Grilled Shrimp Cocktail

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Prep Time: 45 minutes
Cook Time: 5 minutes
Servings: 8

Cooking shrimp on the grill seems to frustrate people more than grilling any other seafood. And that’s a shame, because shrimp pick up a particularly wonderful flavor cooked over fire. The main problem is timing: if you cook the shrimp even 10 seconds too long, you end up with rubber instead of great taste. Follow the directions in this recipe for perfectly grilled shrimp—made even better with homemade cocktail sauce for dipping.


For the cocktail sauce:

  • 1 cup ketchup
  • 1 Tbs. grated fresh or jarred horseradish
  • 1 tsp. Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 tsp. sugar
  • Squeeze of fresh lemon juice

For the basic shrimp brine:

  • 6 cups water
  • 1/2 cup kosher salt
  • 2 Tbs. sugar
  • 1 tsp. ground cumin
  • 1 tsp. ground coriander

  • 48 large shrimp in the shell, about 2 lb. total
  • 2 Tbs. canola oil


To make the cocktail sauce, in a small bowl, whisk together the ketchup, horseradish, Worcestershire, sugar and lemon juice. Set aside at room temperature.

To make the brine, in a large bowl, combine the water, salt, sugar, cumin and coriander and stir to dissolve the salt and sugar. Use immediately.

About 2 hours before you are ready to begin grilling, using kitchen scissors, snip open the shell along the length of the back of each shrimp. Then, using the tip of a small knife, cut a shallow groove along the length of the vein and lift it out. Add the shrimp to the brine, cover and refrigerate for 1 1/2 hours.

If you want to skewer the shrimp, which makes turning them easier, soak 20 wooden skewers in water for at least 30 minutes.

Prepare a hot fire in a grill. Brush and oil the grill grate.

Remove the shrimp from the brine and discard the brine. Pat the shrimp dry with paper towels and place in a bowl. Drizzle with the oil and toss to coat evenly. If skewering, hold 2 skewers parallel and about 1 inch apart, and skewer the shrimp onto both skewers, once near the tail end and once near the head. You should be able to get 5 or 6 shrimp on a pair of 10-inch skewers.

Place the shrimp on the grill directly over the heat and cook for 3 minutes. Turn the shrimp over and cook until the shrimp turn creamy white, about 3 minutes more. This could happen after only 2 minutes on the second side, so pay attention.

Transfer the shrimp to a platter. If you have used skewers, slide the shrimp off onto the platter. Let everybody peel their own shrimp. Serve with the cocktail sauce. Serves 6 to 8 as an appetizer.

Adapted from Williams-Sonoma Grill Master, by Fred Thompson (Weldon Owen, 2011).

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