What Are the Best Tips for Grilling Shrimp?

Amanda R. Bell

One of the best tips for grilling shrimp is to choose fresh large or jumbo shellfish, as these tend to hold up well to the heat of a grill. It is also important to clean and devein the shrimp while still leaving the shell intact to ensure that the meat does not dry out. While marinating shrimp prior to grilling is a good way to impart flavor, over-marinating can lead to rubbery shellfish. In general, shrimp need to be contained on a skewer or inside of a grilling grate to prevent them from falling through the grates of the grill. Cooking over medium to low heat and making sure that the shrimp is not overcooked are also important parts of grilling shrimp.


As with other types of seafood, fresh shrimp are ideal for grilling. If possible, shrimp should be bought at a fish market or counter that acquires the shellfish from local fishermen. Those who do not live near the ocean will typically do best with fresh shrimp from a nearby coast, or uncooked, frozen shrimp. Small shrimp, typically labeled small or medium in size, do not often work well on the grill, while large or jumbo tend to work best.

Hot charcoal in a grill.
Hot charcoal in a grill.

Since large or jumbo shrimp are preferred for this method of cooking, it is important to devein the shellfish before cooking. The vein, while edible, can add a grainy texture to the dish. In order to do this, gently slit the shell on the top of the shrimp and remove the vein while still leaving the entire shell intact. The shell not only adds more flavor to the shrimp, but also protects it from drying out on the grill by holding in juices and seasonings.

Many people prefer marinades to season before grilling shrimp. As this type of protein is extremely delicate, it is important not to marinate it in any acid for too long, including vinegar, wine, or citrus juices. The acid in these ingredients can begin to pickle or cook the shrimp before it ever reaches the grill, making the finished product rubbery and dry.

Only the very expert griller can cook shrimp directly over the grates, as it is extremely easy for the shellfish to fall through. In most cases, it is best to skewer them on wooden or metal sticks. If using wood, it is important to soak them in water for at least an hour prior to prevent burning. If skewers are not desired, an easy-to-turn, flat-shaped grilling cage can be used to contain the shrimp, which is also useful when grilling shrimp in large amounts.

Monitoring the heat of the grill is one of the most important tips for grilling shrimp. High temperatures will sear the outside, leaving the inner meat raw. In general, a medium to low setting on a gas grill, or charcoal that is white and not smoking, is the best heat level for grilling shrimp.

It is very easy to overcook this shellfish. In most cases, even the largest shrimp only need a little over two minutes on each side to be fully cooked. Once the shrimp are placed on the grill, they should be flipped the minute they begin to curl slightly and taken off the grill once the sides are pink. If the shrimp curls until it is almost or completely closed, this means that it is overcooked.

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