Grilling a fish can be one of the easiest and fastest ways to cook a healthy meal at night. As was the case in smoking fish, it is imperative to buy the freshest fish available in the nearby region. Oftentimes, smaller specialty meat and fish markets exist, they just take a little bit of research to find. The freshest fish are found at fish markets, which mainly cater to wholesalers and restaurateurs, but are oftentimes open to the public as well – they want to sell their fish fresh as much as you want to buy it fresh!
Selecting your Fish
Fish is a versatile protein. It’s hard to make a bad selection for grilling. The recommendation for choosing oily fish for smoking holds true with grilling fish too.
Some of the best fish for grilling include:
These fish each have unique characteristics and range from lean to meaty and fatty. Some are better cooked as fillets, while others are best when cubed on kabobs or cooked as a steak-cut fish.
Apparatus and Techniques for Keeping the Fish from Sticking
Fish will stick to metal surfaces when it is being cooked at a high temperature. Because of the delicacy of the meat, it is important to take preventative measures to ensure that the meat does not become attached to the grilling surface.
The best ways to do so are:
- Wrap the fish in tinfoil and poke holes in the foil to allow heat inside
- Wrap the fish in a large lettuce or cabbage leaf. Brush the outside of the lettuce leaf with oil before placing on the grill to keep the leaf from sticking. This produces the same effect as the tinfoil, by keeping the fish from coming in direct contact with a metal surface
- If the fish was purchased whole, keep the skin and scales after filleting the fish and simply use that in place of tinfoil or a piece of lettuce. Be sure to oil the outside of the skin that will come in contact with the grilling surface, or cleanup could get very messy.
- Spray cooking spray directly on the fish (do not spray the lit grill as this could create an unnecessary and dangerous fire display).
- Use a grilling basket. These are easy to find wherever grills or kitchen supplies are sold. They are very handy for keeping the grill surface clean. Make sure to take necessary steps to keep the grill from sticking to the basket, as it is a metal surface that will encourage the fish to stick to it as well.
Recipes for Preparing the Fish
Many will argue that fish does not need to be altered in any way when grilling, and that the nature of cooking it this way brings out the natural flavors of the species. If you are looking to spice up the fish just a bit, consider adding some cracked peppercorns (freshly ground) while grilling, a bit of salt and a squeeze of lemon. Citrus is an excellent combination with fish. It keeps the meat juicy while adding just a bit of summery flavor to the meal.
On a bit of a fancier and more labor-intensive note, fish can also be marinated prior to grilling. The following recipes are fairly simple and require anywhere from one to eight hours of marinating time, perfect if you are looking to do some morning preparation for an afternoon barbeque:
Lemon Garlic Marinade
1/3 cup of lemon juice
2 tablespoons soy sauce
½ teaspoon garlic powder
½ teaspoon pepper
1 tablespoon mild salsa
1/3 cup olive oil
Combine all ingredients except the olive oil in a blender. Slowly add olive oil while continuing to blend. Pour the liquid over the fish fillets or steaks in a shallow dish. Place in refrigerator for one or two hours. Halfway through the marinating time, flip the fish so that both sides are able to absorb the flavors.
Tangy Fish Marinade
1 onion, chopped
1 tablespoon brown sugar
1/3 cup cider vinegar
5 teaspoons ketchup
3 tablespoons mustard
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
¼ teaspoon ground cloves
1 teaspoon chili powder
Mix the ingredients in a pot and stir over medium heat until mixture reaches a boil. Reduce until the sauce has thickened. Strain the mixture to remove the onions. Pour the marinade over the fish fillets or steaks in a shallow dish. Place in refrigerator for one hour. Halfway through the marinating time, flip the fish so that both sides are able to absorb the flavors.
Lemon Herb Marinade
1/3 cup lemon juice
1 teaspoon lemon rind
2 teaspoons horse radish
1 clove garlic, chopped
1 teaspoon oregano
1 teaspoon basil
½ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon pepper
1/3 cup olive oil
Combine all ingredients except the olive oil in a blender. Slowly add olive oil while continuing to blend. Pour the liquid over the fish fillets or steaks in a shallow dish. Place in refrigerator for eight hours. Halfway through the marinating time, flip the fish so that both sides are able to absorb the flavors.
Grilling the Fish
Once on the grill, the fish will cook quickly. It’s best, because of the delicate nature of fish, to cook on one side, flip once, cook on the second side, and remove from grill. Continued flipping from side to side will damage the fish and it could fall apart before removal from the grill. The fish is done when the outside layers flake easily with a fork and the center is almost at the point of flaking. Be careful not to overcook the fish, as it is easy to do.
Remove promptly from grill upon completion and serve immediately!