Tips for Grilling Fish

Fish steaks and fillets, shrimp, scallops, and lobster - all are great on the grill!

By FamilyTme


One theory behind the term "barbecue" is that the word derives from the Spanish barbacoa, which was the term the Spanish explorers gave to the food they found locals grilling on wooden racks above fires on island beaches.

More often than not, this food was fish or another creature from the sea.

Today, backyard grillers most often think of beef and chicken when they fire up the grill, but grilling fish and shellfish is equally delicious and easy.

As a rule, fish and seafood should not be marinated for more than an hour, and always in the refrigerator. Marinades are for imparting flavor here - never for tenderizing. Fish permitted to sit too long in marinades will fall apart on the grill and taste cottony.

Brush off the marinade before grilling.

Select the Fish and Seafood
Thick fish steaks are well suited for grilling. These usually are from three-quarters of an inch to an inch thick and include fish such as tuna, salmon, halibut, and bluefish.

Fish steaks can withstand marinating for 30 to 60 minutes. Alternatively, they can be brushed with a thin coating of oil so that they don't stick to the grill rack.

Fish fillets can be grilled, too. Pompano, monkfish, flounder, and similar fish cook quickly on the grill. The best way to cook them is in a grill basket.

Watch them carefully to prevent over cooking. If the fillet still has its skin intact, lay it skin-side down on the hot grill; the skin acts as a natural barrier and the fish is less likely to dry out.

Whole fish are terrific on the grill. Avoid bony fish or those that are larger than five pounds (these are possible to grill but require some finesse). A dressed fish is one that has been cleaned, scaled, and gills removed but still has its head. A pan-dressed fish has no head. Either is good grilled.

Choose a fish that will fit easily on your grill. Small whole fish may do best in the grill basket.

Seafood appropriate for the grill include jumbo shrimp, lobster, and large sea scallops. You can grill these in a grill basket or thread them on skewers to make whole or kabobs.

Prevent Sticking
Inexperienced grill cooks are frustrated when the fish sticks to the grill. To prevent this, follow these few guidelines.

  • Start with a clean, clean grill. Scrub it before you begin.
  • Put the grill in place as soon as the coals are lit. This way, it will heat up with the fire and a hot, clean grill is the best defense against sticking.
  • Don't turn the fish for at least three minutes once it's put over the fire. The exception to this is fillets, which can be turned in the grill basket after a minute or so.
  • Brush the fish lightly with oil or spray the grill lightly with vegetable oil spray.
  • Too much oil can cause flare-ups, which can dry out the fish.

    Grilling Times
    It's tricky to know when to take the fish from the grill. For fish steaks, the flesh should be opaque almost all the way through with just a trace of translucency. For fillets and whole fish, the fish should be opaque all the way through.

    Scallops, shrimp, and lobster should be opaque throughout. Shrimp will turn pink and lobster meat white.

    Times (these are approximate):
    Fish fillets: in grill basket, 1 ½ to 2 minutes per side.
    Fish steaks: 10 minutes per inch, turn once or twice.
    Whole dressed fish: 10 minutes per inch.
    Shrimp: 3 to 5 minutes per side
    Scallops: 3 to 5 minutes per side
    Lobster meat: 3 to 5 minutes per side
    Whole lobster or lobster tails: 12 to 15 minutes