If you’re reading this then chances are you know how good a nicely seared tuna steak is, or a plate of veggies with some baked salmon. What you might not know – or at least not have experience with – is that fish can be grilled on a barbeque or a gas grill. The results are, quite simply, amazing.
You know how grill-heads will tout that the taste of a burger is much better when cooked over a bed of charcoal? Well, fish is no different. There’s a bit of a different approach that’s required for cooking fish on a grill as opposed to cooking burgers and steaks, but it’s nothing that should scare you away from trying it.
Grilled fish is not a strange idea, and in fact, fish suits the grill just as well, if not better, than red meat. Cooking fish on a grill is quick, and the resulting product is absolutely loaded with flavour and very juicy.
We’re going to explain how to set up your grill for cooking fish so you can do it yourself.
Getting things ready
First off, you’re going to want to get a nice piece of fish. Try to get something that’s been caught locally or at least recently, that’s been frozen for a minimal amount of time.
- If you’re getting your fish from a speciality fish retailer (which will always taste way better than stuff bought at the supermarket, tell them that you want your fish fully gutted. If you want them to leave the fins on (mostly for people cooking for high-class parties, or who are just weird) let them know because they usually come off during the process.
- Another cool thing about going through a speciality retailer (though some supermarket delis do offer this as well) is that you can ask the workers to cut up your fish so you don’t have to at home. You can get them to slice it into nice steaks, get it fillet cut, or even butterfly it for you, which is pretty ideal if you’ve ever tried and failed to butterfly your own fish.
- Fishmongers can also tell you which fish are the freshest and which have been caught locally.
Once you’ve got your fish ready, it’s time to set up your grill. Fortunately, that mostly just involves heavily oiling it. Fish is much more likely to stick to a grill grate than a burger. It’s also more likely to stick if you’ve got burnt bits leftover on your grill, so make sure you clean it before you oil it.
- Use a grill brush and scrub the heck out of it beforehand, and then again afterwards.
- It’s best to use a rag dipped in oil to oil the grill. This allows you better control and will ensure that you can get the whole grill thoroughly coated.
Pro tip: If the fish is reluctant to get off the grill when you’re trying to flip it, it’s probably not ready yet.
Marinating fish for grilling
Most often, you marinate a meat before you cook it so it can absorb the flavour of the marinade prior to cooking. This isn’t the case with fish. Since fish is already so fragile, soaking it before you cook it can further compromise its integrity and make it very difficult to work with without having it disintegrate.
So what do you do? Marinate it afterwards. Some people even prefer to do this with their meats. It provides a bit of a different flavour when you soak your food after cooking it, but for fish, this is pretty much the only way to do it.
Don’t restrict yourself to your regular type of fish
Plenty of types of fish can be grilled. Swordfish, salmon, char, albacore, halibut, you name it.
The larger varieties of fish are typically what you carve fish steaks out of. Fish steaks, coming from larger fish that tend to have more fat, are often much more flavourful than the most commonly cooked types of fish.
If you’re ordering fish steaks to cook so the grill, make sure they’re at least an inch thick. Not only will this make sure they don’t cook too fast, but you’ll get a more satisfying meal.
On top of this, grilling fish can completely change their flavour, so you should try fish you don’t like, cooked on the grill. For example, a lot of people don’t like sardines or anchovies. Cooking these on the grill, however, completely changes their taste and mellows it out so they’re not too intense, like most people think they are. Plus, instead of being soggy and ‘weird,’ you’ll be able to crisp up their skin. This alone might be enough to change your opinion.
Really oily fish like sardines and mackerel are actually easier to cook on the grill because the oil in their skin prevents them from sticking as easily.
Cooking whole fish on the grill
I remember once in South America, I ordered a plate of fish. I was shocked when they served me the entire thing – fins, head, tail, everything. It’s definitely doable, and the taste is absolutely amazing.
It takes a bit of work, though. Grilling a whole fish is more complicated than just cooking steak and requires that you adjust the temperature and keep constant attention. Look up a specific recipe for more information.
Cooking fish on a grill should only take you a few minutes unless you’re working with a whole fish. As long as you make sure that your grill is well-oiled, and that you’re paying attention, you shouldn’t have a problem. Fish and grills go hand-in-hand, and if you try this out for your first time, you may soon find yourself cooking fish more often than burgers.
You can cook many types of fish on a grill, and in fact, many people have reported changing their opinion on fish that they didn’t like after giving it a chance on the grill. This is a great way to open up new avenues for your favourite type of fish!