Fish on the grill: A tutorial. In two Parts.
Fish is delicate. Especially when grilling. This intimidates even the most seasoned grill masters. Fear not. I’m here to warm your coals with a crash course in grilling fish. This one’s a two-parter. Here we go.
First, let’s start at the beginning. What kind of fish are you craving? Before your taste buds make the call, you should know some fish grill easier than others.
Easy to grill: Salmon, Mahi Mahi, Tuna, Swordfish (basically, fish with firmer flesh and smaller whole fish).
More difficult: Flounder, Tilapia, Trout fillet, Sole (any fish with delicate, flaky flesh).
Part one of two covers the former (easier). So. Let’s dive in.
- Use a spatula that is:
- Thick enough to hold the weight of the fish
- Wide enough to get under the entire width of the fish
- Has a beveled edge
- Pick your fish. Review the how to select fresh seafood guide I put together a while back.
- Marinate or season the fish. For some tips, check my seafood seasoning recipes.
- Clean the grill grates.
- Pre-heat the grill on high heat.
- Moments before grilling, brush both sides of the fish with olive oil.
- Grill it up: On a very hot grill, place fish skin side down (even if skin is already removed). The skin side contains natural oils that help prevent the fish from sticking to the grill.
- Be patient: Go grab a glass of home-brewed iced tea and let the fish cook, lid closed, for 3-5 minutes depending on the thickness of the fish.
- Grill marked: Refreshed, go back to the grill. Check for good grill marks (gently lift one side to see if the grill marks are present. If the fish sticks at this point, cook longer). If the grill marks are there and the sides are showing signs of being cooked, go ahead and flip it over.
- The flip:This is the scariest part. This is the point when your fish is likely to fall apart. So stick with me. Hold the spatula as close to the grill as possible. At the slightest angle. Now, with a quick but gentle maneuver, slide the spatula under the fish. This should be done in one smooth motion.
Don’t try to ease the spatula under the fish. Just go for it. Commit.
If you’ve made it this far, and the fish is perched on your spatula, here’s a back pat for you. Deep breath. Carry on.
In one quick but smooth motion, flip the fish over. Any hesitation may result in the fish sliding off the spatula. That would be bad.
- Continue to cook, lid closed for an additional 3-5 minutes. You’ll know it’s cooked when the fish is firm and the flesh flakes when pulled apart.
Note: with any type of food cooked at high heat, it’s best to let it rest for a few minutes, allowing the juices to redistribute throughout.
And voila! You’re a seafood grill master, part 1. For part 2, click it.