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Grilling shellfish

John Susman

John Susman

I love the idea of throwing another prawn (or yabby or lobster) on the barbie this summer, but is there much of a trick to it?

No matter what kind of shellfish you're grilling, leaving the shell on is the key. In addition to the protection afforded by the shell itself, exoskeleton seafood such as prawns, lobster (or crayfish), crab, yabbies and mighty marrons also have a layer of fat under the shell which renders through the flesh as it cooks. My preferred method is to split the shellfish down the middle and start them on a relatively low heat on the char-grill, on the shell side. Baste with good butter, or olive or macadamia oil as they cook and then, when the meat has turned opaque, pump the heat up to high, flip your catch flesh-side down and give them 20 seconds on full flame to get a bit of char before pulling them off to rest (for about the same amount of time it takes to drink half a glass of sémillon, say). Keep an eye on them while they're grilling; overcooked shellfish is like an English bowler's hat-trick - it leaves a dry, bitter taste. Cooked properly, though, barbecued shellfish should pull away from the shell readily, and will appear opaque all the way through. I think, done right, the flavour is unmatched by any other protein.

+ Got a question for our experts? Email us at For more advice from our Ask the Experts team, check out our How-To section.

Read more: prawn recipes slideshow.


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