Grilled Thai Shrimp-Pineapple Skewers and BBQU with Steven Raichlen

Grilled Thai Shrimp-Pineapple Skewers - BoulderLocavore

It’s funny how when one sets their intention toward something, life seems to open the door to the opportunity vault in support.  Last month I shared an item on my bucket list I’d wanted to learn more about for some time and was making the time to commit to it: grilling.  It’s a skill that doesn’t seem to interweave into a woman’s culinary path as readily as men’s, and to capably develop recipes I knew I needed to know more, to build a strong foundation.  Ironically a few weeks ago I learned about a boot camp style three-day course held at the extraordinary Broadmoor resort in Colorado Springs.  ‘BBQU’ (BBQ University) as it is aptly named is led by grilling luminary Steven Raichlen, prolific author in the field and TV host.  I’ll admit we own The Barbecue ! Bible, one of his many best sellers, however I was not fully aware of the scope of his stardom until starting the class.  This was probably a good thing as I may well have been completely intimidated to bring my itsy-bitsy grilling skill set into the presence of such greatness.

Steve Raichlen brand chimney starters - BoulderLocavore
Steven Raichlen square charcoal lighting chimneys

The class kicked off with a Sunday evening mixer allowing us to meet Raichlen as well as other BBQU students.  It was an eclectic group of 48 spread from throughout the US and even an attendee from Singapore.  There were married couples, grill buddies meeting up to take on the challenge, sisters, an alum from the prior year, and solo attendees seeking more skills or benefactors of early Father’s Day gifts (one attendee was plopped on a plane with a sealed envelope which he did not open until landing in Denver to learn where he’d be spending the next three days), all spanning a vast age range.  I must say I have not met a nicer group of people.  Everyone was excited, friendly, helpful and worked well together as we shouldered through the next fast paced days, stretching our learning often into uncharted personal territory.

View from Broadmoor room - BoulderLocavore
{Instagram} The view from my room at the Broadmoor.

The class is held annually with two sessions in June and is conducted only at the 5-star Broadmoor resort.  Each morning at 7:45 a shuttle snaked up the steep Cheyenne Mountain to the Lodge which holds an expansive classroom with one full wall of windows looking out to the east, where we’d begin our day with questions and a brief explanation of the day’s recipes before being broken into pairs to attack a certain dish from prep to grilling or smoking, styling and serving.  What I quickly deduced is the recipes are merely a vehicle to learn the forms of cooking and the device options on which to prepare them.  The huge outdoor deck was adorned with at least 40 types of grills and smokers over which our recipes would be spread.  The practical work became Raichlen’s platform to really teach as we moved in a large pod between the devices soaking in general and specific instruction to further our collective grilling game.

View from Cheyenne Mountain Lodge BBQU 2015 - BoulderLocavore
{iPhoneography} A partial view from the Cheyenne Mountain Lodge deck eastward toward one of the Broadmoor’s three spectacular golf courses

Raichlen’s expertise seemed to expand over the three days, or maybe it was that I became more open to realizing the hugeness of all there is to know about grilling, barbecuing and smoking (the latter something I knew nothing about but became somewhat obsessed with by the end).  His travels all over the world as a student of grilling practices have amassed an encyclopedic knowledge of history, techniques, methods and cultural roots allowing fluid education and an inspired flair for creativity.  I lost count of how many questions were addressed but also transformed into a ‘let’s try that!’ hands-on learning demonstration.  Dutiful culinary assistants were often called upon to pull a live lobster out of their chef’s hat or swap in an ingredient that might not have been part of the original mise-en-place for a specific dish in the dynamic spirit of the class.  If it wasn’t possible Raichlen would take it in stride, hoping to change things up for the next day or producing an inventive alternative approach.  The class was vibrant, well-structured with room to move past the planned recipes and program to meet the spontaneous interests of the students.

Green Egg and Weber Kettlees - BoulderLocavore

By the end I was starstruck, not by Raichlen’s accomplishments to date but by his fluidity on the fly.  There is no such thing as a mistake in the kitchen, only a new recipe waiting to be discovered’.  He lives and practices by this rule. More times than I can count we heard ‘I know what you are thinking; I have this extra {xyz} why don’t we turn it into ____’ and a new, unplanned recipe would be born.  The proof was in the pudding (actually both smoked sweet and savory Bread Pudding on Day 3), when we ended our final day preparing the intended 8 dishes as well as about 6 others that were spontaneous spin offs; apparently something that had not happened before at BBQU.

