Grilling Fish

Grilling fish on an outdoor grill adds a whole new dimension to the taste depending on the type of fire you use. When you cook over hot charcoals the flavor is unique and delicious, gas grilling is another flavor and certainly the various fragrances of wood changes the flavor in the fish. You do not need a large backyard barbeque setting for cooking your fish. It is a fast process and can even be done on a little grill, even in the winter time on your back porch or patio.

Something to remember when grilling fish on a barbeque is that the same fish recipes can be cooked under your broiler in your kitchen oven. The dry heat cooking is the same but the equipment is different. Any fish suitable for outdoor barbeque is also suited for the oven broiler but keep in mind the flavor will be different. Sometimes cooking quickly in the kitchen is just more convenient.

For grilling fish, any whole, thickly cut fillets or thick fish steak are best suited for cooking on an outdoor grill but baskets are available for cooking. Other fish and pieces can be barbequed but more caution needs to be taken. Smaller, thinner and flakier pieces of fish will need to be cooked in special fish baskets. They are made especially for grilling fish which prevents the pieces from falling into the fire and also make turning the pieces over much easier. I have also used an iron plate to cook pieces on. When you place the plate on the grill and cover with the grill lid, the flavor still is absorbed by the fish.

There is a fish shaped basket with legs on it also available which is designed for cooking large whole plump fish.  When grilling fish the legs will hold the fish a few inches above the hot coals. Whole fish are best cooked with heads and tails on but to get them in the basket often they will have to be removed. Fish with distinct flavors like salmon, mackerel and bluefish are complimented by the smoky flavor of outdoor cooking. 

When grilling fish it is important to know the amount of oil in the fish you are cooking. Fish like salmon, trout, tuna, swordfish and mackerel are known to have a higher amount of oil. Smaller fish high in oil are sardines, herring, and anchovies also are high in oil. Fish known to have lower amounts of oil are the white fish. Some of these are cod, haddock and flatfish. This is important to know for cooking the fish. When cooking oily fish, generally speaking no marinade or basting is necessary because the fish oils are a natural marinade. When cooking white fish or the dryer ones marinating and basting is suggested to keep the fish moist.

When grilling fish or anything else (Even broiling in oven) Preheat before placing fish to cook. Turn on electric or gas grills 10 minutes in advance for preheating. If using a charcoal grill, light the coals about 40 minutes in advance. This gives time for white ash to develop assuring it has reached the correct cooking temperature. Cook the fish about 4 inches above the heat where the temperature should be about 350F degrees. The weather conditions, wind, air and humidity can affect the temperature so keep a close watch while cooking.

The dry heat of grilling could render delicate shellfish very tough and unappetizing. Cooking time is always brief and must be basted during cooking to keep the flesh succulent. The best way to grill shellfish is unopened in their own moisture.  You also must be aware of some safety tips to be followed when grilling fish. Do not let fish or shellfish (or other foods) set out in the heat while preparing other parts of your meal. Keep it on ice or refrigerated until ready to cook. If you work with raw fish or other raw foods in the heat, the surface can quickly become contaminated. Plan ahead if this might become a possibility. I always have bleach and water at hand for quick cleaning.  By being alert to these possibilities and avoiding them, cookouts are a time for fun.

GRILLED FISH with spicy banana salsa

Grilled Fish with Spicy Banana SalsaGrilled Fish with Spicy Banana Salsa

So many different flavors can be added when grilling fish.
Banana Salsa

  • 1 Large banana (Peel, chop)
  • ½ Cup chopped red bell pepper
  • ½ Cup chopped green bell pepper
  • ½ Cup chopped fresh cilantro
  • 3 Green onions (Finely chopped)
  • 1 Roasted jalapeno pepper (finely chopped)
  • 1 Tablespoon grated fresh ginger
  • 2 Tablespoons brown sugar
  • 3 Tablespoons fresh lime juice
  • 1 Tablespoon olive oil
  • ¼ Teaspoon salt
  • Pinch black pepper

Cooking the Fish

  • 3 Tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro
  • 1 Roasted jalapeno pepper (Finely chopped)
  • 2 Tablespoons fresh lime juice
  • 1 Tablespoon minced garlic
  • 1 Tablespoon grated fresh ginger
  • Salt to taste
  • 4 Fish fillets (About 1 ½ pounds; grouper, cod, flounder, amberjack etc.)

