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How To Grill Fish

Grilling is one of the best ways you can cook fish because it creates a crispy crust on the outside of the fish that covers the tender meat inside which has been cooked in its own juices making it a delicious treat to taste. There’s something about putting a thick fish steak directly over your grill’s fire that makes its flavor stand out and highlights the taste of its juices. Some people like to accompany their grilled fish with sauces to compliment the taste, but not even the most expensive sauce can rival the natural delicious flavor of a well grilled fish. Grilling fish is an art that takes time to develop, and even the best grill masters find themselves puzzled on how to grill fish for the first time. This is because fish has a tendency to overcook and stick to the grill, which makes it significantly more difficult than grilling red meat. The problem with grilling fish is that it is such a delicate meat that it can fall apart very easily if handled without proper care, and it’s so tender that its juices can evaporate quickly if not turned at the appropriate time. Here are a few tips on how to grill fish successfully.

Don’t Take Off The Skin

Skinning your fish works fine with other cooking methods like baking, where you don’t need to be flipping it, but when you are grilling you want the fish to keep together in one piece and the skin does the perfect job of stopping the fish from falling apart when you flip it. Not only does it help to keep your fish together, but you are also killing two birds with the same stone because the skin of the fish is less likely to stick to your grill than if you put the naked meat on it. It can also does wonders for the flavor. Fish that has thinner skin, like Trout and Mackerel, are great to eat with the skin-on since it becomes deliciously crispy when its cooked. But if the fish has thicker skin, like Tuna, you can simply remove the skin after your finished and VOILA! You have a perfectly grilled fish ready to eat.

Prepare Your Grill Grate

You always want to make sure that your grill is as clean as possible and free from any juices of meat that you have cooked before. Turn your grill to its highest temperature and cover it with aluminum foil for 10 to 15 minutes. This will ensure that any debris left on your grate will dissolve and fall off of it leaving your grill clean and ready to cook your fish. After you’re done heating your grill, use a stiff-wire brush to remove the aluminum foil from the grate and then oil your grate with paper towels. If you’re going to grill different types of meats it’s always better to start with your fish so that your grate is as clean as possible.

Prepare Your Fish

Preparing your fish to be grilled is easy and requires little effort. Once you take your fish from the fridge use a soft brush to apply oil on both sides of your fish and use simple spices like Coarse Salt and Cracked Black Peppercorns to season it. Grilling larger pieces is the best way to get good results on the grill but if you have smaller pieces such as fillets, then you want to put your fish inside foil packets which you can also fill with sliced veggies and herbs to give it additional flavor. Don’t forget to cover the foil with your favorite oil both inside and out to stop it from sticking and give it flavor.

Keep Your Grate Well Oiled

Oils are your natural allies when it comes to stopping fish from sticking to your grate. You must apply oil to your grate every time you add a new piece of fish to the fire to make sure that it won’t stick. But more than just a method to stop it from sticking, oiling also gives you a great opportunity to add new flavors to your fish by using interesting flavors on your grate. Butter, Olive Oil, Garlic Oil, Lemon Oil, or even Mayonnaise, are just some of the options available that you can use that will not only keep your fish in one piece and separated from your grill, but they will also add new interesting flavors to your fish as the flavor of the oil changes with the temperature. Some may find this step a little tedious and time consuming. A great solution to this is to invest in a non-stick grill mat. Grill mats are a great way to keep food from sticking to the grill and preventing flare-ups when grilling.

Let It Be

Leaving the fish alone while it cooks is one of the simplest yet usually neglected pieces of advice you can hear. Many people freak out at the thought of the fish overcooking and flip it before it’s done. Once you have added your fish to the grill you must close the lid and leave it alone. The time it takes for them to be done depends on the thickness of the pieces, with 4 to 5 minutes per side for each inch of fish being the perfect time. Over-flipping will only stop the sides from cooking properly so you want to leave it undisturbed as much as possible. If it doesn’t come off easily when you are going to flip it just let it cook a bit longer and check it every 30 seconds until it’s ready.

*Pro Tips: 1. Remember to put your fish on the grill diagonally so that it makes it easier for you to flip and remove and 2. When using a grill mat, keep temperatures at or below 500 degrees Fahrenheit for optimal performance.

Bon Appétit!

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1 comment

  • Most of what you have said in this tutorial is poppycock unless you absolutely want to eat the skin, in which case crispy is always best. However, unless it a very firm fish and at least 3/4" thick such as swordfish or shark where there is no skin and grill marks on both sides are desired, cooking on foil is the best method.. The only acceptable way to do tuna (sushi/sashimi grade only – lesser grades belong in a can) is over intensely high heat until there is just a light (1/32") sear on each side. Inside should be cold or cool at best. Other fish with skin on, including the creme-d’la-creme Copper River pacific salmon should never be turned over.

    Pre-heat the grill, lay down a sheet of aluminum foil with no oil whatsoever and make sure it is warm enough to ensure the skin cooks. Place the prepared fish on the aluminum foil and leave it there without flipping at all. It is okay to move the aluminum foil around the grill to get the tails and thicker sections evenly cooked but even fish using this method should be lightly cooked. If you want dry, tough, fish get fish jerky. When fish is done, remove the foil from the grill onto a cutting board or platter and then using a thin flat tool like a pancake flipper and simply insert the flipper just above the skin and underneath the flesh. The fillet or other cut of fish will lift completely clear of the skin (which sticks to the foil). Voila! Wonderfully cooked fish with out the skin and the resulting gaminess that can come from just under the skin layer. Also a totally no fuss clean-up. Simply fold up the tin foil and dump it in the trash.

    If you are grilling fillets with no skin, the foil method is still the best; you just want to very lightly oil the foil so the fish does not stick. The rest is the same as fish with the skin on.

    If you want fish with a nice crust on both sides, the grill is not your friend. You cannot get a good crust on both sides without drastically overcooking the fish. Use the oven to bake the fish instead or use a highly seasoned cast iron skillet or a high-quality non-stick skillet and fry the fish with oil (or maybe just a brief spray of canola oil (which can tolerate the high heat).

    Hope your patrons will try the alternative approach I have outlined and see why, for 30 or more years, my better half and I consistently have dinner guests say we should open an upscale restaurant.

    AND BY THE WAY: Every place I have advocated aluminum foil, you high-quality grill mats will work wonderfully as well; and maybe even better because some grill marks may come through. Same critical step though: no oil on the grill mat if you want the skin to separate from the fish.

    Fin on

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