Grilling Shrimp in the Backyard

Grilled shrimp can make for a very quick and easy meal, appetizer or addition to your game day tailgating spread.

Grilled shrimp can make for a very quick and easy meal, appetizer or addition to your game day tailgating spread. Here in the Northland, we don’t regularly have access to the fresh shrimp straight off the boats that really pack a lot of flavor with the heads and shells still intact. However, you don’t have to live in a coastal community to truly enjoy the great flavors of shrimp that a grill can bring out, even from the frozen, peeled and deveined variety commonly found in the grocery stores.

Begin by preparing your shrimp for the grill.  Raw, peeled and deveined shrimp are easy to find, but you can certainly devein the shrimp yourself in a matter of minutes. If cooked properly the vein doesn’t need to be removed either, especially if you find whole shrimp in the shell (the vein won’t hurt you or impart any off flavors). Rinse the shrimp in cold running water and pat dry with a paper towel.  Not only for nice presentation, but for ease of cooking, you’ll want to skewer the shrimp on bamboo skewers that you’ve soaked in water for at least 20 minutes to prevent them from burning or starting on fire. Metal skewers work well too, but be careful, as they can become very hot rather quickly. You will note in the photo that I skewer the shrimp twice, once through the body and once more through the tail, allowing for a nice curled shape when cooked and to stabilize the shrimp on the skewer when turning them over.  Brush the shrimp with a little olive oil to prevent them from sticking to the grill and feel free to add some seasoning at this point. A nice mixture of sea salt, garlic and herbs will really please!

While I’m a big fan of the indirect heat method of cooking on your grill, shrimp cooked over indirect heat from coals or your gas grill will simply dry out, become tough and rubbery and lose the delicate flavor you so love from this crustacean.  Prepare your grill with a nice medium heat of about 350°F. I will advocate once again for a charcoal grill using lump hardwood charcoal, as the flavor of the wood and smoke will enhance your meat, even during a quicker cooking time. Cooking on a gas grill works great here also. Add a few wood chips in a smoker box if you so desire; remember with shrimp, it’s all about the flavor!

Place the skewered shrimp on the hot grill for approximately 3-5 minutes per side.  The most crucial point in grilling shrimp is when it’s on the grill; do not walk away to grab a beer or glass of wine! Shrimp can quickly become overdone, rendering it tough and flavorless in a matter of seconds. You will know the shrimp is done the second the color changes from translucent to opaque.  While on the grill, feel free to baste with your favorite sauces for added flavor, especially if you’re serving these straight up and not in pasta, for instance. A nice basting or grilling sauce like Croix Valley Garlic 'n Herb Sauce & Marinade will caramelize on the shrimp and enhance the grilled flavors of your meal. Be creative with your outdoor cooking and savor the mouth-watering tastes and textures you create in your own backyard. Once you’ve grilled shrimp, the breaded and deep-fried varieties you get with your surf 'n turf at the restaurant will seem like mere fish sticks. 

Keep on grillin’! 

Damon Holter

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