How to Grill Shrimp to Juicy Perfection in 6 Easy Steps

It’s fancy enough for company, but simple enough to throw together on a weeknight. It goes with everything and works as an appetizer or a main course. It’s shrimp, and you should be cooking it on the grill. Why? Because the cooking method is lightning fast, adds tons of flavor and is almost impossible to mess up. Here’s how to do it.

How long does shrimp take to grill?

Since they’re relatively small, shrimp cook really quickly no matter the cooking method. On a grill, it shouldn’t take more than five minutes total—about 2 minutes per side. Keep in mind that to avoid over- or under-cooking the shrimp, you should stick to high heat. This will give them a juicy, tender texture without any chewiness.

Do you grill raw or cooked shrimp?

We know those charred spots and grill marks look mouthwateringly good, but you wouldn’t want to grill shrimp that’s already been cooked. It will just cook further, and the texture will become unpleasantly rubbery. When grilling shrimp, it’s best to stick with raw.

How do you keep shrimp from sticking to the grill?

The most important step you can take to keep shrimp from sticking to the grill is to clean the grates before anything touches them. (This is easiest when the grill is hot and any gunk can be scraped off without much force.) If you plan on marinating the shrimp, the oil in the marinade will prevent sticking. If you’re just using dry seasonings, brush the grill grates with a little neutral cooking oil to help the shrimp release easily.

How long should you cook shrimp?

According to the USDA, shrimp should be cooked to a “safe” internal temperature of 145°F, but we have to confess that we never actually check the temperature of our shrimp with a thermometer. Instead, we rely on visual cues: If the shrimp is pink and pearly looking, firm to the touch and just slightly translucent in the center, it’s done. (However, if you’re cooking for sensitive or immunocompromised people, it’s best to err on the side of safety and use a thermometer.)

How to grill shrimp in 6 easy steps:

how to grill shrimp 1 soak
Digital Design by Kaitlyn Collins

1. Soak The Skewers

Because shrimp are small, the easiest way to grill them is on skewers—they won’t fall through the grill grates, and you won’t have to chase a million shrimp around with your tongs. You can use bamboo skewers, which are disposable, or metal skewers, which are reusable but can burn your fingers if you’re not careful. If you’re planning on using bamboo skewers, soak them in a dish filled with water for at least 30 minutes so they don’t catch fire. Depending on the length of the skewers and the size of the shrimp, you should be able to thread at least five pieces on each skewer, give or take.

how to grill shrimp 3 marinate
Digital Design by Kaitlyn Collins

3. Marinate The Shrimp

Technically, marinating the shrimp is totally optional, but it’s a good idea at least season it with salt and pepper before cooking it. You can also try a blend of dry spices, but marinating—even for as little as 15 minutes—is a good way to maximize the shellfish’s flavor potential. (The combination of an acid and an oil will coat and infuse the shrimp with whatever flavors you choose, plus it will prevent the shrimp from drying out.) Need a recipe for inspiration? Here are 15.

how to grill shrimp 2 thaw
Digital Design by Kaitlyn Collins

2. Thaw The Shrimp

While the skewers are soaking, you have plenty of time to thaw the shrimp. Place the frozen shrimp in a fine-mesh strainer or colander and submerge them in a bowl of cold water, making sure that every piece is covered. Wait about ten minutes, then discard the water and refill the bowl with fresh cold water. After another ten minutes, remove the shrimp from the water and pat dry before using. (Remove the shells too, if desired.) Alternatively, you can thaw the shrimp in the fridge overnight. If you’re starting with fresh shrimp, skip this step.

how to grill shrimp 4 ptreheat
Digital Design by Kaitlyn Collins

4. Preheat The Grill

While the shrimp are marinating, set up your grill (or grill pan) for direct heat. If it’s a gas grill, set half of the burners to high heat. If it’s a charcoal grill, prepare a chimney’s worth of charcoal. Let the grill heat up for at least ten minutes, then scrub the grill grates of any debris before cooking the shrimp.

how to grill shrimp 5 skewer
Digital Design by Kaitlyn Collins

5. Skewer The Shrimp

Remove the skewers from their water bath and the shrimp from their marinade. Thread the shrimp onto the skewers, piercing through the thickest part of each shrimp. Repeat this process until all the shrimp are skewered, and arrange them on a plate or baking sheet for easy transportation to the grill.

how to grill shrimp 6 grill
Digital Design by Kaitlyn Collins

6. Grill The Shrimp

Using metal tongs, transfer the shrimp kebabs to the grill and cook over direct heat for about 2 minutes per side. As soon as the first side starts to turn pink along the edges, it’s time to flip. When the shrimp are opaque and slightly charred (about four minutes total), they’re ready to eat.


Senior Food Editor

Katherine Gillen is PureWow’s senior food editor. She’s a writer, recipe developer and food stylist with a degree in culinary arts and professional experience in New York City...