Why You Should Think Twice Before Putting Peeled Shrimp On The Grill, According To A Chef

Shrimp on the barbie! While this is one phrase that may be forever cemented in the public consciousness as the most Australian thing ever (thanks, in no small part, to Outback Steakhouse), it's actually a phrase no Australian would ever use. For one thing, they call shrimp "prawns." For another, Culture Trip relates that it dates back to a regrettable Australian Tourism Commission commercial from the '80s that tried to market the country to American tourists.

Well, here's one more reason you should banish the phrase from your lexicon — as it turns out, "the barbie" really isn't such a great way to prepare your shrimps (or prawns), at least not if they've been peeled. As Palak Patel, chef at the Institute of Culinary Education, explains, "Shrimp are very delicate and the flesh cooks extremely quickly. As shrimp have no moisture barrier or fat protecting the flesh, shrimp can dry out easily." She also notes another problem with barbecuing in that "the high heat on a grill and the non-stick grates can also cause the shrimp to stick and tear."

How you should be cooking peeled shrimp

Patel says that one of her favorite methods for preparing peeled shrimp is slow poaching, calling it a "gentler cooking method" and saying that "poaching ensures the flavors get into the meat properly." She also says it's harder to overcook poached foods, so will result in "tender shrimp every time." She also endorses a quick sear over high heat, since this will lock in the shrimp's juices.

If you're bound and determined to throw a few shrimp on the barbie, though, Patel advises using the unpeeled kind since "the skin has a lot of flavors and keeps the juices inside." She also suggests using skewers, which will help the shrimp to keep from falling between the grill grates — plus you can alternate the shrimp with cherry tomatoes, onion slices, or maybe even pineapple chunks to make tasty shish kebab. You could also put the shrimp in a cast-iron skillet with some butter or olive oil and place the pan on the grill. The pan-grilled method, Patel says, "will give you a smokey flavor without overcooking the shrimp."