Cooking School – How to Grill Fish

By / Food / August 9th, 2010 / 1

Most people who consider themselves lovers, and experts, of the grill still quake at the thought of grilling fish. I’m not talking about the barbecue staples — shrimp and scallops. I’m referring to any whole fish or fillet. What’s particularly daunting is the very real possibility that the thick and beautiful fillet you place on the hot grill will end up partially overcooked and partially stuck to that same grill. Not quite the presentation one wants regardless how many are being served. One popular method is to lay the fillet on a piece of aluminum foil. Doing so will allow the heat to cook the fish, but you won’t get any of those appetizing grill marks. I’ve got a better idea.

To help you become the envy of your family, the neighbourhood, the world, I’ve listed some how-to tips that are sure to help you out.

Step One: Heat the grill before you do anything else.

Step Two: How to tell if the grill is hot enough:

very hot – hold your hand just above the grill of 1 or 2 seconds

hot – hold your hand just above the grill for 2 to 3 seconds

medium – hold your hand just above the grill for 4 to 5 seconds

low – hold your hand just above the grill for 6 seconds or longer

Step Three: oil the grill generously with oil

If the recipe tells you to cook the fish over direct heat, as if for shrimp skewers, then make sure the grill is hot to very hot. The outer portion of the fish will sear while the inner layers will remain moist.

If the recipe tells you to cook the fish over indirect heat, then you’ll have to do a little manoeuvring. For a charcoal grill, carefully push the charcoal to each side of the barbecue leaving the middle empty. On a gas grill, turn off the heat on one side or down the middle depending on the capabilities of your barbecue. For the side that remains lit, keep the heat on high. Once the temperatures have been adjusted, place the fish on the area receiving indirect heat.

Fish Tip

Firm, dense fish (mackerel, magi magi, orange roughy, salmon with skin, shark, swordfish and tuna) can be placed directly on the grill either over direct or indirect heat.

Delicate fish (bass, catfish, cod, halibut, salmon without skin, snapper, sole, tilapia and trout) must be cooked on either a piece of aluminum foil or confined to a fish basket (which will result in grill marks).


Rosemary Mantini has always loved words. When she isn't working as the Associate Editor at Tidings Magazine, she's helping others achieve their writing dreams, and sometimes she even relaxes with a good book and a glass of wine.

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