For a dinner as fiery as the grill it's cooked on, look no further than firecracker shrimp skewers. These shrimp are grilled and glazed with a spicy-sweet marinade that will have you licking your fingers and reaching for (at least) one more.
Firecracker Shrimp Skewers: Watch the Video
The Case for Frozen Shrimp
Unless you can smell the ocean and feel its breeze on your skin, your best bet for buying shrimp is in the freezer aisle. There, you'll find bags labeled "IQF," or individually quick frozen shrimp. These shrimp are frozen the day they're caught, making them fresher than the shrimp displayed at the seafood counter. (Those "fresh" shrimp are likely the ones from the freezer, thawed for display purposes.)
While there's no standard for shrimp sizes (every brand has their own range), frozen bags often indicate how many shrimp make up one pound. The more shrimp per pound, the smaller the shrimp, and vice versa. For these skewers, choose shrimp in the 20 to 25/lb. range. That way, you won't find yourself skewering (and potentially overcooking) super-small shrimp.
How to Make the Best Firecracker Glaze
The base of this spicy marinade is — you guessed it — hot sauce. I use Frank's RedHot for its classic cayenne flavor and fiery red hue, but feel free to use your favorite. Brown sugar and apple cider vinegar balance the marinade with a touch of sweetness.
Thaw the frozen shrimp completely and pat them dry before adding to the marinade (any ice on the shrimp will thin it out). After a dunk in the shrimp marinade, bend them until they resemble the letter "C," then thread the skewer through. This prevents them from spinning around on the skewers when you flip them on the grill.
After the shrimp are threaded, pour the remaining marinade into a saucepan and heat it on the grill to thicken it up. Just a few brushes of the sauce and the shrimp will be glossy, sticky, and spicy. Serve straight from the skewer, scatter over rice, or tuck in a taco. What you'll really need is a cool drink or some crunchy slaw to tame the heat.
Love these shrimp? Try the recipe they were inspired by: Firecracker Chicken Thighs.
Firecracker Shrimp Skewers
Prep time: 30 minutes ; cooking time: 6 minutes
packed light brown sugar
hot sauce, such as Frank's RedHot
apple cider vinegar
red pepper flakes
1 1/2 pounds
large peeled and deveined shrimp (20 to 25 per pound), thawed if frozen
metal or wooden skewers (about 10 inches)
If using wooden skewers, soak in water for at least 30 minutes while preparing the shrimp and heating the grill.
Place the garlic, sugar, hot sauce, vinegar, salt, black pepper, and red pepper flakes in a large bowl and whisk to combine. Pat the shrimp dry with paper towels. Add the shrimp to the marinade and toss to coat. Set aside at room temperature for 15 minutes while you prepare the grill.
Prepare an outdoor grill for high, direct heat. Once hot, scrape the grill grates if needed to remove any lingering grit or debris.
Bend each shrimp into the letter “C” and thread onto the skewers, skewering both the tail and head ends of each shrimp (6 to 8 shrimp per skewer). Adjust so that the shrimp are evenly spaced along the skewers. Place the skewers on a baking sheet to transport to the grill.
Pour any remaining marinade into an oven-safe saucepan and place on the grill. Cover the grill and cook until the marinade is bubbling and syrupy, about 5 minutes.
Place the shrimp skewers on the grill and brush with the marinade (remember that the handle of the saucepan will be quite hot). Grill, uncovered, until the shrimp turn pink on the edges, about 3 minutes. Flip the skewers and brush the shrimp with more marinade. Grill until the shrimp are opaque and the firecracker coating is charred, about 3 minutes more.
Storage: Refrigerate leftovers in an airtight container for up to 3 days.
Make ahead: The marinade can be made up to 2 days in advance and refrigerated.
Oven variation: Arrange a rack in the middle of the oven and heat to 400°F. Coat a rimmed baking sheet with cooking spray, then arrange the skewers in a single layer on the baking sheet. Pour the marinade into a saucepan. Bring to a boil over high heat and cook until thick and syrupy, about 5 minutes. Roast shrimp skewers until opaque and just cooked through, about 3 minutes per side. Brush shrimp with thickened marinade and serve.