Grilled To Perfection: NC Shrimp
by Jessie S.
Shrimp is possibly one of the most universal seafood menu items. It can be used in any type of cuisine, mixed with several different flavors, and is generally pretty easy to find in the store or on a menu. Plus, you can cook it in a variety of ways. However, if you really want to capture the taste of the beach during the summertime, we suggest trying it grilled. Having access to fresh, local North Carolina shrimp is one of the many perks of visiting the Outer Banks and since most of our rental homes have outdoor grills for you to use, it's all too easy to prepare a delicious NC shrimp dinner grilled to perfection.
Where Can I Get Fresh Shrimp?
One of the best parts of the Outer Banks is that you have access to fresh, locally-sourced seafood on a regular basis. Shrimp is relatively inexpensive but in the grocery stores, it’s usually frozen and often farm-raised and imported. The best place to get fresh NC shrimp is from one of the local seafood markets. The OBX has dozens and chances are that there is one just a few minutes away from your vacation rental. Since local seafood markets depend on a fresh catch, price, size availability, and quantity may vary throughout the year. Here are a few markets to check out:
- Corolla: Bluewater Seafood Market, Dockside North Seafood Market, Seaside Farm Market, Corolla Blue Crabs, Butcher Block
- Duck: Dockside N’ Duck
- Kitty Hawk: Carawan Seafood
- Kill Devil Hills: Billy’s Seafood
- Nags Head: Austin Fish Company, Greentail’s Seafood, Whalebone Seafood
- Roanoke Island: Fresh Catch Seafood, O’Neal’s Sea Harvest
- Hatteras Island: Surf’s Up Seafood Market, Risky Business Seafood, Harbor House Seafood Market, Buxton Seafood
- Ocracoke Island: Ocracoke Seafood Company
The way you prepare your shrimp will depend largely on the recipe you are trying to make. Some dishes will call for unpeeled shrimp while others will call for peeled and deveined shrimp. For appetizers or instances where you are eating with your hands, most recipes suggest peeling but leaving the tail on so it’s easier to hold the shrimp. Other than the classic peel-and-eat shrimp (which you can do with the grill), many grilled shrimp recipes require eating with a fork so it’s best to peel, devein, and remove the tail before putting it in your recipe. To devein the shrimp, simply make a shallow slice down the back of the shrimp (whether your shrimp is peeled or not). Then, use your knife to lift the black vein out of your shrimp. When purchasing from a local market, you usually have the often to buy the shrimp already prepared if you prefer to avoid this step all together. Once the shrimp have been prepared, they are easy enough to marinate with your favorite seasonings or sauce.
Cooking Shrimp on The Grill
Once your shrimp has been prepared, they are ready to put on the grill! The most important fact to remember about shrimp is that, much like when cooking them in a steamer or skillet, shrimp cook fast. They only need about 2-3 minutes per side (depending on the size of the shrimp). Raw shrimp are more translucent so it is easy to tell when shrimp are fully cooked because they will become opaque and a pinkish/orange color. Once the shrimp are removed from the grill, you can still add additional flavorings, herbs and garnishes.
When cooking shrimp on the grill, you will probably need to put a tray or foil down if the shrimp are not large enough to lay on the grill without falling through. As an alternative, you could skewer the shrimp which keeps them from falling through the grill grates and makes them easy to flip over halfway through. Here are a few different recipes and suggestions on how to enjoy your fresh shrimp on the grill:
- Grilled Shrimp Fajitas: Marinate the shrimp in Mexican seasonings of your choice—salt, pepper, oil, garlic, chili powder, paprika, cumin, oregano, cilantro, lime and onion powder all work great and are probably already in your cabinet. This is a great recipe to bring in additional flavors from grilled produce by grilling peaches, pineapples and corn to create a relish or salsa. The tortilla can be heated right on the grill (just watch that it doesn’t burn), and then filled with your grilled shrimp, toppings of your choosing, and cheese. You can also add sauce or stick with a simple sour cream. You will be unable to remove the tails once they are in the fajita so remove them prior to cooking or assembling.
- Grilled Shrimp Scampi: Shrimp scampi is a favorite among many seafood lovers with the key components being butter and garlic. Marinate shrimp with oil, lemon, fresh herbs and garlic. Cook shrimp just under slightly done as they will need to be transferred to a separate skillet with melted butter in which they will continue to cook. A dry white wine can be added to the butter for extra flavor. You could also grill the shrimp in a foil packet with butter, garlic, lemon and seasoning of your choice. Put on top of your favorite pasta for a complete dish. In this instance, it’s best to leave off the tails!
- Grilled Shrimp Pizza: Everyone loves pizza! For this dish, you can cook the pizza dough right on the grill for added flavor. Marinate the shrimp in Italian flavors of your choice—parsley, oregano, pepper, salt and olive oil. You can opt for the traditional mozzarella or go for a bold feta crumbled on top. Onions, mushrooms, spinach, peppers and tomatoes all pair well as toppings along with the shrimp. You can cut the shrimp into smaller pieces if you prefer but you should not leave tails on.
- Grilled Shrimp Po’ Boy: The Po’ Boy is a classic seafood sandwich and you can really go in any direction with this recipe. Although seafood in a Po' Boy is often fried, grilling will make the sandwich a bit lighter. Marinate your shrimp with simple ingredients such as garlic, olive oil, salt, pepper, onion powder, and paprika or cayenne for a little kick. Simply grill the shrimp and then place on your assembled sandwich. A Po’ Boy typically has lettuce, mayo (or some sauce), and sliced tomato. When selecting your bread, choose a French baguette or long sub bun. Remove the tails for easy eating.
- Grilled Shrimp Salad: Salads aren’t just for grilled chicken! Shrimp is a very flexible and healthy alternative to white poultry and goes great on any salad. You can add shrimp on top of your favorite combination of greens, use virtually any dressing and add any other toppings you wish. For a classic Shrimp Caesar salad like you might find in a restaurant, choose a bed of Romaine lettuce and add grated Parmesan, Garlic Croutons and Caesar dressing. Since this isn’t a finger food, it’s best to remove the tails.
- Grilled Shrimp Skewers: If you don’t feel like adding any of the extra ingredients that the other recipes require, you can simply eat your grilled shrimp right off the skewer! Shrimp cooked this way pairs well with a side of rice and vegetables and can be seasoned with any flavor you wish. In this case, some people may choose to pick up the shrimp with their hands so the tails can be left on. This is also a great alternative for anyone who is trying to avoid breads and pastas.
- Peel-and-Eat Shrimp: If you don’t have a steamer pot or you just love the added flavor of grilled food, especially on a warm summer day, you can make and serve peel-and-eat shrimp that you prepared right on the grill. When making this dish, you won’t need to peel the shrimp before cooking but you can still de-vein. Olive oil and classic Old Bay along with a little lemon make the perfect seasoning for this type of shrimp but you can season the dish with any flavor you wish. Once they are cooked, serve with a side of garlic butter sauce or cocktail sauce for dipping. Also be sure to have a lot of napkins and wet wipes nearby as peel-and-eat shrimp can get messy!
For more grilled shrimp dish ideas and specific recipes, check out our Beach Recipes Pinterest Board!
Jessie has been coming to the Outer Banks since she was just 5 years old. She loved it here so much that she finally relocated in 2018. Now her mission is to show the world that the Outer Banks is an incredible place that everyone should experience. When she isn't working, you can find Jessie hanging out with her friends, chilling at home with her awesome cat, Yoji, or discovering a new Outer Banks adventure.