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Grilling Seafood: Tips and Recipes

Salmon Fillets

Grilled seafood is one of summer’s simplest pleasures, and has a flavor you just can’t get in the kitchen. Learn how to grill lobster and crab legs from the pros!

The very thought of grilled seafood conjures up visions of a sunny day in a tropical paradise, the savory aroma of wood smoke in the air and a chilled beer with lime in your hand. And the taste? Out of this world. Anyone who’s had fire-roasted mahi mahi on the beach in Mexico or freshly grilled prawns on the Italian Riviera knows what we’re talking about. There’s a reason Australians live for “shrimp on the barbie”: grilled seafood is amazing. And while many people find it intimidating, it’s really not hard to do.

Grilling fish, of course, can be easy or difficult, depending on what you have. Larger fish cut into steaks, like tuna, salmon or swordfish, are very easy and done just as you would a beef steak. More delicate fillets are a little more complicated, and you may want to use a fish basket or a perforated grill pan to help keep everything together. Grill pans are also handy for scallops and shrimp, which are smaller and can fall through the grates to suffer a tragic fate in the fiery depths of the grill.

But there are two types of seafood that require no special equipment whatsoever, and not many people even think to grill them…which is too bad, since either one makes a fine complement to a grilled steak in a classic “surf and turf” platter. We’re talking about lobster and crab legs.

Lobster Tail

Grilling Lobster

When thinking about cooking lobster, nearly everyone envisions tossing it into a huge pot of boiling, salted water…and if you’re grilling a whole lobster, you should still do that. Parboiling it first will ensure that your lobster isn’t nicely grilled on the outside and raw on the inside. Here’s the process:

  1. Just toss the lobster in the boiling water, leave it in for five minutes, and then shock it in an ice water bath to stop further cooking.
  2. With a heavy kitchen knife, split the entire lobster in half lengthwise. (Use a cutting board with a large juice groove, as a lot of water may wind up on your counter.)
  3. Remove the green stuff (tomalley) from the inside and cut slits in the claws to vent while cooking, and you’re good to go.
  4. Make a basting sauce: lemon juice, olive oil or melted butter, salt, pepper, a little minced garlic if you like, and maybe some fresh herbs (tarragon is especially nice with lobster).
  5. Brush sauce on exposed lobster meat and grill meat side down for 5 minutes. Then flip over and grill meat side up for another 5 minutes, brushing again generously with sauce. Lobster meat is done when it is opaque white.

Looking for a simpler method? You can skip the whole parboiling step—not to mention the removal of the tomalley—by simply using lobster tails. You still want to split them, though; you can get some good grill marks on the meat and the shell protects the meat from burning or drying out.

There are several ways to prep the tail for grilling. You can remove the softer undershell with kitchen shears, or split the tail completely in half as above, or butterfly it: use the shears to split the hard top shell back to the rear fins, stopping short of them. Then, with a knife, gently slice the meat following the same line, being careful not to slice all the way through. You can now open the tail like a book, grilling and basting as described above.

Grilled lobster is an absolute treat. Just be careful not to overcook it…and don’t skip the basting part, because the meat can get dry and rubbery when using the dry heat of the grill.

Snow Crab Legs

Grilling Crab Legs

Crab legs are even easier to grill than lobster tails, because there’s no splitting involved. They’re usually pre-cooked (if the shells are red, they’re cooked) and only need to be heated through.

Many recipes call for basting the crab legs—as in this highly rated one—but most crab legs are not split, so you’re only basting the shells…which are not going to stick to the grill anyway, and you’re not going to eat them. Flavor wasted.

However, some Alaskan king crab legs come pre-split for convenience. If that’s the case, break out the butter, oil and garlic! Not only will the flavor permeate the meat, but the fat will help protect the meat from drying out. You should only need about 5 minutes total, turning and basting once.

Grilled seafood is a real treat, and can be less messy than traditional boiling or steaming. And if you’re serving lobster or crab as part of a “surf and turf” dinner with steak, you may as well grill it all! Get your top-quality seafood online and start grilling!

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