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How-To

How to Grill Shellfish

Lobster, shrimp, even oysters—they all take well to the grill, with sweet and smoky results. We show you how, and throw in three great go-with sauces along the way.

Fine Cooking Issue 100
Photos: Scott Phillips
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There are so many good reasons to grill shellfish. Whether it’s shrimp, lobster, clams, mussels, or oysters, grilling shellfish is as simple as can be—in most cases, a brush of olive oil and a sprinkle of salt are all you need in the way of prep—and it’s a great way to serve a crowd. But the best reason is flavor. Nothing quite matches the sweet, intense, and slightly charred taste of shellfish when it’s cooked on the grill.

The process is inherently easy, but there is something of an art to grilling shellfish:

Step One: Prep It

No matter what type of shellfish you’re grilling, leave the shell on. This protects the delicate meat and keeps it moist during cooking. That said, each type of shellfish does require a little prep:

  • Shrimp: Look for jumbo 16 to 20 count shrimp (which means there are 16 to 20 of them in one pound).  Devein the shrimp in their shell and rinse under cold running water. Dry the shrimp with paper towels and toss them in olive oil to coat. Season with 1-1/2 tsp. kosher salt
  • Lobster: It’s most humane to kill the lobster before cooking it. Watch our video to see how it’s done. Or substitute IQF (Individually Quick Frozen) lobster tail, which is an easier, less expensive alternative to whole lobster. Thaw frozen lobster tails under cold running water just before cooking.
  • Clams, Oysters & Mussels: Buy more than you think you need, since 2 or 3 out of every dozen won’t open and will need to be discarded. Scrub with a stiff brush under cool running water. If the mussels have beards, pull them off. Pat dry.

Step Two: Grill It

Grill over relatively high, direct heat and cover the grill to keep the heat in; otherwise, the cooking time will be too long and the shellfish will get tough. See the individual recipes for specific cooking times.



Grilled Lobster


Grilled Shrimp


Grilled Mussels, Clams & Oysters 

Step Three: Pair It

Finally, serve your grilled shellfish with one or more of these tasty sauces, and you’ve got the makings of a perfect summer cookout.



Old Bay Dipping Sauce


Bloody Mary Cocktail Sauce


Orange-Saffron Aioli

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