A few weeks ago, I caught an old episode of Good Eats entitled Crustacean Nation (look for the video embedded at the end of the post). This episode focused on shrimp cocktail, but what really caught my attention was the brine. We’ve brined chicken and turkey and pork chops, why not shrimp? The idea sat in the back of my mind and I knew that one day I was going to give it a try and see what I thought (but of course we were going to grill our shrimp rather than putting it under a broiler like Alton did).
Unlike brining a chicken or turkey, shrimp do not need to brine for long. In fact, 20 -25 minutes are plenty of time for shrimp. With such a quick brining time, you really do not need to plan ahead of time in order to do this. Come home from work, whip up your brine and toss your shrimp in and let them brine while starting your grill or prepping your side dishes.
Now why would you want to brine your shrimp before cooking it, you may ask. Brining can improve the flavor and texture of your meat as well as help keep it from drying out when you cook it.
One more thing before we get started…shells. I’ve always taken the shells off my shrimp before grilling them…or cooking them any other way, unless of course we are doing a boil. Then we leave the shells on. But Alton cooked his with the shells on. He claimed that the shells were both a good protectorant and flavor enhancer. Not only that, when you leave the shells on, it keeps the shrimp from curling up in tight knots. I always figured, if you left the shell on, you wouldn’t be able to season the shrimp, but maybe with the brine? I was willing to give it a shot.
As usual, I can’t stick to a recipe to save my hide. I was planning of following his method step by step (except for grilling the shrimp instead of boiling it), but as I started to boil the water and get the salt and sugar out, it occurred to me…why not add some Zatarain’s Boil seasoning to the brine? I figured it would add more flavor to the shrimp, give it that shrimp boil flavor.
- 2 cups water
- 2 cups of ice
- 1/4 cup Kosher salt
- 1/4 cup sugar
- 1/4 cup Zatarain’s Extra Spicy Crawfish, Shrimp and Crab Boil (not the liquid one, the solid one)
- Old Bay Seasoning
- 32 shell on 21-25 count shrimp
- cocktail sauce
- Bring 2 cups of water to a boil.
- While waiting for the water to boil, you may opt to clean the shrimp. Using a pair of scissors or a serrated knife, make an incision down the backside of the shrimp, following the intestinal track. Eviscerate shrimp and rinse under cool water leaving shells intact.
- Once your water has come to a boil, pour it into a large bowl and add sugar, salt, boil seasonings and 2 cups of ice. Once the mixture has cooled, add shrimp and allow to brine for 20-25 minutes.
- Preheat your grill to high (mine was at 550F when the veggies came off and when the shrimp went on, I removed the top vent and opened the bottom vent all the way)
- After 25 minutes, drain the brine and rinse the shrimp 2 or 3 times. Dry the shrimp thoroughly and skewer the shrimp. I like to use two skewers as it keeps the shrimp from spinning when you go to flip them.
- Rub the shrimp with olive oil and season with Old Bay Seasoning
- Place your shrimp on the grill. It should take about 2 minutes per side, depending on how hot your grill is. Keep an eye on your shrimp as it cooks quickly and is easy to over cook.
- Remove shrimp from grill when done and eat immediately or if you are doing shrimp cocktail like Alton Brown, place in the freezer for 5 minutes to stop the cooking process and then move into the refrigerator until you are ready to eat.
I’m convinced!! Brining is definitely the way to go. The shrimp were plump and juicy. They had a firm texture. The brining carried the flavors inside the shell and into the shrimp. I’m not real sure adding the Old Bay Seasoning to the outside did anything unless you like licking your fingers (which I admit I did a few times). I might skip that part in the future. From now on, when we grill shrimp, we are definitely going to brine and leave the shells on.
And now, if you are interested, here is the episode of Good Eats that inspired this meal.