Some of the very best things to come off the summertime grill are sweet and delicious prawns or shrimp on the barbie, as they call them down under. Unfortunately it is far too easy to over-cook these delicate treats and dry them out. There are, however, a few simple steps that you can take to make sure that your shrimps come off the barbie perfectly cooked every time.
Choose Fairly Large Shrimp – The difference between shrimp and prawns is size and where you are. In some places they call everything shrimp while in others larger shrimp are called prawns. For the barbecue, you want fairly large examples of these little crustaceans: the 21/25 size indicates that there are 21 to 25 shrimp in a pound, and that is a good size to work with. Larger is good too, but do not go any smaller on the barbecue. The larger shrimp will tend to retain moisture better and they will be slightly more resistant to over-cooking.
Cook With the Shells On – Many people do not like to be served shrimp with the shells on because they are a nuisance to peel, but, as in nature, shells protect the shrimp from the fire and help to keep moisture inside. Additionally, the smooth shells are more resistant to sticking on the grill than the bare shrimp meat.
Clean the Shrimp – Use a pair of very sharp scissors or a small sharp serrated knife to de-vein the shrimp and clean the grit out.
Brine the Shrimp – As when you are cooking turkey or pork chops, a brine will charge their cellular structure with water. For around 30 shrimp, build a brine of 1/4 cup of kosher salt and 1/4 cup of sugar to 1 cup of water. Heat mixture in a saucepan until the salt and sugar is completely dissolved, and add 2 cups of ice. Put the cleaned shrimp into the brine and refrigerate for about half an hour.
Dry – After you remove the shrimp from the brine, dry them well. The oil will not adhere to wet shrimp.
Oil and Season – Toss the shrimp with some oil. Regular or extra-light olive oil is the best, but canola oil will work. Stay away from extra-virgin for this as it will tend to burn. Season the shrimp however you choose, but if you have brined them, do not add more salt – the salt is on the inside. I use Old Bay Seasoning, but there are numerous spice mixes that will work excellently.
Double Skewer – Soak fine bamboo skewers in water and thread about six prawns per kabob. Put two skewers through each kabob for the greatest control on the grill.
Cook On a Hot Grill – Whether using charcoal or propane, make sure that it is very hot. Make sure that your grill is very clean. If the grill is clean, the oil on the prawns will prevent sticking. Put the kabobs down over the hot coals, cover the grill and time 2 minutes. Open the grill, turn quickly and cover for an additional 2 minutes. Larger prawns may take a few seconds longer, but not much – juicy, sweet and perfect turns to dry and rubbery in the blink of an eye with shrimp, so cook hot and fast. Remove from the grill and serve immediately.