to get sick from bad shrimp.
When using frozen shrimp, thaw them in the fridge. Thawing them on the counter or in warm water can potentially expose them to what is known as the danger zone.
This is the range between 40 degrees Fahrenheit and 140 degrees Fahrenheit where bacteria has the best chance of growing.
Finally, there is the matter of peeling and deveining. Service shrimp on a platter is likely fine for leaving the shells on during the cooking process.
As a matter of fact, keeping the shells on is a great way to help them retain their natural moisture. If you plan on grilling them or sauteing them in a pan, take the shells off first.
To devein them, you simply peel off the shell and then run a paring knife along the underbelly and the back, removing the dark veins gently. You may want to consider hanging onto those shrimp shells since they can be added into stocks, bisques, and bouillabaisse to provide additional flavor.
Different Ways to Cook Shrimp
The great thing about serving shrimp is that it is one of the more versatile foods out there. Even better, it provides a pack of protein without many calories, making it a delicious, healthy choice for meals throughout the day.
Perhaps the best part about shrimp is that it has a naturally mild flavor. This makes it perfect for adding seasonings, sauces, and other flavors into the mix to create a unique, delicious mixture that can be enjoyed again and again.
Shrimp scampi is one of those classic shrimp dishes that can be found on many menus. This is a dish that features the shrimp sauteed in butter, garlic, white wine, and some lemon juice. Generally speaking, it is served over the top of some pasta and can even be topped with a little parsley for garnish.
The great thing is that the shrimp pair well with the sauces traditionally used in the scampi. You can even opt to go healthier by using gluten-free noodles (spaghetti squash or zucchini noodles are great) and heap on some sauteed spinach to provide an additional pop of nutritional quality.
Perhaps you’re looking for more traditional southern flavor. There is nothing that says “southern” quite like shrimp and grits. It’s comforting, creamy, and is rarely ever a miss. After all, who doesn’t like a recipe that uses a lot of bacon, butter, and cheese?
Cooking the perfect shrimp and grits comes down to timing. Make sure that you cook the grits first, keeping them warm on a low heat setting, stirring them occasionally. If they thicken up, you can use a little stock or water to thin them out.
Make sure that you saute the shrimp at the last minute to keep them from overcooking and then lay them out over the grits, serving immediately. You then have a piping hot, creamy, flavorful meal that harkens to the traditional south.
Of course, you can always go with another traditional dish that is sure to be a big hit regardless of the night or setting: tacos. Shrimp tacos are fresh, friendly for the entire family, and a lot of fun to implement on a weeknight.
The key is to make sure that whatever shrimp you choose is the right size to fit inside of the taco. After all, you don’t want half of the filling falling out of your taco before you get a chance to enjoy it. You can prepare them in a lot of different ways, too, though sauteing or grilling them are the best for the purposes of a taco.
Even better, you can really up the flavor of your shrimp taco by adding in some taco seasoning before you cook the shrimp.
Just make sure that you use corn tortillas instead of flour when you serve shrimp tacos. They have a better texture and flavor when coupled with the shrimp, though they tend to not be all that great when they are served cold.
These are just a few suggestions of what you can do with your shrimp to make them delicious and flavorful. You can explore and test out many different shrimp options to find which recipes you like the most, exploring the wonders of shrimp in all of its forms for a long time to come.
Ben has a bachelor’s degree in construction engineering. When not constructing or remodeling X-Ray Rooms, Cardiovascular Labs, and Pharmacies, you can find him at home with wife and two daughters. Outside of family, He loves grilling and barbequing on his Big Green Egg and Blackstone Griddle, as well as working on projects around the house.
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