Fish on the Grill…It’s Easier than you Think!

Fish on the Grill…It’s Easier than you Think!

When you can’t make it to the coast, bring the coast to you…or at least your plate. Fish is one of the healthiest and most delicious foods you can prepare for yourself. Unfortunately, it also has a reputation for being difficult to grill. That’s why we’re here to help. If you love fish but are apprehensive about putting it on your grill, don’t worry, we’re going to make it easy.  My tips for grilling fish will have you feeling confident and ready to grill your favorite fish recipe for your next meal.

While each technique is unique, the preparation for grilling both variations is the same. First step when grilling anything, especially fish, is to preheat your grill on high. This does a number of things. Bringing the grill up to temperature will help in caramelizing the fish and provide the defined grill marks that supply the immense flavor all grillers love. Having the grill preheated will also lessen the amount of time your fish is on the grill, resulting in less opportunity for your fish to dry out. Lastly, preheating the grill will prevent the number one fear for fish grillers…sticking. Even though fish is very lean, it will naturally release itself from the cooking grate when it is finished cooking if the grill was preheated correctly.  Another constant when it comes to grilling fish is the temperature. Whether skin is on or off, the temperature should be at a medium to high heat, depending on the recipe, around 400-450 degrees Fahrenheit.

Now that your grill is preheated, you’re almost ready to start grilling your fish. The last thing to do is clean the cooking grates with a stainless steel brush to remove all prior cooking debris that may still be left over. Just a good rule of thumb, clean cooking grates are a necessity no matter what you are grilling to aid in easy removal of your grilled cuisine. If you’ve experienced fish sticking to the grates in the past, chances are you didn’t preheat your grill to the correct grilling temperature or clean your cooking grates properly.

One technique is not any easier than the other, it merely needs to be grilled and tended to differently. Refer to tips below to perfect your favorite fish dish.

Skin on:

  • Allow your fish to sit for five to ten minutes to bring it up to room temperature before generously oiling and seasoning it prior to putting it on your cooking grates. This will help to eliminate the possibility of sticking.
  • If you want to sear the flesh side, first be sure to oil the flesh side of the fish and place it flesh side down directly on the grate and grill according to recipe. The fish will naturally release itself from the cooking grate once it is finished being grilled on that side. If searing is not on your grilling game plan, simply place the fish skin side down directly on the grate.
  • Be sure to stick with the general rule of thumb that allows for eight to ten minutes of grill time per inch of fish. Therefore, if your fish is an inch in thickness, grill each side for about three to four minutes. However, always be sure to consult the instructions on your recipe.
  • When it comes time to take your fish off the grill, slide your spatula in between the area where the skin and flesh meet. Using a side-to-side motion, make your way between the two areas so that the layer of skin remains on the grate and only the flesh piece is removed from the grill.
  • As always, make sure you allow adequate time for your fish to rest after it is off the grill. Three to five minutes is a sufficient amount of time to let the fish relax and allow for the juices to run back into your cut of fish, making it more tender.  

Skin off:

  • Allow your fish to sit for five to ten minutes to bring it up to room temperature before generously oiling both sides and seasoning your piece of fish prior to putting it on your cooking grates. This will help to eliminate the possibility of sticking.
  • Be sure to stick with the general rule of thumb that allows for eight to ten minutes of grill time per inch of fish. Therefore, if your fish is an inch in thickness, grill each side for about three to four minutes. However, always be sure to consult the instructions on your recipe.
  •  Only flip your piece of fish once while grilling. Do not repeatedly turn and flip it. This will heighten the chance of it breaking apart while being grilled. 
  • When it comes time to flip your piece of fish, do not force your piece of fish off the grill. Be patient and allow your fish to naturally release itself from the cooking grate on each side. This will indicate that the fish is done being grilled.
  • As always, make sure you allow adequate time for your fish to rest after it is off the grill. Three to five minutes is a sufficient amount of time to let the fish relax and allow for the juices to run back into your cut of fish, making it more tender. 

Always remember to grill with your lid down. Each time you open the lid, you add additional cooking time to your meal. If you’re feeling adventurous, try adding a little smoke to your fish. If you’re grilling on a charcoal grill, soak woodchips for at least 30 minutes before placing them directly on your charcoal to enhance your fish’s flavor. If you’re grilling on a gas or electric grill, be sure to soak woodchips for at least 30 minutes before placing them in a smoker box and directly on the cooking grate.

With these tips, you’ll be grilling up a flawless fish dinner that will impress even the pickiest seafood lover at your dinner table. It’ll be easy to bring the taste of the sea to your backyard barbecue any time you desire. 

What are your thoughts? (6)

08.20.13

Lynne E

Hi Kevin, I was wondering if you know what I’m supposed to do with my empty canisters? Do they go in the recycle bin?

08.14.13

Lynne E

Thanks Kevin! Do u sell roast holders small enough for the Weber Q 120?

08.11.13

r g

psst...there is a way to do indirect on the Q120...I'll post the photos for your consideration...

Hi Lynne,

Congratulations on the Weber Q 120 and welcome to the Weber family. The only way to grill indirectly on the Q is to place food in a roast holder or place the food in the middle of the cooking grate. The P-shaped burner runs on the outside of the cooking grate, leaving you with a small indirect space in the middle. Good luck on the many grilling adventures ahead.

Happy Grilling!
-Kevin

08.10.13

Kevin Kolman

Hi R G,

Interesting. Please post photos on Kevin's Backyard on Facebook to share. I'm looking forward to them!

Happy Grilling!
-Kevin

08.07.13

Lynne E

Kevin, i just bought the Weber Baby Q 120. What do i do when it asks to use indirect heat because it only has 1 burner?

08.02.13

r g

Sorry Kevin, your post on fish, in my opinion and experience, is ill advised. Not all fish is lean. The photo on the link is obviously Atlantic salmon and it's fatty, regardless of the fact it is tasteless. Whether wild or farmed, Atlantic salmon is sea trout. Real salmon comes from the North Pacific in the following flavors and uses...

- Pinks, also known as humpies. Best canned or for cat food.
- Chum or dog salmon. Smokes well, but otherwise kind of bland like Atlantic salmon.
- Coho, the fish in the middle. This one can be great late season when fattened up before heading up river to spawn. We used to cut the boneless belly meat off these, throw the rest overboard, and poach it in ocean water.
- Sockeye, proof there is a God. Awesome fish on the grill, and every other way, to serve.
- Spring, Americans call them Kings, we call them Smileys, resulting from the ear to ear grin when you catch one. They are over 30 pounds and are the pinnacle of salmon. You can't buy this in a store, as the best and biggest fish go to mild cure on the international market.

As an ex commercial fisher and current foodie, the best salmon ever was a basket weave of fresh alder branches through a butterflied spring and grilled over an open flame on Cl'oose beach. If permitted, the next post will show how to grill salmon on either charcoal or gas. Meanwhile, never soak it in oil, never put it directly on the grill, and for the love of whoever, cedar planks are shakes for roofing, not for salmon unless you want it to taste like Grammas cedar chest.

07.09.13

John C

Two observations: I cooked salmon directly on the grill grates years ago, and followed up the next day with a wonderful steak...that tasted like fish! I am not sure how to clean the grates sufficiently after fish. Heating to flames and brushing did not work. Since then I use a perforated topper for all fish. Secondly, I have discovered that cooking skin side down on very high heat will burn the skin and allow me to scrape the fish off of the skin with a spatula while still on the grill. It cooks through perfectly without turning at all. The salmon comes out very moist and you keep the seasoning on top. All you lose is the grill marks, which doesn't bother me. I cook with charcoal on a Weber Performer.