How to Cook Perfect Grilled Fish
|May 20, 2016||Posted by Tracy Knutsen under General Posts, Healthy, Main Dishes||
A few basic rules can make grilled fish a quick, easy, totally delicious summer standby. True, there are a few pitfalls to watch out for: a gorgeous fillet could stick to your grill grates, flake apart and turn dry and overcooked in less time than it would take an ice cream cone to melt in the summer sun.
The good news is that following a few basic rules can make grilled fish a quick, easy, totally delicious summer standby.
- Meaty fish steaks like tuna, salmon and swordfish are some of the very easiest to cook: They’re very firm, and their high oil content means they resist sticking and are less prone to drying out. For an almost foolproof recipe featuring these fish, here’s a terrific beginner recipe from Whole Foods:
Easy Grilled Fish
4 (5-ounce) boneless, skin-on salmon, swordfish or halibut fillets
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil or canola oil
3/4 teaspoon fine sea salt
1/4 teaspoon finely ground black pepper
1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh herbs, such as parsley, chives, rosemary or basil
Preheat grill to medium-high heat for 15 minutes. Make sure the grates are clean: let any debris burn off and then use a grill brush. Using paper towels, gently pat fish dry and then brush all over with oil and season with salt, pepper and herbs.
Arrange on the grill (skin-side up) and cook until lightly charred and no longer sticking, 3 to 5 minutes. (Time will vary slightly depending on the variety of fish, but resist the urge to peek or move the fish while it cooks.)
Swiftly slide a large, metal spatula under the fish and carefully turn it over. Continue cooking until flesh flakes easily with a fork or a quick peek in the center shows opaque flesh, 3 to 5 minutes more. Serve immediately.
- For thinner, leaner white-fish fillets, keep the skin on during grilling to help hold it together and keep the flesh moist. You can always remove the skin after cooking if you like. That’s the very successful method used in this popular Grilled Red Snapper with Strawberry and Avocado Salsa. You can apply the same technique for skin-on perch or bass fillets.
- Marinating fish is another great way to add flavor and aroma, and a marinade with oil in it will also helps prevent sticking during grilling. But keep the marinating time short: fish is naturally tender, and if you marinate it too long in an acid mixture it will begin to “cook” the flesh and adversely affect its texture. Citrus-Marinated Grilled Salmon with Tabbouleh Salad is packed with fabulous summer flavors and calls for a judicious marinating time of just 30 minutes.
- If you haven’t tried grilling a whole fish yet, do give it a try this season! It’s a rewarding experience and quiet simple. Cutting slashes in the side of a whole fish will help smoke, flavor and heat penetrate for great flavor and even cooking. This method is fabulous with trout, mackerel, bluefish or branzino.
- Always have your grill grates super clean before you put fish on them–it’s one of the very best ways to reduce sticking. Heat your grill first, then clean it thoroughly to remove any burnt-on food. If your fish itself has no oil on it, you can brush the grates lightly with canola oil or safflower oil, or use a hinged grill basket.
- Fish grills up very quickly and will turn dry and tasteless if overcooked, so watch it carefully. A good rule is to not touch it for at least three minutes once it hits the grill. This gives the fish a chance to form a crust on the outside, which will allow the fish to naturally pull away from the grates and makes flipping it with a spatula easy.
- Estimate 8 to 10 minutes total cooking time for each inch of thickness over medium to medium-high heat. Check the doneness by gently inserting a paring knife into the thickest part of the fish and looking for just a hint of translucent flesh at the center. Tuna and salmon are good when still medium or medium-rare, but feel free to cook them any way you find most appetizing. Fish continues to cook a bit once you remove it, so if it’s already opaque at the center you could overcook it.
Step out and grill some fish! Where there’s smoke, there’s endless possibilities for a delicious grilled fish meal.