How to grill shrimp, lobster, scallops and other shellfish

Many seafood lovers are already comfortable steaming clams or boiled lobster, but during the summer when everything is thrown on the grill, why not throw in your shellfish too?

According to Chef Arlin Smith, not all types of shellfish are worth grilling, but some can really glow with the smoke from the grill. Smith is one of three co-owners of Big Tree Hospitality, a restaurant group in Portland, Maine that includes Eventide, a restaurant famous for its oysters and brown butter lobster rolls.

Hailing from Midwestern Maine, Smith knows how to shop for seashells, whether it’s at a large grocery chain or right next to the fishing boats. So he shared his top tips for buying, preparing and grilling shellfish and bivalves with TODAY Food.

Remember: cash is your friend. Shellfish are mostly water, so don’t throw the liquid (aka “liquor”) out of the shellfish – it helps cook and flavor the meat.

How to grill oysters

“When it comes to oysters, it’s very user-friendly because the heat does the job for you. You don’t have to think about how to open them up and eat them raw,” Smith said.

At the fish market or seafood section of your grocery store, look for larger, more consistent cold-water varieties (all from Connecticut, to the north) like Damariscotta River Oysters, as the meat will shrink on the grill. . Oysters are ideal for those without access to fresh shellfish, as they are extremely hardy and can live out of water for up to two months after being reared. As long as they’re on the ice, you’re good to go.

Discard oysters with open shells before cooking, and don’t force open any shells that don’t open on their own during cooking – you should throw them out.

Léon’s oyster shop

Here’s how Smith prepares and grills his oysters:

  1. Preheat the grill to medium-high heat. If you are cooking on a charcoal grill, this is normal bed temperature.
  2. Place the oysters in their shells on the fire. In about 5 minutes the shells will begin to open on their own, which means the oyster is dead. Once they have burst, remove the oysters from the grill using tongs.
  3. One at a time, place the cut side of the shell on a cutting board and, using a pairing knife or a sharp clam knife, pass the blade through the middle of the shell to cut the adductor muscle (which keeps the shell closed).
  4. Return the open oysters to the grill and add the sauces. Barbecue sauces, mixed butters, and dressings all work wonderfully. A classic mignonette or anything with shallot and a little bit of acid will also create a nice fresh flavor. Once the sauce begins to bubble, about 2 minutes, remove from the grill and the plate.

How to grill mussels

Mussels are much more delicate than oysters. For this reason, it is best to steam them first, until the shells open, and then finish them on the grill. If they are cooked on the intense heat of the grill all the time, their brittle shells can crack and shatter.

While steaming for the first time might seem like a boring extra step, it makes these delicious shellfish a wonderful prep option, perfect for potlucks and parties. Just follow Smith’s steps:

  1. In a saucepan with a steamer, bring your liquid (water, broth, wine or beer) to a low boil, throw in the mussels and steam until the shells begin to open, about 7 8 minutes for large varieties. Remove them with a skimmer as soon as they start to open.
  2. When cool enough to touch, remove the flesh from the mussels with your fingers.
  3. Tear the shells in half in the center and discard one half.
  4. Return the meat to its half-shell and cover with your compound butter or your favorite sauce. Plate, cover and refrigerate (if made ahead) or place on the grill over medium-high heat and cook until the sauce or butter melts and begins to bubble (about 2 to 3 minutes).

How to grill clams

According to Smith, the method of cooking clams really depends on the type of clam you buy. For this guide to grilling, the chef opts for a common variety called clams, which home grilling can handle quite similarly to oysters.

And, just like with oysters, throw out any clams with open shells and don’t force open any shells that don’t open on their own during cooking – these should be discarded.

