I’ve never considered charcoal ideal for prawns. I like to use charcoal for a slow heat, and prawns need a quick flash of intense heat so they won’t dry out. Charcoal works better than expected, because it’s a moist heat (H2O vapour as a by-product of combustion) but it’s marginal.
The prawns above were big ones – the biggest I could find, marinaded with a bit of chilli sauce. They needed to be cooked for three or four minutes. They tasted very good and were not dry inside, but they would have been better in a wok or hotplate.
See? Cooked above in a wok – still with chilli sauce, but this time with a chopped red onion as well. In this case I’ve used just the meat, not the cutlets (as they’re called – the bits with tails attached) Technically still charcoal, because I used charcoal in a Cobb oven to heat the wok, but gas would given the same result with better control.
Very nice just with a bit of crusty bread. A good way to serve them at a party is on a plate with small skewers (large toothpicks) supplied, so people can stab and eat at will.
Not content to give up, I tried another way this year. The prawns were not quite as big as the largest ones above, but still a good size. I marinated in a little sweet chilli and garlic, and skewered them up.
I like sweet chilli because the sugar burns and adds and gives that nice bit of blackness. I moved the charcoal up as close as I could to the grill, and cooked quickly. It was still slower than a hotplate, but it worked well.
I cooked 1 kg in three batches, passing out the skewers on a plate as an appetiser, and re-stocking the plate as the next batch was done. They were a success; better than I anticipated and very well received by the guests.