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What Is Smoked Shrimp?

By C. Mitchell
Updated May 16, 2024
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Smoked shrimp is any shrimp that has been cooked in a smoker, or has been grilled with smoke chips added for flavor. Shrimp prepared in this style are very popular in a variety of dishes, from salads and pastas to soups and curries. Many cooks believe that smoking brings out the shrimp's flavor in a way that is not easily emulated by other cooking methods.

The easiest way to make smoked shrimp is to load shrimp into a smoker. A smoker is a small, barbecue-like tool that cooks meats not with flames, but with smoke. The smokiness can usually be controlled both by time and by smoke chips. Most smoke chips are made of special woods, particularly hickory, alder, and apple wood.

Shrimp are some of the smallest food items that can be smoked. Their flesh is also rather fragile, which means that cooks must take care not to overdo it. Smoked shrimp usually spend significantly less time in the smoker than other meats. Cooks often also reduce the number of smoking chips so as not to overwhelm the natural flavor of the seafood.

It is possible to make smoked shrimp with an ordinary barbecue, as well. Grillers who add a foil packet of smoking chips to the charcoal or otherwise near the flame of the grill can very closely approximate the effect of a smoker. The smoky flavor of the chips will come through into the shrimp as they cook.

Most cooks thread shrimp onto skewers before smoking. Preparing shrimp this way makes them easier to control, to flip, and to test for doneness. Cooking with shrimp can sometimes be difficult, given shrimp's size and relative fragility, both of which are considerations in smoking.

Even jumbo shrimp are quite small when compared to a smoker's grill racks. A shrimp that falls into the flames or onto the embers can alter the taste of the whole dish. If left too long to smoke, the smokiness can overwhelm the shrimp or dry them out.

Marinade is a popular way to keep smoked shrimp moist during cooking, and can also be a great way to add a unique flair to a seafood dish. Shrimp typically take very well to marinades, soaking in a lot of flavor. When met with the heat of the smoke, that flavor usually grows more pronounced.

Barbecue sauces, herbs, spices, and most any oil-based dressing make excellent marinades. Smoked marinated shrimp often have a much more pronounced flavor — and often also a more smoky flavor — than if they had been smoked plain. Cooks who want to add flavor without marinating may choose to wrap their shrimp in bacon before smoking, or might top the smoking shrimp with cheese or a shaking of seafood seasoning.

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