If you’re not a practiced griller, you can get into some trouble preparing fish with this cooking method. It’s a little trickier than grilling steaks because fish overcooks and dries out even faster, plus fish steaks and fillets are flakier and more fragile. So, here are some tips for grilling fish to help you pull of a great meal every time.
Tips for Grilling Fish Steaks and Fillets that Turn Out Great
- The best way to thaw frozen fish fillets or steaks before grilling is to leave them in the fridge for a day ahead of time. If you need to do it faster, seal them in a waterproof baggie and submerge them in cold water for a few hours, replacing the water with new cold water every 30 minutes. Never defrost fish in hot water or by leaving them out at room temperature.
- Scrape the grill grate clean before placing the fish on it. If you leave that buildup on there, it’ll give your seafood an off flavor. Then, grease the grill grate by brushing it down with some cooking oil to help prevent your fish fillets or steaks from sticking to it. Also, preheat the grill for about 15 minutes.
- One of the key tips for grilling fish for beginners is to choose thicker, sturdier steaks and fillets. For example, salmon, tuna, mahi-mahi, swordfish, red snapper, sea bass, grouper, and catfish are good types for grilling, especially when you’re still getting used to it. Thinner, flakier fish can end up falling apart on you. Grilling with the skin on helps hold the fish together. Of course, you can also grill whole fish, which hold together even better.
- Brush the fish with cooking oil or melted butter, then season it with salt, pepper, and other herbs and spices to taste. Or, marinate thicker, sturdier fish for 15 to 30 minutes in a quality marinade like BarbaCuban 90 Miles to Mojo Marinade for an exceptionally tasty preparation (thinner, more delicate fish are more likely to fall apart if you marinate and grill them). The mustard flavor of BarbaCuban Original 455 Sauce is a good match for all types of fish, too; brush it on liberally. For something deliciously different for grilled salmon, use BarbaCuban 455 4 Barrel Barbecue Sauce or BarbaCuban Havana Gold Barbecue Sauce.
- Wrap thin, delicate fish in lightly greased aluminum foil pouches, corn husks, or banana leaves. Thicker, sturdier fish can be grilled directly on the grate.
- Grill fish with the skin side down first, for about 70 percent of its total cook time. Flip it only once carefully, using a wide spatula or a fish turner. Don’t attempt to flip it with tongs.
- If the fish doesn’t come up easily for flipping—and assuming you place it on a clean, well-greased grate—just give it another 30 to 60 seconds; it will let you know it’s ready to be flipped by lifting readily. If you fight with it too soon, you may break the fish apart.
- Place fish at a diagonal on the grill grates to sear in attractive slanted grill marks.
- Estimated grilling time for fish is about 10 minutes per inch of thickness over medium-high heat. It’s done when the flesh is opaque and flakes with a little pressure from a fork.
- Another easy option that imparts a smoky flavor is to grill fish on a cedar plank. Make sure you get planks intended for cooking, otherwise they may be treated with chemicals you don’t want to ingest. Soak the planks for a couple of hours, then brush them with cooking oil before placing the fish fillets or steaks on top. With this method, you don’t need to flip the fish. Give it about 12 minutes per inch of thickness, and cook with the grill covered.