Quick Fish Tips for Fishing Season

Grill someone a fish and they will eat for day; teach them how to grill fish and they can eat for a lifetime (as long as they can fish, or have a supermarket nearby). Although that isn’t exactly how that proverb goes it does make a great point; I would much rather teach a technique than a recipe.

Grilling fish can be as simple or as difficult as you make it, but one thing is for sure, if you follow a few simple tips you can grill fish perfectly every time.

The first step to grilled fish nirvana is working with quality fresh fish. Regardless of what variety you choose to grill it should be fresh and firm. Whether buying fillets, steaks or whole fish the flesh should be firm and should smell like the ocean (briny, not funky or “fishy”). If something doesn’t seem right, it’s probably not.

Try to pick cuts with an even thickness no thinner than one inch. Grilling pieces of fish that are at least one inch thick will ensure proper doneness, and keep it moist.

Once you get your fish home you’re going to want to cook it as quickly as possible. You can get away with a day in the fridge, but that’s about it (avoid freezing if you can).

In order to get grilling as quickly as possible consider your seasoning options right away. Fish (in general) is very delicate and takes on flavors quite well, so it is a great vehicle for marinades and spice rubs. It is also great with just a little salt and pepper, so keep in mind you can always resort to simplicity. My current favorite method for enhancing flavor is using a blackened spice mix.

If you decide to use a marinade, stay basic. Fish works great with citrus, fresh herbs, garlic, soy sauce, mirin, wine, etc. Whatever you decide, know that fish doesn’t need to marinate as long as other proteins (30 minutes -2 hours does plenty).

Okay, so now you’re ready to throw Nemo on the grill. Or are you? Before you slam that cold blooded carcass on the grate, turn the heat up. Get that bad boy scorchin’. You want to grill fish over direct high heat. If you are grilling steaks (e.g. salmon, tuna, swordfish) you can put it directly on the grill once it is hot and you have brushed them lightly with oil.

Grilling on the Grate

For steaks, grill over direct heat for around three minutes before testing if they are ready to flip. Clearly, this depends on the size of your protein, so use your best judgement. If they are ready to flip, the flesh on the bottom will be opaque and will easily release from the grill. Gently flip the steak over and finish cooking it on the opposite side. Finish cooking until the flesh is firm yet flaky and you don’t see any translucent flesh (unless you’re cooking tuna to rare).

If you are grilling fillets, you can do it in the same way I explained grilling steaks, but fillets do tend to be much more delicate. A couple other methods that work really well with fillets are using a cedar plank or a foil packet.


To grill your fish using a cedar plank you will need to soak the plank ahead of time in water, beer or wine. After it has soaked for at least a couple hours, preheat your grill and char one side of the plank (10 minutes or so). Flip the plank over and place your fish on the charred side. I generally like to move the planked fish over to indirect heat to maximize cedar flavor at this point. Cover the grill and allow the fish to cook until done (No need to flip).

The Flavor Packet

Creating a foil “flavor packet” is an easy way to ensure the fish doesn’t fall apart on the grill, and it tastes awesome. Rip off a piece of foil twice as big as your piece of fish. Place your fish in on the foil and fold the edges up; drizzle the fish with olive oil and whatever other flavorings you want. Close the foil around the fish without letting it touch the topside of the fish (make a tent). Place the fish over direct medium to medium-high heat and check for doneness after 10-15 minutes depending on the size of the fish.

Directly on Coals

If you plan to cook a whole fish you can do it a couple ways, too. I recommend stuffing the cavity with fresh herbs, citrus, garlic and olive oil. Then, grill it in any of the ways I’ve described above, or you can do my favorite thing and grill it directly on the coals.

To grill fish directly over the coals, first, remove your grill grate and set it aside.

Lump charcoal works best for this method. Light up some lump and when your coal is completely hot, blow off any excess ash. Be careful! You can also use a blow dryer to remove excess ash if you want to keep a safe distance. Arrange the coals so they are relatively flat, and place the whole fish directly on the hot coals and cook 3-8 minutes. Use a large spatula or tongs (probably both) to roll your fish over and finish on the other side.

Grilling directly on the coals cooks the fish very fast and locks in the moisture. Grilling the whole fish with the skin protects the delicate flesh inside, and releases the flavors of the herbs, garlic, etc. stuffed in the cavity.

Wire Baskets

If you’re looking for a grill gadget you may not have yet, and you cook a lot of fish, I’d recommend getting a wire basket – that is to say you don’t already have one. These baskets open up like a clamshell, allowing you to place fish on the inside and clamp down a mesh of wires both above and below your protein. They usually include a detachable handle, so you can place your fish directly on the grate or coals and close the lid without a problem by removing the handle. Baskets are quick, easy and convenient. You don’t have to worry about the fish sticking, flipping is a piece of cake and you’ll still get that smoky flavor from your grill.

These are a few of the best tips for grilling fish. We hope this knowledge will give you the ability to feed yourself and your family for a lifetime.


  1. Josh says:

    Before you could grill a fish, you will have to catch it trickily from its natural habitat. Dendrobaena worms are often used as fishing baits by the experts, and it is their efforts that makes it possible to bring your favorite fish recipes on the dining table.

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