  1. After preheating the grill to medium-high heat, place the clams directly on the grates. When the shells begin to open (usually after about 5 minutes), remove from the grill.
  2. Clams have two connectors that will need to be removed if the heat from the grill does not remove them. To do this, run a clam or pairing knife through the center of the shell and under the meat until the shell opens completely. This will loosen the meat from the shell.
  3. Discard half of the shell and place the meat in the other half.
  4. For the sauce, clams (unlike oysters) don’t want sweetness (like barbecue sauce). Instead, use butters with crisp, lemony notes, like lemon with diced shallot and herbs (thyme works well) to accompany the more metallic flavors of the clams.
  5. Return to grill until sauce begins to bubble, about 2 minutes.
Adam Richman Grilled Petit Cou Clams

Nathan Congleton / TODAY

How to grill lobster

For grilling lobster, you ideally want to purchase the live shellfish from the tank at your local market so that it retains all of its moisture until you cook it. Grilling is super easy, infusing the meat with a subtly smoky flavor while the natural juices steam it.

Grilling lobster is much easier than you might think.Instants / Getty Images

How to prepare your lobsters:

  1. Place the lobsters in the sink while you preheat the grill to medium-high heat.
  2. One at a time, hold the lobster with one hand and, with a chef’s knife, pierce the top of its head in the middle, then slide the knife lengthwise until you have cut the body in of them.
  3. Remove the innards from the inside of each lobster while it is still in the sink and discard it.
  4. Place the lobsters, shell side down, flesh side up, on a baking sheet.

How to grill them:

  1. Season the meat with salt and pepper and brush it with melted butter (don’t overdo it, too much butter will raise the flame and give it a burnt taste).

  2. Over medium-high heat, place the lobsters shell side down, directly on the grates. The grilling time varies depending on the lobster, but it should not exceed 10 minutes. Once the shell has turned a bright red, has black markings, and the meat is no longer translucent, they are ready.
  3. Remove from the grill and serve with pulled butter.

How to grill shrimp

While cold-water oysters can stay fresh on ice for months, shrimp are much more delicate, Smith said, so for them to survive travel time when imported (which they do for the most part), they must be frozen immediately after being caught on the boat or as soon as they are processed ashore.

Al Roker's BBQ Grilled Shrimp

Getty Images

“Any octopus, squid, shrimp is frozen if you eat it in the United States, unless you collect it locally on a real boat,” Smith said. “Being frozen isn’t bad. It’s a way to preserve.”

Due to the depletion of the water, shrimp can be difficult to buy fresh, which is why Smith never puts them on his menus. Still, bags of frozen shrimp from the supermarket are a convenient option for many, and Smith says grilling is a great way to maximize flavor.

  1. Look for unshelled shrimp that are a bit larger (like a 21/25 count). The number on the bagged shrimp represents the number of shrimp per pound. The lower the number, the bigger the shrimp. The shell creates a layer of protection against the high heat of the grill so that they retain their moisture.
  2. Marinate the shrimp ahead of time in something sour, like garlic and vinegar or spicy yogurt.
  3. Over medium-high heat, place the shrimp directly on the grill (or on a skewer) and cook, about 3 minutes per side, until the shrimp are pink and completely opaque and the shells are nicely charred.
  4. Remove, serve with your favorite sides and enjoy!

How to grill scallops

When buying scallops at the market, Smith advises asking the fishmonger what the scallops were wrapped in. If they were packaged in a solution (usually a mixture of brine with sodium) to help retain moisture artificially, avoid buying to grill it, as this can actually leach the liquid from the scallops. Instead, look for sea, dive, or day boat scallops (bay scallops are too small to grill) that are fresh or frozen, juicy and fatty.

To make sure you get the right size, Smith says create an “OK” symbol – you want the scallop to be the size of your index finger to your thumb, or larger.

Al Roker Grilled Scallops

Nathan Congleton / TODAY

  1. Gently massage the scallops with a brush of olive oil and simply season with salt and pepper. The thin layer of oil will help them not stick and separate on the grill. A very clean and hot grill will also help them not to stick.
  2. Gently mash one side of the scallops, pressing lightly with your fingers, and place over medium-high heat, about 4 minutes per side.
  3. Gently twist them and just touch the other side, 1 to 2 minutes. Remove them from the grill and enjoy.

“Grilled scallops really shine in a grilled salad – they get that lovely char with a sweet flavor. Take them out, chill them,” Smith said. “They can be peeled like mozzarella sticks. Tear them into three to five pieces per scallop. Serve with a spoon on a deli board. It can be made ahead and served cold. of my favorite things. “

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