Hey there, and welcome to another installment of our Grilling 101 Blogs, the third and final entry in our seafood series. This week, we’ll be combining the final common seafood items into this blog in a similar style to our barbecued fruits and vegetables blog (though surprisingly longer). With that said, let’s take a look at the most luxurious of seafood: the shellfish.
Shellfish are classified as any form of aquatic life with some form of exoskeleton. The most common form of shellfish are the crustaceans, which include crabs, lobsters, and shrimp (all of whom we’ll cover here). However, clams, oysters, and aquatic snails also fall into this category. Shellfish are renowned world over for their unique flavours, and in many countries are considered an expensive delicacy food. Obviously they’re most commonly seen in coastal communities where you can buy these foods fresh off the boat (and when they’re most flavourful), but it’s still easy to find frozen shellfish at most convenient stores. While the freezing process might take away some of the flavour, there’s still enough for you to get your money’s worth out of this meal.
When it comes to grilling shellfish, the process can be as simple as slathering on some olive oil and tossing it on the grill at direct heat. Most of your work comes from prepping the food for grilling, as most shellfish are bought frozen and need to be thawed out in advanced. However, some species do require more of a special treatment. We’ll be exploring each of these methods with the five most commonly eaten shellfish.
First up on our list is the shrimp. Now it’s true that shrimp has suffered a bad rep due to its high cholesterol levels (roughly 12 large shrimp contain around 200 milligrams), but that shouldn’t turn people off from enjoying it. Shrimp is a wonderful food for parties and get-togethers, and its nutritional values almost outweigh its cholesterol levels. For starters, shrimp are loaded with selenium, a mineral that is proven to help boost the immune system and even fend off cancer cells. Another abundant nutrient in shrimp is astaxanthin, a kind of pigment that gives some shrimp their pink colouring. It’s used by your body to decrease the signs of premature aging and ensure you have healthy and youthful skin. There are also weight loss benefits to shrimp due to their high vitamin and mineral concentration, which includes Zink, Vitamin D, and Vitamin B3. And if all that hasn’t convinced you, they just taste great.
To prepare shrimp for grilling, you always want to wash them before they get on the grill to remove any bacteria that might have survived the freezing process. Depending on the size of the shrimp, you might also want to remove the shell and head. General rule of thumb is that smaller shrimp are cooked with their shells removed and larger ones (such as 2/6 count) can be cooked with their shells either removed or on, like a lobster. Themediterranieandish.com has a wonderful recipe that’s guaranteed to delight all you shrimp lovers.
Our next shellfish is the crab, a very versatile shellfish with a taste that rivals lobster. Crabs can be prepared and eaten in a variety of ways, which include cooking the whole thing or removing the meat and preparing it into a biscuit, curry, or the ever popular crab cake. Nutrients wise, crabs contain many of the same nutrients as shrimp, such as Zink and selenium, but they also contain many beneficial nutrients of their own. The most prominent of these is the omega-3 fatty acid, which is used by the body to reduce the risk of heart failures, memory loss, and strengthening both the brain and heart. Crabs also contain a healthy supply of copper which, in trace amounts, is used to build tissue and maintain your blood volume.
Like shrimp, crabs should be washed before cooking. However, since most crab you’ll be cooking with is frozen, it needs to be thawed out in a pot of cold water for several hours beforehand. Generally most stores only sell crab legs because that’s where most of the meat is, but whole crabs can still be found and offer a bit of creative flare during mealtime, as can be seen in this recipe provided by Foodnetwork.com.
Our final food in the crustacean category is the lobster. In many respects, lobsters are similar to crabs in that they are a versatile food that can be cooked whole or have their meat removed and used in other dishes. However, lobster is generally considered less healthy than crab because of its higher cholesterol and sodium levels. But like shrimp, it shouldn’t be shunned or avoided because of that. Along with containing copper and Zink like its fellow shellfish, lobster also has trace amounts of Phosphorus and Vitamin B-12. Phosphorus is used by your body strengthen and build your bones, and B-12 is used to form DNA.
Unlike crabs where the meat was located in the legs, lobster meat is found in their tail and claws. While it is possible to find these parts frozen, more often than now you’ll be working with full lobsters, either frozen or bought living. If you buy a living lobster, be sure to kill it before you work with it. Here’s a link to a video about how to properly kill a lobster.
If your lobster was bought frozen, thaw it out like you would a crab before tossing them on the grill. Finecooking.com has a wonderful recipe for grilled lobster, and, as I already provided, a demonstrational video on how to properly kill them.
Our last two food entries shall be from the mollusk family. These shellfish are easily distinguished by their two part shells that protect the soft bodied organism inside. The most common form of mollusk found in supermarkets is the mussel, which is a family of clam whose shell grows out more ovular than the typical semi-circular shape. Nutrients wise, mussels contain incredibly high amounts of Vitamin B-12, as well as a mineral called Manganese. This mineral is used by your body to form bones and metabolize energy from the food you eat. Finally, mussels also contain iron and Vitamin C, which are both used in producing red blood cells and strengthening the circulatory system.
Mussels are simple to prepare; you thaw them out in a pot of cold water like you would any other shellfish. Once they’re ready, you can either boil your muscles directly over the grill, or cook them over a baking sheet, as seen in this recipe provided by eatingwell.com.
Finally we come to our last shellfish, the scallop. Easily the most recognisable clam on the market, scallops also come packing a higher concentration of the omega-3 fatty acid and Vitamin B12 than any of the previously mentioned shellfish. The downside to this is that they don’t have many other nutrients to offer. They do contain a fare amount of potassium, which is used in muscular function and maintaining a healthy blood pressure, but that’s about it.
Once again, scallops must be thawed out and washed like all your other shellfish before you work with them. Like mussels, there are several ways to go about grilling the scallop: you can boil them in a pot, cook them right over the grill, or put the meat on a kebab like in this recipe from allrecipes.com.
I hope you’ve all enjoyed our seafood series and learned something new about the capabilities of the grill. Next week we’ll be returning to the more traditional grilling foods. Enjoy the rest of the holiday weekend and thanks for following.