The first part of learning how to grill shrimp or how to grill prawns is "what the heck is the difference?"
Many of us have heard the terms "Shrimp" and "Prawns" used interchangeably. Well from the culinary stand point they pretty well are interchangeable. Now a marine biologist or ichthyologist may take exception to my statement and start rattling off the reasons why they are distinct. But for our purposes, they are interchangeable
Normally, the difference has to do with the size of the shrimp or prawn. The prawn is generally used for larger critters. Now, in some geographic locations shrimp of all sizes are called prawns. In California we had both shrimp and prawns. So go figure?
Now some folks will say that shrimp come from brackish water and prawns from fresh water. But that does not hold, since there are Monterey Spot Prawns and Fresh Water Shrimp in Hawaii. So the mystery and debate rolls on.
Now nothing is more important to the question of how to grill shrimp than how to find the right ones. The following sections will cover that area.
Things to watch for when buying shrimp or prawns:
- Black or brown spots: These shrimp have been around too long at some point. It can sometimes look like black lines; however, that does not apply to tiger shrimp/prawns - Avoid shrimp that have pinkish tinge to the meat. If they are pink shrimp and not cooked, smell them. - Shrimp should smell like seawater, like fresh fish. Avoid iodine smells or ammonia smell. - Truly “fresh” shrimp, should have translucent meat and the shells should have some iridescent color to them. If they don’t, they are not fresh.
Take a look at the following chart, it has the market name and the count as well as the average number per pound.
We support the Monterey Bay Aquarium's Seafood Watch Program. They provide a wonderful guide to how to buy sustainable seafood including shrimp. The following chart is courtesy of Seafood Watch. For more info click on the link.Monterey Bay Aquarium Seafood Watch
How to grill shrimp and how to grill prawns and make them great starts with buying the best. Check out our friends at "I Love Blue Seas", they are a sustainable seafood purveyor with competitive pricing and great quality!
This is another of those questions that come up that really boil down to personal preference and the dish.
It is true that when grilling shrimp that they will have a more "shrimpy" flavor with the shell on. They also are not as prone to drying out.
However, it is messy to peel cooked and sauced shrimp. So consider your audience!
For any shrimp or prawn large enough to be grilled it is important that it be cleaned. Now that does not mean shelled, it means that the sand vein that runs down the back is removed.
To do this with a peeled shrimp is simple, after peeling you run a sharp knife down the back of the shrimp about a 1/4 inch deep. Then you open that cut and pull out the vein.
To remove the vein on a shell on shrimp is not hard, just takes a little care or a special tool which is below. Now to do it without the tool you need a sharp knife, you hold the shrimp flat and gentle saw through the shell and into the shrimp around a 1/4 inch from the head side to the last segment above the tail. Then you can rinse it in a similar fashion and remove the sand vein, which is really the alimentary tract. Now your shrimp are clean!