Perfectly Grilled Shrimp

By Ann Fulton

Super simple, tender, and loaded with flavor, perfectly grilled shrimp can be prepped ahead and cook in minutes. Broiling option included.
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The simplest of seasonings pair with a clever technique to deliver flavor-packed shrimp that are perfectly seared on the outside and tender and juicy inside.


We learn from our mistakes as the saying goes.

Though the result of what I gleaned from the following kitchen blunder may not lead to profound, worldly change, it will make for some truly delicious grilled or broiled shrimp!

The recipe is simple: Basic spices plus a drizzle of olive oil and lemon juice flavor the shrimp in a more-than-the-sum-of-its-parts sort of way.

However, when preparing this recipe last summer, I got distracted after tossing the shrimp with the spices. Before I knew it, my helpful husband was grilling the shrimp–but I had not yet added the olive oil and lemon juice.

I quickly mixed the two ingredients in a small bowl and brushed them over the now nearly cooked shrimp. And the result was fantastic.

The late-in-the-process baste also enhanced my theory regarding the benefits of cooking meat that has a dry surface.

I’ve written in detail about the merits of meat having a dry surface before hitting the pan or grill. Surface moisture on meat works against the Maillard reaction, the scientific process responsible for the delicious, golden crust that appears on a well-seared steak, pork chop, or chicken breast.

Conversely, a dry surface expedites the development of a golden sear and locks in moisture, creating a juicier, plumper piece of meat.

In this shrimp recipe, I had already taken steps to enhance the sear and lock in moisture (more on that below), but the extra dry surface created by delaying the olive oil and lemon juice until after the shrimp had been flipped on the grill boosted this effort.

As a bonus, the late addition glazed the shrimp with a glossy, final kiss of moisture and bright flavor.

Super simple, tender, and loaded with flavor, perfectly grilled shrimp can be prepped ahead and cook in minutes. Broiling option included.

What is the trick to perfectly cooked shrimp? 

A few basic tips will ensure your shrimp are grilled to tender, juicy perfection.

  • Add ¼ teaspoon baking soda per pound of shrimp to your spice mixture, and once tossed, let the shrimp rest for at least 15 minutes. This raises the pH level of the shrimp, which helps them retain moisture as they cook, keeping them plumper and juicier. Because the Maillard reaction (the scientific term for the process that creates that tasty, golden-brown flavor) occurs more quickly at higher pH levels, the shrimp have a better opportunity to caramelize in their short cooking time.
A small amount of baking soda mixed in with the other seasonings changes the pH, creating more tender shrimp!
  • Skewer the shrimp tightly rather than spaced out. Snugging the shrimp closely together causes the heat of the grill to penetrate the shrimp more slowly. Shrimp cook quickly, so slowing the process, even just a little, gives them an extra minute or two on the grill to sear without becoming overcooked and rubbery.
Thread the shrimp fairly tightly on the skewers. This will help prevent them from cooking too quickly and becoming rubbery.
  • Allow the shrimp to dry before grilling. We know from previous posts (see Grilled Chicken Wings (and oven-baked Crispy Buffalo Wings), Reverse Seared Steak, and Roast Turkey) that a dry surface will crisp and brown better. So, after I skewer the shrimp, I place them on a cooling rack set over a rimmed baking sheet and refrigerate, uncovered, for an hour or two max (other meats take at least four hours).
  • Alternatively, longer skewers can be propped up on the edges of a baking dish, as shown in the photo, below. If the shrimp aren’t fully elevated, flip them at the halfway point to allow the underside to dry too. This also makes for convenient advance prep!
A casserole dish makes a perfect rack. Dry shrimp will sear better!
No need to take up your sink. Soak wooden skewers in a baking dish instead. An hour or so is fine, but you can let them go overnight if you think about it in advance.

To free up sink space, I often use a baking dish to soak the wooden skewers. 

Tips for skewering shrimp:

  • To prevent the shrimp from spinning around when cooking, skewer them in two places. I stick each shrimp once through the top and again near the tail.
  • Nest the shrimp together tightly. Tightly packed shrimp will cook more slowly, increasing the time for the sear to develop.
  • If using wooded skewers, soak them in water for at least 20-30 minutes – several hours is great if you think of it – to prevent burning. I’ve even let the skewers soak overnight.

What size shrimp should be used?

I typically use extra-large or jumbo shrimp, but any size will work. The cooking time will need to be adjusted accordingly, and because smaller shrimp cook more quickly, they will not develop as much of a sear.

How many shrimp are in a pound?

