If you’re looking for a recipe that is ALL about celebrating the simplicity of perfectly grilled prawns that has been kissed by charcoal – this is it. No complicated flavours, no over the top marinades, just a recipe that lets the fresh seafood and the barbeque be the stars of the show.
When it comes to grilling prawns, keeping the shell on definitely has the advantage. The idea of leaving the shell on is primarily to protect the tender meat. It provides a more robust layer to shield against the flame, a heat deflector, if you will. Charcoal grilling lends the most superb flavour to prawns, and I’ve experimented quite a bit with the best way to grill a shell-on prawn. I’ve left them completely whole in a marinade, tried them with peeled the tail portions, and also butterflied them open while leaving the shell intact.
The main issue with leaving them completely whole is that while they get a great colour and appearance, you’re peeling away all that amazing flavour when you remove and discard the shells. It’s nearly a food-tease! There’s so much visual promise, but they don’t taste at all how they look. That’s why this butterfly method is actually my favourite. It’s very simple, but it really does let the delicate sweet flavour of the prawn shine AND lets you taste all those lovely charred edges, too.
When it comes to grilling prawns, buying extra large size is also a great idea for three reasons. First, the bigger the protein, the better it can handle the heat. This principle applies to most meats – the thickness of steaks, keeping muscles whole, etc. So, the larger your prawn, the longer it takes for them to dry out. Second, larger prawns are less likely to fall through the gaps in your grill grate, however, you won´t have this problem if you have a Lotus BBQ Grill Teppanyaki and are certainly easier to manoeuvre with tongs than fiddly little ones! Third and finally, why on earth WOULDN’T you want more prawn per bite?!
A few tips for this grilled prawn recipe:
- I dry brine the prawn in advance to make sure they have a lovely salty flavor to the flesh, it doesn’t take more than 20-30 minutes and is an easy way to quickly improve flavor.
- Following advice from Serious Eats, I add a pinch of baking soda to the prawn so they have a firm and snappy texture (as opposed to slightly mushy). It does turn the shells a little white, but the texture is SO worth it. So the final brine recipe is: 1 teaspoon of Kalahari salt and 1/4 teaspoon of baking soda per 500gr of prawns.
- The right knife can do wonders for butterflying the shell-on prawns, and the best tool for this task is the Gerber Vital. It’s got replaceable blades just like a scalpel, but they’re small enough to give you lots of control.
Grilled whole prawn with garlic butter.
- 1 kg large (u/10) whole prawns
- 2 teaspoons Kalahari salt
- 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
- 1 tablespoon of olive oil
- 2 oz salted butter
- 5-6 cloves garlic
- Some chilli
- Fresh chopped parsley for garnish (optional)
- Start by butterflying the prawns. Using a sharp knife, cut along the back of the shrimp through the shell. Gently pry the sides apart to open them up, then remove and discard the vein. If you prefer to remove the heads too, you can.
- Sprinkle baking soda and kosher salt over the shrimp, then toss a few times to coat. Place them into the fridge for 20-30 minutes to dry brine.
- Melt the butter and garlic.
- Lay the prawns directly on your Lotus BBQ Grill Teppanyaki plate, cut side down and cook for 2-3 minutes. Then flip and cook on the other side a further 2-3 minutes. The edges should have a nice char to them.
- Pile the prawns onto a plate, drizzle with some of the garlic butter, reserving the rest to serve alongside for dipping. Garnish with cut parsley and serve immediately.
By Jess Pryles
Jess Pryles is a full fledged Hardcore Carnivore. She's a live fire cook, author, meat specialist and Meat Science grad student. She's also a respected authority on Texas style barbecue. Australian born and raised, she now lives in Texas.