How to Grill Shellfish: Shrimp, Lobsters, Oysters and More

Grilling expert Rick Browne discusses grilling shellfish such as shrimp, lobsters and mollusks like oysters and clams

Super Shrimp
Shrimp are quick and easy and great for grilling (Browne hinted that they might even have some relationship-enhancing properties -- perhaps the crustacean version of Glamour’s Engagement Chicken?). You don’t even have to peel them -- in fact, it’s better not to, because the shells keep the shrimp moist.

Brush fresh or thawed, frozen shrimp with oil and put them directly on a medium-hot oiled grill. Cook until just pink and beginning to turn opaque (about two or three minutes); turn and continue to cook until pink and completely opaque (about two or three minutes more). To serve, try Browne’s Dirty Bag Shrimp: Put shrimp in a paper bag with whatever seasonings you like (garlic, parsley, paprika, salt), shake and serve in the bag (you can do individual bags for each person or one big bag). You’ll need “plenty of napkins,” says Browne.

Lobster Love
Browne prefers grilled lobster to boiled (when you boil lobster, he says, “you are introducing a lot of water into the lobster and you are losing some of the flavor”). To cook a whole lobster on the grill, he recommends first pithing it (severing the spinal cord by inserting a sharp knife between tail and body). (Read more about pithing here, or view this helpful how-to.)

Other experts recommend briefly boiling the lobster before grilling it. Put the whole pre-boiled lobster on the grill and place a rock or brick on the tail so it doesn’t curl when the meat contracts. After cooking for about ten minutes, remove the claws from the body, taking caution to handle the hot lobster with care. Remove the body from the grill and continue to cook the claws for five or six additional minutes.

If you’d rather not mess with whole lobsters, you can buy fresh or frozen lobster tails (thaw before cooking); split the tails lengthwise, brush the flesh with oil and grill meat-side-down first, turning once. Serve the lobster with lemon and butter or any other seasonings you’d use on boiled lobsters. 

Mad for Mollusks
Oysters and clams can be cooked directly on the grill in the shell. All shells should be closed before you grill them. (Discard any with open shells as they are likely rotten) Cook over direct heat until the shells open, then pry off the top shell (do not force open any shells that do not open on their own), preserving the “liquor” (the liquid inside) and drizzle with butter and any other seasonings you’d like. (Browne recommends Worcestershire sauce and white wine.) For another take, try this recipe for shucked grilled oysters, and this one for grilled clams.

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