How To: Grill Fish
There are as many thoughts on what is the correct method to properly grill fish as there are fish in the sea. We have probably tried a majority of them, but this is the technique we came up with years ago to ensure the fish does not stick to the grill and is cooked to perfection.
- When you are ready to season the fish, pull it out of its packaging and rinse it quickly in cold, running water. Immediately pat it dry with paper towels. This limits its exposure to fresh water.
- Trim any remaining bloodlines (dark red in color), and cut into similarly sized pieces.
- Place the fish on a platter in one layer. Sprinkle the chosen spice blend on both sides of the fish. Use your hands to distribute the rub (hence where the term rub came from) to taste. Our preference is to have each piece evenly coated with a visual ratio of about 50% spice blend to 50% "bare" fish (see a more detailed explanation below).
- Let the fish stand for about 10 minutes. If the fish sits longer because you are not ready to grill, put it back in the fridge until you are ready.
- Heat the grill to 350 degrees.
- While the grill is pre-heating, find a plate that is bigger than your biggest fillet and has a raised lip around the edge. Take it and a bottle of olive oil out to the grill.
- Once the grill is at temperature, ensure the grate is clear of any stuck-on debris from previous meals (we find it is easier to clean when it is heated. If anything is stuck on the grill, use a grill stone or wadded-up aluminum foil with tongs.).
- Fill the plate with 1/8" of olive oil.
- Dip both sides of the fillet in the olive oil and place it on the grill. Careful, the olive oil will cause the flames to flare up! This is good because the oil has not had a chance to be absorbed into the fish. The flame-up will seal in the juiciness of the fish and create a crust on the fillets to keep it from sticking to the grill. Continue with the other pieces. Space the fillets out so there is at least an inch separating the pieces from each other.
- Close the lid of the grill and cook for about 3 minutes per inch of thickness of the the fillet. Cook it less for tuna.
- Flip the fish over. If your grill has hot spots, rearrange the fish to ensure even cooking. Cook for another 3 minutes with the lid closed. Lift the lid and check a piece of fish to determine if it is cooked through. *See below for tips on how to tell when your fish is done cooking.
- Remove the fish to a platter and cover loosely with aluminum foil if you are not serving it immediately. If covering, leave enough gaps for any steam to escape so the steam does not collect on the underside of the foil and make the fish soggy.
There are always three questions we get when discussing how to prepare and grill fish:
1. Should I marinate the fish?
We prefer to not marinate fish because fish is extremely porous and we find that the fish's texture gets modified (not in a good way) after sitting in a liquid marinade. We prefer to season the fish dry and top it with a tasty sauce.
2. How much seasoning do I put on the fish?
It is such a hard question to answer specifically. You don't want to over-season the fish and overwhelm the actual flavor of the fish. You also don't want to under-season the fish. The answer also depends on which role the fish is going to play in your meal. Is it going to be the star and stand-alone or is it going to be part of an ensemble cast?
Our visual cue is to sprinkle enough seasoning on the fish that it looks approximately 50% covered, evenly spaced, once the spice blend is rubbed over the fillet. When the fish is the star of the meal, we season it a little less because you really want the flavor of the fish to shine. When it is part of an ensemble (such as tacos, sliders, or pasta), it can be seasoned more generously so that the combination of the spice blend and fish stands out in each bite.
3. How do you know when the fish is done cooking?
Each type of fish, regardless of thickness, has different ways to tell when it is done. Here are a few tips for some of our favorite fish:
Mahi and snapper: These are the easier fish to cook. A simple rule is that if the filet flakes apart easily, the fish is done. Also, the meat is white when done cooking and no longer translucent.
Tuna: Depending on your taste, rare is how most people enjoy their tuna. So about 1 - 2 minutes per inch of thickness of the fillet will do the trick. It's important to remember that tuna will continue cooking through after it has been removed from the grill. If the tuna steak is medium rare when it comes off the grill, it will be well-done by the time you eat it. If your plan is to sear the tuna to be sliced for sushi, a good trick is to put the fillets into the freezer for 2 minutes right after they come off the grill. This will stop the cooking process and chill them just enough to slice easier.
Wahoo: This is the hardest fish to cook properly because wahoo has a tendency to dry out if cooked too long. Just like tuna, wahoo will keep cooking after it has been removed from the heat. Just remember to never cook a piece of wahoo more than medium rare and you will have a deliciously cooked piece of wahoo.