Shrimp BBQ
Photo by Ramona Heim/

How to cook shrimp on the barbie

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This article was originally published in the Early Summer 2015 issue of Cottage Life magazine. 

I call them shrimp. Other people call them prawns. Research done by the Cottage Life Office of Semantic Analysis (CLOSA) says we are both correct. Research done by cottagers indicates that both are delicious, a respite for taste buds tired of burgers and wurst.

Because they are small and delicate, shrimp cook very quickly. A few minutes is all they need to go from translucent rawness to opaque edibility. But the grill-crustacean relationship is such a brief and non-searing romance that shrimp often don’t pick up any succulent notes of smoke and char. More cooking is not the solution; it only produces overdone shrimp with the texture of an art eraser.

Immense 4-6 count shrimp can be individually grilled, either whole or butterflied. But the best way to cook smaller shrimp is to pack them together on skewers. It seems counterintuitive, but this group therapy protects part of the shrimp from direct heat and preserves moisture. It will let you attain a bit of sear and grilled flavour without overcooking. Thread one skewer with shrimp, alternating head and tail, then thread in a second skewer to form a “shrimp ladder.” Press the shrimp snugly to–gether on the skewers.

If the shrimp have been marinated, wipe off any excess liquid. Grill shrimp over direct, high heat for 2-3 minutes, until they get some char and start to turn opaque. Flip the shrimp and cook for an additional 2-3 minutes, until all the flesh is fully opaque. If you’re using a sauce or glaze, apply it during the last minute of cooking.

When jumbo shrimp makes sense

Keeping shrimp tender starts at the store. Large shrimp are harder to over-cook. Size descriptions on bags of frozen shrimp vary widely—one company’s “super-jumbo” is another’s “colossal.” Ignore labels and look for the count—which is the number of shrimp in a pound. Shrimp range from 61-70 count, which are almost invisible, to 4-6 count (also called “U10” for “under 10 count”), which are the size of small lobster tails and have jewellery store prices.