Cooking Tips

Your Grilled Shrimp Should Be Spooning

Want to prevent your grilled shrimp from drying out? Crowd the skewers.

Published Aug. 3, 2021.

In theory, shrimp are the ideal summertime dish. They’re fresh, quick-cooking, and equally great when seasoned simply or tossed in a flavorful sauce. But their most common problem is a big one: Over the unpredictable heat of a grill, small, lean shrimp turn from moist and juicy to rubbery and dry in the blink of an eye.

We found that the first step in combating dryness has to do with how you thread the shrimp onto the skewers. They should be tightly packed. Cozied up. Crowded. Spooning.

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The discovery came to then–Cook’s Illustrated test cook Becky Hays back in 2006. Tasked with developing an infallible grilled shrimp recipe, Becky’s early success came from using jumbo shrimp, which afforded her a few extra minutes on the grill but came with a hefty price tag. She knew there had to be a better way. There was: creating faux “jumbo” shrimp by crowding the skewers.

To give normal-size shrimp the same benefits that jumbo shrimp have, Becky crammed several extra-large (21/25) shrimp very tightly on a skewer. This homemade giant shrimp cooked at a slightly slower pace, giving her the extra minutes of grilling time the shrimp needed for charring without overcooking.

shrimp skewers
Cozy up those shrimp!

Here’s how to do it: Pass the skewer through the center of each shrimp. As you add shrimp to the skewer, alternate the directions of the heads and tails for a compact arrangement. The shrimp should be crowded and touching each other.

This spooning technique also works if you’re threading shrimp and vegetables onto the same skewer. In our Grilled Shrimp and Vegetable Kebabs recipe, we keep the jumbo shrimp moist by nestling a cremini mushroom into each shrimp’s curve.

See this technique—plus a couple other shrimp-grilling tips!—in action in this video:

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