  • Jumbo → 21-25
  • Extra-large → 26-30
  • Large → 31-40
  • Medium → 41-50
  • Small → 51-60
Super simple, tender, and loaded with flavor, perfectly grilled shrimp can be prepped ahead and cook in minutes. Broiling option included.

Taking a moment to pat the excess moisture off the shrimp will allow the seasonings to distribute more evenly and expedite the overall drying process we’re aiming for.

A final baste of olive oil and lemon juice provides a glossy, final kiss of moisture and bright flavor.

A final baste of olive oil and lemon juice provides a glossy, final kiss of moisture and bright flavor.

Super simple, tender, and loaded with flavor, perfectly grilled shrimp can be prepped ahead and cook in minutes. Broiling option included.

The perfectly grilled shrimp are pictured here with Blueberry Lemon Cornbread and Confetti Salad. The salad recipe is coming soon.

A fun tip for making your grill nonstick:

Want to know a fun tip for making your grill nonstick? I made this quick video for my Instagram page, which as I type, has been watched over 2.5 million times! For the record, this trick doesn’t clean the grill – once the grill is hot, I use a sturdy wire brush first for that – but instead coats the grates with a layer of starch, which accomplishes the same thing as oil or a spray. (Fun fact: Onions are said to be good for cleaning the grill because of their natural acidity. Perhaps a future video?)

Another tip if you experience sticking is to use a rigid metal spatula instead of tongs to flip the food, which provides an extra nudge to release the food from below instead of pulling and potentially tearing from above.

Final tip: When meat sticks (and this applies to skillets on the stovetop as well), it’s often because the meat isn’t quite cooked. Meat will actually stick at first and then release naturally when seared. 


I’d love to know if you try this recipe. Leave a comment, rate it, and don’t forget to tag a photo @fountainavenuekitchen on Instagram and Facebook. Your feedback is always appreciated.

Perfectly Grilled Shrimp
Prep Time: 10 minutes + 1 hour rest
Cook Time: 5 minutes
Total Time: 15 minutes + 1 hour rest
Yield: 3-4 entrée servings or 5-6 appetizer servings
No more tough, rubbery shrimp! You can have tender, juicy shrimp with a golden sear thanks to this simple technique. Perfectly seasoned with convenient advance prep. Broiling option included.
  • 1 pound extra-large or jumbo shrimp, thawed, peeled, and deveined (tails on or off, as preferred), rinsed and patted dry
  • ¾ teaspoon kosher salt
  • ¼ teaspoon each baking soda, garlic powder, and smoked paprika
  • ⅛ teaspoon cayenne pepper (this adds flavor without heat; use ¼ teaspoon for a touch of heat)
  • 1 tablespoon (14ml) olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon (5ml) freshly squeezed lemon juice (could sub lime juice)
  • Optional for serving: lemon wedges and/or a sprinkle of fresh parsley

Before you start: If using wooden skewers, soak them in water for at least 20-30 minutes and up to several hours to prevent burning on the grill. I’ve even let the skewers soak overnight.

Season the shrimp: In a small bowl, mix the salt, baking soda, garlic powder, smoked paprika, and cayenne pepper. Place the shrimp in a large bowl and sprinkle it evenly with the seasoning blend, tossing to fully coat.

Skewer and refrigerate the shrimp: Thread the shrimp onto the skewers, pushing them so they are nestled closely together; how many shrimp you thread on each skewer will depend on length of skewer. (Helpful hint: To prevent the shrimp from spinning, stick them in two places – once through the top and again near the tail.) Lay the skewers on top of a cooling rack set over a baking sheet (longer skewers can be propped up on the sides a baking dish). You want the air to flow all around to dry the surface. Place the shrimp in the refrigerator and allow to rest, uncovered, for at least 1 hour and not more than 2 hours. (In a hurry? If the shrimp have been patted dry, you will still have a good outcome if you cook them now.)

To grill: When ready to grill, preheat the grill to medium high and, in a small bowl, combine the olive oil and lemon juice. Set aside.

Grill the shrimp over direct, medium high heat for 5-7 minutes total, turning the shrimp several times. I close the lid but do open every minute or so to turn the shrimp. In the final minute or two, baste the shrimp all over with the olive oil/lemon mixture.

To broil: Alternatively, broil the shrimp 4 inches from the heat for 1½ – 2 minutes on each side. Brush all over with the reserved olive oil/lemon juice mixture. If the shrimp are larger and not quite done, place back under the broiler and cook for another 1-2 minutes, watching carefully so as not to overcook and flipping after a minute if not done.

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