A Comprehensive Guide On How To Grill Fish Correctly

Are you looking for a guide on how to grill fish? Good news for you, no matter which types of fish you choose, they are all relatively quick to cook. You can enjoy your delicious dish of fish for a maximum of 15 minutes. 

Despite the quickness, being able to grill a perfectly cooked fish that is soft-textured on the inside, crispy on the outside but not burning is an art in itself. 

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Table of Contents

    For that reason, we are going to offer you a complete guide on how to cook fish on grill. Hope you enjoy it!

    A Step-to-step Instruction On How To Grill Fish 


    Step 1: Considering The Fillet’s Thickness

    Separate the fillet into smaller portions if its thickness is more than one inch. Each fillet should only be about half an inch. It will make the flipping more manageable and shorten the cooking time significantly. 

    fish fillet
    Each Fillet Should Only Be About Half An Inch In Thickness

    It is an important step that lots of people overlook, and they end up with an oversized, undercooked fillet. 

    Also, since cutting the flesh raw will prevent the fish from falling apart, remember to estimate its size before putting it on the foil. 

    Step 2: Marinating The Slices Of Fish

    Seasoning the fillets when they are still raw will make the spices penetrate deeper into the flesh, giving them a more diverse and richer flavor.

    Marinating Will Give The Fillets More Flavor
    Marinating Will Give The Fillets More Flavor

    Firstly, you pour a thin coat of vegetable oil on both sides of the fillet. The greasiness will prevent sticking and give the fish more moisture.

    Then, you can spice things up by drizzling on top some herbs, salt, sugar, chilies, and peppers. If you want to reduce the fishy smell, adding  some vinegar or a squeeze of lemon juice will help.

    Keep in mind not to over-marinade the fillets since the seasonings can break down the tissues and make the fish fall apart easier. The soaking time should only be under 30 minutes. 

    Step 3: Placing Them On The Grilling Grate

    Once you have preheated the grill to a certain temperature, it’s time to place the fillets directly on the grate. To create eye-catching, restaurant-quality grill marks on the fish surface, it would be best to arrange it diagonally on the foil’s bars.

    Step 4: Letting The Fillets Cook

    After placing the fish on the grill grate, you cover the grill and let the fish slowly cook inside. With a gas grill, we recommend you keep the heat at 350 degrees Fahrenheit. 

    With a charcoal grill, keep the dampers slightly open to let the inside automatically adjust the temperature.

    Use a wide spatula to slide under a fillet and raise it up a bit for a quick check after three to four minutes. You know it is time to flip when the fish no longer sticks to the bars, and the side in contact with the grate has become slightly seared.

    fish on grill
    When One Side Has Become Slightly Seared, You Can Flip The Fish

    Step 5: Flipping The Fish

    Once the fillets seem ready, you glide the spatula further underneath the fillet until you get a good hold of it. Now, flip the slice with a gentle, quick, and decisive force. 

    Step 6: Cooking The Other Side

    To cook the other side, you repeat the same process with the firstly cooked side. Close the grill’s lid and wait for three to four minutes before opening it again for a quick peek. 

    If the fish shows signs of doneness we mentioned above, take a dull knife or fork and lightly poke on the fish surface. Once you notice a piece of flesh flakes when you jab on the fillet, quickly move it to a plate.

    In case you are confused about when to take off the fish, we suggest using a meat thermometer. According to the USDA, a perfectly cooked fish will have an internal temperature of about 145 degrees Fahrenheit.

    Whole Fish

    Step 1: Slitting The Fish’s Skin

    It is an important step that lots of people slip upon. Before marinating the skin, use a sharp knife to create several 45° cuts on the fish skin. You know the splits are deep enough only when the edge of your knife is touching the bone.  

    The distance between two slits should be one to two inches, depending on the fish length.

    By scoring deeply into the fish body, the seasoning will penetrate deeper into each fiber, making the dish more flavorful. Also, it will make the heat distribute equally for an evenly grilled fish.

    Step 2: Seasoning The Inside 

    Stuffing the inside of the fish with the spices and ingredients of choice. Some of the most common options are herbs, onions, garlic, salt, black pepper, butter, rosemary, and citrus slices. 

    Remember to limit the amount of spice as much as possible since you will marinate the outside later. 

