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Shrimp on the barbie! Grilled shrimp with garlic butter.
It’s time to throw a ton of shrimp on the barbie and get grilling with this shell-on recipe.
If you’re looking for a recipe that is ALL about celebrating the simplicity of perfectly grilled shrimp that has been kissed by charcoal – this is it. No complicated flavors, no over the top marinades, just a recipe that lets the fresh seafood and the grill be the stars of the show.
When it comes to grilling shrimp, keeping the shell on definitely has the advantage. The idea of leaving the shell on is primarily to protect the tender meat. It provides a more robust layer to shield against the flame, a heat deflector, if you will. Charcoal grilling lends the most superb flavor to shrimp, and I’ve experimented quite a bit with the best way to grill a shell-on shrimp. I’ve left them completely whole in a marinade, tried them with peeled the tail portions, and also butterflied them open while leaving the shell intact.
The main issue with leaving them completely whole is that while they get a great color and appearance, you’re peeling away all that amazing flavor when you remove and discard the shells. It’s nearly a food-tease! There’s so much visual promise, but they don’t taste at all how they look. That’s why this butterfly method is actually my favorite. It’s very simple, but it really does let the delicate sweet flavor of the shrimp shine AND lets you taste all those lovely charred edges, too.
When it comes to grilling shrimp, buying extra large size is also a great idea for three reasons. First, the bigger the protein, the better it can handle the heat. This principle applies to most meats – the thickness of steaks, keeping muscles whole, etc. So, the larger your shrimp, the longer it takes for them to dry out. Second, larger shrimp are less likely to fall through the gaps in your grill grate and are certainly easier to manoeuvre with tongs than fiddly little ones! Third and finally, why on earth WOULDN’T you want more shrimp per bite?!
I prefer colossal Argentinian Red shrimp that I get from Fulton Fish Market – they are super high quality and sold in bulk 4lb boxes, so I cook half immediately and sometimes freeze the other half if I can’t get to them in time. The folks at Fulton have also been also been super awesome and hooked my readers up with a pretty major 15% off any new order over $175 (excludes their bundles). Just hit their website and use code JESSP at checkout. Trust me, they have so much amazing and quality seafood on their site, you will easily fill your cart.
A few tips for this grilled shrimp recipe:
- I dry brine the shrimp in advance to make sure they have a lovely salty flavor to the flesh, it doesn’t take more than 20-30 minutes and is an easy way to quickly improve flavor.
- Following advice from Serious Eats, I add a pinch of baking soda to the shrimp so they have a firm and snappy texture (as opposed to slightly mushy). It does turn the shells a little white, but the texture is SO worth it. So the final brine recipe is: 1 teaspoon of kosher salt and 1/4 teaspoon of baking soda per pound of shrimp.
- The right knife can do wonders for butterflying the shell-on shrimp, and the best tool for this task is the Gerber Vital. It’s got replaceable blades just like a scalpel, but they’re small enough to give you lots of control.
Grilled whole shrimp with garlic butter.
- 2 lb large (u/10) whole shrimp
- 2 teaspoons kosher salt
- 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
- 1 tablespoon of olive oil
- 2 oz salted butter
- 5-6 cloves garlic
- Fresh chopped parsley for garnish (optional)
- Start by butterflying the shrimp. Using a sharp knife, cut along the back of the shrimp through the shell. Gently pry the sides apart to open them up, then remove and discard the vein. If you prefer to remove the heads too, you can.
- Sprinkle baking soda and kosher salt over the shrimp, then toss a few times to coat. Place them into the fridge for 20-30 minutes to dry brine.
- While the shrimp are dry brining, light a grill for medium-high heat cooking, about 450-500f.
- Place the butter and garlic in a small grill-safe pan, then place onto the grill to melt and start infusing.
- Lay the shrimp directly over the coals, cut side down and cook for 2-3 minutes. Then flip and cook on the other side a further 2-3 minutes. The edges should have a nice char to them. If they do not, stoke the coals and cook a further minute per side.
- Pile the shrimp onto a plate, drizzle with some of the garlic butter, reserving the rest to serve alongside for dipping. Garnish with cut parsley and serve immediately.
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