For me personally I found the experience exhilarating.  The first day I volunteered for a Tea-Smoked Duck recipe that turned into the recipe that kept on giving.  My partners Jeff and Marcella and I prepared a rub, sauce, the duck and hung it to smoke vertically in an industrial drum converted into a smoker with two pieces of rebar running through the top on which to hang the meat (I want one now myself).  As that went on, a collection of brined duck livers were added to a different device to smoke, along with hard boiled eggs and onion which eventually were turned into a creamy pate when combined in a food processor along with some butter and Jack Daniels.  Raichlen has an uncanny ability to orchestrate the somewhat chaotic scene and struck a bit of fear in my heart whenever I heard the fateful words such as ‘where are my duck people?’  One never knew where that call to action would lead.  Think of making a Thanksgiving dinner in your own kitchen, having a sense of when everything has to start and finish.  Raichlen carried the group consciousness and with poise and grace orchestrated multiple groups to finesse an end result with military precision.  The guy has mad skills.

Grill Deck at BBQU - BoulderLocavore
{iPhoneograhy} A portion of the grill deck at BBQU with an assortment of grills.

On the first evening while I feebly attempted to recount what I’d learned for that day, my husband (who did not attend the class) asked if we’d made anything I’d make at home.  Our repertoire covered cuts of meat such as brisket which would really be a weekend project to smoked ice cream that is created in a few minutes thanks to a handheld smoker (which I discretely ordered on during the last class so it would be waiting for me at home) and many dishes in between.  My head was still spinning with information which had yet to settle into clear forward action, however I felt a few dishes gave me a jumping off point along with a number of invaluable tips to truly begin my grilling journey.  Today’s recipe was inspired by a shrimp dish prepared on day 2 that I’ve moved in a Thai direction using a few key tips for the grill.

Steven Raichlen at BBQU 2015 - BoulderLocavore
{Instagram} Steven Raichlen reviewing the recipes students prepared at BBQU Day 2 including an unplanned dish of wheat flour smoked in a smoker, baked into a loaf in an outdoor pizza oven and served with Smoked Peanut Butter Bacon Dipping Sauce.

Raichlen’s approach was to set the bar high, arm us with abundant knowledge and techniques, address any personal burning questions and set us to the task embodying confidence of our capability (at least outwardly so) .  He was constantly on mic so we could all hear everything he said no matter where we were at the lodge. As a parent knows the wiles of their children, he’d occasionally calmly call out on the grilling deck ‘it’s awfully quiet out here, what catastrophes are about to happen?’  The class in turn developed an esprit-de-corps readily launching into planned and impromptu execution with determination.  There were no boundaries between this set of strangers entwined in smoke and ash, as we jumped in fully committed to forge into the next level of our own grilling expertise.  At the end of each half day we returned to the classroom to feast our eyes on the body of work we’d collectively created and to share the feast between grill-mates old and new.

Grills and Smokers at BBQU 2015
Just a sample of the Grills and Smokers at BBQU 2015: {clockwise from upper left} Bradley Smoker (with unintended self-portrait), Argentinean Grill, Horizon Competition Smoker, Classic Weber kettle with propane starter (Raichlen said if you could only own one device a Weber kettle would be it since it will both grill and smoke), Lodge Habachi, Green Egg, Masterbuilt Smoker.

I’ll highlight some of the fantastic recipes we created in an upcoming post with a second personal recipe leveraging an approach we learned at BBQU soon.  Meanwhile I chronicled many of the visual culinary delights on the Boulder Locavore Instagram and Facebook page with the hashtag #GrillingLikeAGirl.  Today however I have a version of a quick grilling skewer that was inspired by two recipes at BBQU, Green Lightning Shrimp (from Raichlen’s BBQ USA) and Grilled Pineapple (from How to Grill and Project Smoke).  I migrated the flavors to more Thai spices and did not sweeten the pineapple but rather relied on its natural sweetness to contrast to the slightly spicy shrimp.

Green Lightening Shrimp and grill shield - BoulderLocavore
This photo of the Green Lightning Shrimp prepared at BBQU illustrates the use of formal grill shields as well as wide double shewers available in Raichlen’s collection of grilling accessories. The shield is placed over the lower portion of the grill underneath the stems of the skewers.

I’ve always soaked bamboo skewers before using them understanding that is the way ‘it’s done’. Raichlen shared an experiment in which both soaked skewers and unsoaked skewers were employed, and both caught fire at the same time.  Instead of soaking skewers, using a grill guard/shield works much better.  They can be purchased but a number of my new grill mates use a heavy sheet of foil, doubled, placed on the edge of the grill.  The skewer ends should be placed over the foil and the grill items over the heat.  This allows the skewers to remain intact.  The foil becomes hot so tongs are suggested for turning and removing the skewers.