    Step 3: Seasoning The Outside

    With the outside, making sure you fully moisturize the surface is the key to prevent falling apart and sticking. Dip a cooking brush into vegetable oil or olive oil, and gently spread a thin layer on top of the skin.

    If oil doesn’t come in handy, you can resort to other coatings that are also rich in fat, such as butter or mayonnaise. However, their flavor can directly affect the taste of your fish.

    Don’t forget to sprinkle some salts, sugars, peppers, and chilies on top to make the fish more pleasant to taste.

    Adding Some Spices On Top Will Make The Fish More Pleasant To Taste
    Adding Some Spices On Top Will Make The Fish More Pleasant To Taste

    Step 4: Placing The Fish On The Grate

    Once the seasoning is perfect, and the grill has been heated to a certain temperature (about 400 degrees Fahrenheit), it’s time you arrange the fish diagonally on the grate.

    With a stuffed whole fish, you can implement some supporting cooking utensils to make the grilling process less stressful. For instance, using a grill basket to keep the fish firmly in one place will make the flipping more manageable.

    Also, if you have a delicate fish, consider opting for a plank. By using indirect heat, the fish will come out evenly cooked without the skin looking severely seared. 

    Step 5: Cook One Side

    Now, keep the grill hood shut for a few minutes and wait for the fish to cook. The process is relatively similar to cooking fish fillets. 

    Be it as it may, since the whole fish takes more time to cook, you should wait for at least eight minutes before opening the hood for a look. 

    Depending on the thickness, the cooking time for each side of the fish will be different. Since you can’t control the size of a fish as with a fillet, it is more tricky to know how long to grill fish

    Each inch of fish will take about 10 minutes to cook thoroughly. Based on that, you can determine roughly the cooking time for your fish.

    Step 6: Flipping The Fish And Cook The Other Side

    If you can lift up the fish when sliding a spatula under its body with no sign of struggling, it is ready to be turned over to the other side. Gently toss the fish, shut the hood down, and wait for eight more minutes.

    Since some fish can be too long and full stuffed, flipping with a single spatula without any fish basket is extremely challenging. 

    As an alternative, you can add one more metal spatula underneath for more balance or a flexible fish turner to hold the top firmly. 

    Using A Grilling Basket Will Make It Easier To Flip The Piece Of Fish
    Using A Grilling Basket Will Make It Easier To Flip The Piece Of Fish

    Step 7: Testing The Doneness

    After eight minutes, you open the grilling lid to check the fish. To test whether or not the fish is cooked, you can use the same trick we have suggested before. If the flesh flakes when you poke on the surface, the fish is ready to serve. 

    Remember to let it rest for at least five minutes before enjoying it. During the cooling process, the fish will spread the juice throughout the entire body, making the spices soak in even more. 

    Recommended Recipes For Grilled Fish

    #1 Grilled Swordfish Fillets With Crispy Asparagus

    As you might have known, swordfish is such a meaty and delicious fish to cook. It is a beginner-friendly option since its meatiness, thickness make it hold up firmly when being cooked. Also, the crispy asparagus adds in more flavor, and helps to reduce the fishy odour that can put some people off.

    # 2 Grilled Cedar Plank Rainbow Trout With Bacon

    A grilled whole fish on a cedar plank is an ideal option for someone who loves an eye-catching representation. It is a perfect lunch dish for an outdoor barbeque with your family and friends. Also, trout have such a solid flesh, which makes them easy to cook on the grill. We also add in the recipe some extra ingredients to make this dish more flavorful and pleasant to the eyes

    The Bottom Line 

    We hope our instruction on how to grill fish has been useful to your cooking journey. Remember to pay attention not only to the main grilling process but also the preparation. 

    With our recommended recipes, it’s time for you to be the head chef and make your dish blossom in every meal.All in all, take care, and we wish to see you in our future articles!

    Roger Lee
    Roger Lee

    Thanks for visiting my website. My name is Roger Lee, and I am a 30-year-old man with a hybrid blood of Chinese and Russian. I decided to set up this site to share with everyone my love and passion for open-air cuisine. It all started when my parents opened a restaurant and I had the chance of getting exposed to the art of outdoor cooking.
    This website aims at sharing about my hobby, recipes, and tips for cooking to everyone. Try them out and tell me about your experience.