If you’re trying to figure out how long to grill shrimp, you’re in the right place.
Grilling shrimp may sound like a quick and easy task, but there are many factors to consider that may compromise the quality of the shrimp. Don't worry; we will address those factors together so that you get the perfect results every time.
How to Clean Shrimp for Grilling
Preparing the shrimp properly is essential to maximize the flavor. Here’s how you should do it:
If your shrimp are frozen, defrost them slowly in the fridge overnight.
Remove the shrimp heads if needed.
Decide whether you want to keep or remove the shell:
Keeping the shell on will retain moisture making the shrimp more flavorful.
Peeling the shrimp before cooking means you can enjoy eating it easily without getting your hands dirty.
Remove the veins from all of the shrimp.
If you keep the shell on, use a pair of kitchen scissors to cut through the shell, creating a slit on the back of the shrimp. You should see a thin, black thread that runs from the head to the tail. That’s the vein, and it should be easy to remove.
After peeling the shrimp, place it on the cutting board and use a sharp paring knife to make a shallow cut along the back. Remove and discard the vein.
Put the shrimp in a colander and rinse thoroughly under running water. Shake off excess water and pat dry with paper towels.
Now, the shrimp are ready for the seasonings and skewers.
How to Prepare Shrimp on Skewers
1. Skewer the shrimp using metal or bamboo skewers by two methods:
a. Single skewer:
Pierce the tail-end of the shrimp through the pointy end of the skewer.
Then, curl the shrimp and pierce through its head so that the head folds on top of the tail.
Slide the shrimp to the end of the skewer, leaving about 2 inches at the bottom.
Pierce through the middle of the second shrimp and slide it down, stacking it tightly on the first shrimp. The tails should be pointing in the same direction.
Repeat with the remaining shrimp and skewers.
b. Double skewer:
Take a skewer and pierce through the head of the shrimp, pushing it to the bottom.
Take another skewer and pierce through the tail of the shrimp. Similarly, slide it down the skewer. Once finished, the shrimp should hang across the skewers like a bridge. Repeat with the remaining shrimp.
The perk of this method is that the shrimp cooks evenly and doesn't rotate around as you flip.
2. Once the shrimp are skewered, season with your favorite spice mix.
3. Brush the shrimp with olive oil to prevent the seasonings from burning over direct heat. This will also keep the shrimp from sticking to the grates. (You can skip this step if your shrimp are seasoned with an oil-based marinade.)
We recommend using shrimp skewers when grilling because it’s harder to keep track of time when you have to turn each shrimp one by one. With skewers, it takes seconds to flip them and doesn’t compromise the cooking time or doneness of the shrimp.
If you use bamboo skewers, soak them in warm water for 15 to 30 minutes before threading. Soaking the bamboo skewers can prevent them from burning on the grill.
For those who use the “single skewer” method, it’s better to use flat metal skewers to prevent the shrimp from rotating around the skewers when you flip them.
We recommend stacking the shrimp tightly to one another. This will minimize the exposure to heat and prevent the shrimp from overcooking and losing moisture.
How Long Do You Cook Shrimp on the Grill at Different Temperatures?
Besides the grill’s temperature, the shrimp’s size is a crucial factor in the cooking time. So before you start wondering how long to grill shrimp, you should first decide which size of shrimp you’re cooking with.
For grilling, you may want to use at least jumbo shrimp. Anything smaller than jumbo may get overcooked easily and become rubbery.
The cooking time and temperature below are based on jumbo shrimp.
At 450 to 500°F: Shrimp cook for 2 to 3 minutes per side over medium-high to high heat, so you should pay close attention to the grill.
At 400 to 450°F: At this range of temperatures, shrimp should take 3 to 4 minutes to cook per side.
At 350 to 400°F: This is a fairly low temperature range to cook shrimp, so it takes longer — about 4 to 5 minutes per side. That being said, we don’t recommend grilling shrimp at such low temperatures because it may lose moisture.
Now that you know how long to grill shrimp, there are a few cooking tips that you may find helpful:
If you want to achieve that beautiful charred appearance, grill them for 1 minute longer on the first side. Then, cook it for 1 minute less on the other side to avoid overcooking.
Keep in mind that once the shrimp turns from gray and slightly transparent to pink and opaquely white, it’s done and should be removed from the heat immediately. Doing so will ensure that you enjoy perfectly cooked and succulent shrimp.
If you’re still uncertain whether the shrimp is cooked, you can use a food thermometer to check. After removing from the grill, insert the pointy end of the thermometer into the thickest part of the shrimp. According to USDA Food Safety Guidelines, shrimp should have reached at least 145 °F internal temperature.
How Long to Grill Frozen Shrimp
We don’t usually recommend cooking or grilling frozen shrimp for the following reasons:
They take longer to cook: It will take an additional 7 to 10 minutes to defrost over the grill as it cooks, thus increasing the overall cooking time.
The shrimp may be cooked unevenly: As the outside of the shrimp slowly thaws and comes to temperature, the inside is still cold (or even frozen). By the time the shrimp is cooked all the way through, the outside may become dry and overcooked, which would be rather unpleasant to eat.
If you insist on cooking shrimp straight from the freezer, you can try wrapping the shrimp in aluminum foil instead of making skewers.
How Long to Grill Shrimp Wrapped in a Foil Packet
The tightly sealed aluminum packet acts as a small pot that retains moisture of the food and distributes the heat inside evenly, thus ensuring the doneness and flavor of the food.
In this section, we’ll uncover how long to grill shrimp, both frozen and thawed:
1. For Frozen Shrimp
Place the seasoned frozen shrimp on top of a large piece of aluminum foil. Fold the foil in half to wrap them up. Crimp the edges and seal the packet tightly.
Place the packet on the grates of a grill over 350°F for about 5 to 10 minutes, depending on the size of your shrimp pack. This step is to defrost the frozen shrimp.
Crank the heat up to high, around 450 or 500°F, and cook the shrimp pack for an additional 8 to 10 minutes.
2. For Raw, Defrosted Shrimp
Similarly, wrap the seasoned thawed shrimp tightly in a packet of foil.
Place it on the grates of a grill over 450°F or medium-high heat. It should take 8 to 10 minutes to cook.