Grilling season doesn’t have to be about burgers, ribs and steaks. Almost anything can be cooked outdoors, so jump on the opportunity to cook outside again, especially since the weather ought to be getting better and better as summer progresses. Cooking outdoors is fun, and is extremely easy when you are prepared.
And one of the very easiest foods to grill is, believe it or not, whole fish. Whether the fish comes from the fishmonger or the end of your fishing pole, follow a couple of simple preparatory suggestions and you’ll be grilling whole fish anytime the sun comes out. So get ready to put a fresh fish twist on the old 4th of July cookout.
If you’re not too comfortable with a boning knife, have no fear. Grilling whole fish requires minimal carving.
My favorite fish to grill include trout, snapper, bass, sea bream, just about any medium-sized whitefish will do, as well as some smaller fish like mullet, bluefish, mackerel, and butterfish.
Salmon is also a great choice.Avoid flounder, sole, fluke, cod and similar fishes because they can be too delicate.
When selecting your dinner, select a fish with clear eyes, shiny scales and a non-fishy smell. Once you’ve got your hands on a fresh whole fish, here are the 10 easy steps to grill it:
1. Clean the fish: de-scale it by scraping the dull side of a knife against the grain of the scales until it’s smooth. Cut off the fins with a pair of kitchen shears and discard. Then cut along the entire bottom of the fish, remove the guts and discard. Rinse the fish clean.
2. Score the fish with 1/2 inch-deep cuts on both sides, about 1-2 inches apart. This helps the flavors of the marinade (and smoke if applicable) to better penetrate the meat of the fish.
3. Marinate the fish for 1-3 hours in your choice of marinade. If you are using a marinade that is acidic (i.e. with lemon juice, vinegar, etc.) only marinade for 1 hour to avoid “cooking” the fish (as in ceviche).
4. Preheat the grill, or let charcoal ember to flame-less white briquettes.
5. Brush the clean grill and fish with a thin layer of canola oil, peanut oil or any other neutral-flavored oil with a high smoke point, to prevent the fish from sticking.
6. Remove the fish from the marinade and wipe it clean to prevent the fish from sticking (save the marinade). Salt and pepper both sides. Optionally, you can stuff the inner cavity of the fish with herbs and pieces of lemon).
7. Grill the fish for 7-12 minutes (depending on the size) in the hottest part of the grill (unless serving salmon rare – 4-5 minutes). Optionally, you can also dip some rosemary or dill sprigs in oil and use them as a bed to grill the fish on if sticking is a concern.
8. Turn the fish over gently with one or two large spatulas. Optionally, you can turn it over onto a large piece of aluminum foil and then slide it onto the grill.
9. Baste the fish with the leftover marinade, and let it grill about as long as the first side.
10. Carefully remove the fish from the grill and place it onto a serving platter. Serve with grilled lemon and enjoy!
Once the fish is cooked it will flake easily away from the spine (again, rare salmon is a special case), and it should be simple enough to avoid any of the smaller bones. You can run a knife along either side of the spine, and then you should be able to slide the knife under the cooked fillets with no problem.
If you have any questions, don’t hesitate to contact one of us on the cooking hotline!
Have fun grilling!