A Fine Mess of "Barbecue" Shrimp

bbq shrimp

In the shellfish family, we favor crustaceans such as shrimp, lobster, and soft-shell crab for the grill. It's easy to cook mollusks like oysters and clams on the grill too, but the common method—in the shell—tends to roast or stew them in their juices, resulting in little or no true grill flavor. The same thing happens with shrimp cooked in their shell, an approach often recommended as a means to keep the meat moist. We peel shrimp first, so the flame can kiss and sear the surface, and get the desired succulence by grllling them in a flash on high heat. Their sweet natural taste responds well to assertive seasonings, such as the robust barbecue sauce that gives this dish its name.

Serves 4 or more


Creole Barbecue Sauce
1/4 cup butter
2 tablespoons Creole mustard
Juice of 1 medium lemon
5 plump garlic cloves, minced
1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon Super Wooster Sauce or other Worcestershire sauce
1-1/2 teaspoons fresh-ground black pepper
1 teaspoon Tabasco sauce or other hot pepper sauce, or more to taste
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper

2 pounds medium shrimp, peeled but with tails left on and, if you wish, deveined
Super Wooster Sauce or other Worcestershire sauce,
     or Tabasco sauce or other hot pepper sauce, or both.

Melt the butter in a saucepan over medium heat. Add the remaining sauce ingredients and stir to heat through. Place the shrimp in a plastic bag or shallow dish, pour the sauce over them, and refrigerate for about 30 minutes.

Fire up the grill, bring the temperature to high (1 to 2 seconds with the hand test).

Remove the shrimp for the refrigerator and let them sit at room temperature for about 20 minutes.

Transfer the shrimp to a well-oiled grate or, preferably in this case, to a well-oiled small-mesh grill rack. Grill the shrimp uncovered over high heat for 1-1/2 to 2 minutes per side, until just opaque with lightly browned edges. If grilling covered, cook the shrimp for the same amount of time, turning once midway.

Serve the shrimp hot, with Worcestershire sauce and Tabasco sauce on the side for customizing the flavor. We'd start with bowls of gumbo, add a hearty green salad on the side, and end with bread pudding.

Technique Tip:

Fresh shrimp is hard to find anymore. It deteriorates so quickly, most modern shrimpers flash freeze their catch right out of the water. The freshness question with shrimp concerns when and how it's thawed. If you're buying the little crustaceans already thawed, make sure the market did it the day you plan to grill. It's often best to buy a still-frozen block of shrimp, which keeps well for several weeks, and thaw the shrimp yourself in cold water or the refrigerator. We don't bother to devein medium shrimp, the size we usually choose for grilling. The tiny intestinal tract isn't particularly visible or unpleasant in texture. We're more likely to remove the larger vein in jumbo shrimp, where it can look unsightly and sometimes taste gritty.


Recipe from:
Born to Grill
by Cheryl Alters Jamison and Bill Jamison
The Harvard Common Press
1998, Hardcover, US $27.95
Recipes & photos reprinted by permission


Born to Grill



The electronic Gourmet Guide launched in 1994 and later merged into the Global Gourmet website in 1998 (now This is an edited archive of one of those early pages.


Modified June 2007