The following post, “Why Don’t We Grill More Shellfish?” was written for SABER Infrared Grills by Chef Chris Koetke, host of Let’s Dish.
When it comes to grilling, there are the old stand-bys that are well, standard. Don’t get me wrong, there is absolutely nothing wrong with a perfectly grilled steak or a charred marinated chicken breast laced with herbs and garlic. As grilling is one of the world’s oldest cooking methods, it would stand to reason that the grill is capable of cooking more than meat, poultry or the occasional piece of fish. Indeed, people have warmed to the idea that many vegetables work great on the grill and even the occasional piece of fruit. But shellfish is less commonly grilled, which is a shame since it is far easier to do than it seems, and the intense heat of Saber’s Infrared Grill produces some great flavors. It is also fun to serve grilled shellfish as it is unexpected – even a surprise – to your guests. Your friends and family will certainly also appreciate the simple fact that many of these shellfish are celebrated as a luxurious ingredient.
Here are some tips for grilling different shellfish:
Boiling or steaming live lobsters is one of the most common ways of preparing them. The problem with this technique is that you miss the rich flavor boost of the grill. Preparing a live lobster for the grill does involve some rather intense preparations that, if you prefer, could be prepared by a skilled fishmonger. The important point is that once a lobster is dead, its meat starts to degrade fairly quickly. So be sure to grill it very shortly after it is prepared.
- Position the live lobster back side up. Kill the lobster by inserting a sturdy chef knife into the head (just behind the eyes). This is the most humane way to kill the lobster, as it is instantaneous. Once the knife is inserted, pivot the knife downward so as to cut the lobster in half lengthwise. It may be necessary to cut the head in half on a separate knife stroke. When done, the entire lobster (including the tail) should be cut completely in half.
- Remove the guts from each lobster half and discard them.
- Crack the claw shells using the back of a sturdy knife. To do this, hit both sides of the shell until the shell breaks. This will help to cook the claw meat evenly.
- Brush the meat with olive oil and season with salt and pepper.
- Place the lobster, flesh side down, on a very hot and very clean grill. As soon as the tail meat has light brown grill marks, turn it over.
- Continue cooking the lobster just until the meat is cooked through. Overcooking lobster meat will yield a dry and tough product. You can also baste the meat with more oil as it continues to cook. Be careful, as the heat of the grill will cook the lobster fairly quickly.
- Serve straight from the grill along with your favorite sauces or simply some melted butter.
- There are a few different ways to grill oysters, but whichever way you decide to go, start by opening the shell and discarding the top of it.
- You can simply place the oyster on a moderately hot grill, shell side down, so as to trap all the delicious juices. Be careful that the oysters remain flat when you place them on the grill. Cook just until the oysters are heated through. Overcooking them will make them tough.
- You can also make a flavored butter (i.e. herbs, lemon juice, butter, salt, and pepper) and top each oyster half with a thin layer of butter before placing them on the grill. Place on a moderately hot grill and close the grill top. Cook the oysters just until the butter is melted and there are some bubbles in the shell. Do not overcook. Serve immediately.
- Grilling clams is as easy as it gets. Start with small clams (the smaller, the more tender). Brush the outside of the hard-shell clams with a brush under running water to remove all the sand.
- Place the clams on a moderately hot grill. Cook just until they pop open. Remove immediately from the grill and serve as is or with a melted butter (which can be flavored how you wish—i.e. sautéed garlic, herbs, chile, etc.).
- Many people remove the shells from shrimp before putting them on the grill. This is a mistake as the shells contribute much flavor to the shrimp.
- To prepare shrimp for the grill, start with larger rather than smaller shell-on shrimp. Carefully cut down the back of each shrimp with a sharp knife, cutting through the shell and just barely into the flesh beneath. Using the tip of the knife, remove the digestive tract.
- Rub the shells with a bit of olive oil and season with some salt and pepper.
- Place the shrimp on a very hot grill. Cook on both sides just long enough to cook the shrimp almost through to the center, leaving it slightly translucent in the center of the shrimp. The shells should be fragrant, red, and lightly browned.
- Serve the shrimp immediately along with different dips and wet towels for your guests to wipe off their fingers after peeling the shrimp.