Another great tip from Raichlen was to use double skewers or a wide flat bamboo skewer which prevents the items on the skewer from spinning around making it difficult to flip them to cook evenly on both sides.  I used double bamboo skewers for this recipe and it was a life changer.

Homemade Grill Shield - BoulderLocavore
Homemade Grill Shield using a heavy duty piece of foil folded into a double layer. Note: I was distracted taking photos when grilling on the first side leading to some of the skewers extending onto the grill from the shield causing charring. If the end of the skewers remain on the foil, there will be no charring.

A core tenant of grill hygiene was reiterated often at BBQU.  The most important thing is to keep the grill hot, clean and oiled/lubricated.  We’d heat up the grills daily, brush them down with a wire brush and then slather them with oil before adding our items to grill or smoke.  Though I would normally do that at home it has been elevated to a more religious practice for me now!

Grilled Thai Shrimp-Pineapple Skewers - BoulderLocavore

Grilled Thai Shrimp-Pineapple Skewers

Prep Time: 30 minutes

Cook Time: 4 minutes

Total Time: 1 hour, 15 minutes

Yield: Makes approximately 15 skewers

These fresh flavorful skewers offer a taste of Thai flavors with a bit of heat from jalapeno chilies, coconut milk and lemongrass complimented by the natural sweetness of fresh grilled pineapple. The skewers grill in 4 minutes total, leaving the shrimp with a wonderful texture without being overdone.


  • 2 pounds 26-30 count Shrimp, deveined and peeled
  • 1 large ripe, firm Pineapple, peeled, cored, quartered and cut into 1/2-inch thick slices
  • 30-40 Bamboo Skewers
  • Heavy foil the length of the grill, doubled for a grill shield
  • Ingredients for Marinade (note: cut ingredients to the size appropriate for your type of blender):
  • 1 14-ounce can Lite Coconut Milk
  • 1 large Shallot, peeled and rough chopped
  • 2 Jalapeno Peppers, top removed, cut into thirds
  • 2 large Garlic Cloves, peeled and rough chopped
  • 2-inch piece of fresh Lemongrass, cut into 4 pieces
  • 1 tablespoon Light Brown Sugar
  • 2 Kaffir Lime leaves (available at most Asian grocery stores and in finer herb departments at stores like Whole Foods)
  • ½ teaspoon Kosher Salt
  • ¼ cup Lime Juice
  • ¼ cup Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • Ingredients for Lime-Butter:
  • 3 tablespoons Salted Butter, melted
  • 1 tablespoon Lime Juice
  • Serving Suggestion: Serve skewers with Cilantro Lime Rice


    Instructions for the Marinade:
  1. Add all ingredients into a blender EXCEPT the olive oil. Blend until liquefied.
  2. While blending on low speed, pour in the olive oil to create and emulsion.
  3. Place the shrimp in a non-plastic bowl and pour in marinade to cover the shrimp. Cover with plastic wrap and place in the refrigerator for 45 minutes.
  4. Instructions for Assembling the Skewers:
  5. Using two skewers spaced about 1/8-1/4 inch apart, thread two shrimps onto the skewers, followed by a piece of pineapple, and repeat ending with a piece of pineapple on the sharp end of the skewers (use photos as a guide). Place on a baking sheet or tray for grilling.
  6. Instructions for the Lime Butter:
  7. Combine the melted butter and lime juice. Stir to combine.
  8. Instructions for Grilling the Skewers:
  9. Heat a gas grill to high (375-400 degrees). When at temperature clean/brush and oil the grill. If using a charcoal grill, heat coals to red hot and prepare the grill for direct grilling.
  10. Place the grill shield at the base of the grill and lay skewers so the ends are over the grill shield.
  11. Lightly brush skewers with Lime Butter on both sides. Grill on the first side for two minutes; flip, and grill on the second side 2 additional minutes. Remove and serve immediately.

Grilled Thai Shrimp-Pineapple Skewers - BoulderLocavore

Look for Steven Raichlen’s latest TV series ‘Project Smoke’ coming to Public Television around July 4th.  It covers everything relating to smoking and more!


  1. Ronni says

    Living in Vegas, we grill a lot. And this, I am so saving to make as well! I would LOVE to find a class like this and expand what little skills I have on the grill!

  2. Colleen Cayes says

    I can’t believe how much I learned just from reading your post. What a beautiful setting, too. There really is nothing like the flavor from a grill, and now that I know what book to buy and to look for tips from you, I might almost be able to sell my stove and move outdoors permanently!

  3. Crystal says

    We spend our summers grilling, but tend to stick to the same meals. It’d be great to mix it up with your shrimp recipe. It sounds divine!

  4. Leigh Anne Borders says

    Looks like you had such a fun time. Grilling is one of our favorite things to do outside and my husband likes to try new ideas.

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