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Chef Pete

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Shellfish On The Grill

July 23, 2019
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While your grill may have come with unpacking instructions and a user manual, I’m pretty sure it didn’t have any labels warning against grilling shellfish on it.

Trust me. It won’t void your warranty.

Yet many people who love shellfish never think of their grill as one of the BEST ways to enjoy one of their favorite foods.

Shellfish, like shrimp, scallops, crab, lobster, and even mussels and oysters are naturals on the grill, and in my opinion, perhaps THE best way to enjoy the sweet and savory taste of these Sea Fruits.

Before I talk about shellfish, let me say a few words about your grill.

Unlike steaks, burgers, chicken and fish, most shellfish are small in comparison and lack a protective skin, a fat covering or a fat marbling within the flesh. As a result, if you leave shellfish on the grill too long, they will get dry, tough and possibly burnt. Therefore, to get a nice char-grilled taste on shellfish (and not overcook them), you’ll need to get the grill grates hot because the product won’t be lying on them long. A hot grill is anywhere from 400 to 600 degrees F.

You’ll also want to be sure your grates are cleaned of all debris and then sprayed with a non-stick vegetable spray JUST before placing your shellfish on the grill. Be careful of flare-ups when you spray.

The two most popular shellfish to grill are shrimp and scallops. My advice for both is similar.

For shrimp, choose no smaller than a 16/20 (count per lb) size. For convenience of eating, I prefer the shrimp to be peeled and deveined but there are deveined shell on shrimp that (if you don’t mind having to shuck them afterwards) can offer you better flavor, as the shell protects the meat while adding more flavor.

I don’t recommend placing individual shrimp (or scallops) on the grill. It’s too much work to manage turning them over one by one before they overcook. As an average serving size for 16/20 count shrimp is about 6 per person, the easiest and most efficient way to cook them is to skewer them together by placing them all side by side on a flat surface and then inserting a wooden or metal skewer through the entire 6. If using only one skewer, insert it approximately ½” in from the head end (opposite the tail). If using 2 skewers, insert them parallel to one another, about an inch apart, somewhere near the middle.

Scallops are prepped similarly. You should use JUMBO Sea Scallops, no smaller than 10 per lb, and always use 2 skewers. The portion sizes are anywhere from 4 to 6 per person.

(Note: If using wooden skewers, try to avoid the very thin bamboo ones. If you can find skewers (kabobs sticks) that are at least 8” to 10” long and 1/8” inch thick, you’ll be in good shape. Regardless of the skewer size, wooden skewers should be soaked in water at least an hour before using. This will help to ensure that they don’t catch on fire.

So, you’ve got your grill hot, your shrimp or scallops are skewered and you’re ready to go.

Before you spray the grill grates and get going, what about a marinade?

If you chose to add an additional flavor to your shrimp or scallops, you have some options. There are SO many good marinades you can buy at Nino’s, it’s hard to recommend just one. Here are a few of my personal “go-to” favorites.

  • Teriyaki Glaze (marinated before grilling and brushed on during)
  • Béarnaise Butter (available at Nino’s Seafood Counter at Troy and Clinton) brushed on liberally during and after grilling.
  • Lemon Garlic (mix ¼ cup olive oil with 1 TBSP granulated garlic, 2 TBSP fresh squeezed lemon juice and ½ tsp ground black pepper). Brush on during grilling.
  • BBQ  (mix together ½ cup Sweet Baby Ray’s Barbecue sauce, 1 TBSP Chili Powder and 2 tsp Ground Cumin). Brush on during grilling.

Both shrimp and scallops cook quickly, about 2 to 3 minutes on each side. Look for the flesh to become firm and opaque and try not to overcook them.

For crab and lobster, crab legs should remain in their shells but lobster tails can be grilled either in or out of the shell. To grill shell-less lobster, grill on medium heat and use the broiling guidelines. Open-air grilling may require additional time and you may also consider basting the meat with additional butter. For lobster tails grilled in their shell, it is best to cut the tails directly in half through both sides of the shell, leaving the meat inside. Place tail halves on the grill above direct heat, shell side down. Grill for 7-9 minutes, occasionally turning onto the sides to cook through. Baste with butter if desired. The lobster is done when the meat turns opaque and begins to separate from the shell.

For additional information on seafood and grilling fish, click on the links below.

Nino’s Shellfish Primer

Fresh Fish Cooking Guide

Shrimp Guide

Tips for Cooking Lobster Tails and Crab Legs

 

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