FOR SALSA combine all ingredients tossing to coat.
Cover and chill 2 hours; makes 2 ½ cups.
FOR GRILLING FISH combine cilantro and next 5 ingredients; set aside.
Coat a grilling tray with oil; place tray on hot grill. (400F to 500F degrees).
Cover tray with grill lid for 10 minutes to heat; place fish on tray.
Place fish on tray back on grill rack; cover with lid and cook 10 minutes.
Carefully turn fish over; spread with fresh cilantro mixture.
Cook another 10 minutes until the fish flakes easily when tested with fork.
Serve with Banana Salsa; serves 4.


Grilled Tuna and Eggplant with Tahini SauceGrilled Tuna and Eggplant with Tahini Sauce

Fresh Olive Salad

  • 2 Large tomatoes (1/2 Inch diced)
  • 1 Cucumber (Peel, seed, dice)
  • 18 Kalamata olives (Pitted, coarsely chopped)
  • 1 Tablespoon minced red onion
  • 1 Tablespoon olive oil
  • ½ Teaspoon dried basil
  • ¼ Teaspoon garlic powder
  • 2 Tablespoons fresh lemon juice

Tahini Sauce

  • 1/3 Cup PLUS 2 tablespoons tahini (Sesame seed paste)
  • ½ Cup water
  • 1 Clove minced garlic
  • 2 Tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • Salt/ pepper to taste

Eggplant and Tuna

  • ¼ Cup olive oil for brushing
  • 1 Medium eggplant (Peel, slice crosswise ¼ inch thickness)
  • 6 Tuna steaks (3-4 Ounces each; ½ inch thick)
  • Salt/ pepper to taste

FIRST FOR TOMATO SALAD combine tomatoes and next 4 ingredients in small bowl.
Stir in the 1 olive oil; basil, garlic and lemon juice; toss well and let stand 4 hours.
SECOND FOR TAHINI SAUCE combine tahini, water and garlic in food processor.
NOTE: Before measuring tahini paste stir to blend the oils which may have settled.
Process 1-2 times to blend; add lemon juice, salt and pepper.
Process mixture to combine; set aside.
FOR EGGPLANT AND TUNA for the best favor I soak both in salt water 2 to 3 hours but it is not necessary.
NOTE: I cook the eggplant (If you have the space) and tuna at the same time because they cook in the same amount of time.
HEAT GRILL and a grill pan; brush eggplant with oil and season to taste.
Work in batches grilling eggplant over moderate heat until very tender.
Remove eggplant to a platter and keep warm.
FOR TUNA wipe out grill pan; brush tuna on both sides with oil and place on pan.
Season with salt and pepper; grill over high heat until browned about 2 minutes per side.
TO SERVE spoon Tahini Sauce on serving plates; place eggplant slices over top.
Season TOMATO SALAD with salt and pepper; spoon on top of eggplant.
Place tuna fillet on top; garnish with fresh parsley or basil.
Serves 6.


Practice grilling fish using striped bass.

  • 2 Striped bass fillets (about 3 pounds each)
  • 1 Tablespoon fennel seed
  • 1 Teaspoon salt
  • Fresh ground black pepper
  • ¼ Cup olive oil
  • 1 Tablespoon brandy
  • Lemon wedges

Rinse fish and dry on paper towels.
Place 3 or 4 slashes in skin of each fillet (not through); sandwich together.
Crush fennel seeds with mortar and pestle or rolling pin.
Combine fennel with salt, pepper, brandy and oil; mix well.
Brush skin of fish with mixture making sure extra gets into slashes.
Place fish into hinged grill; place about 5 inches over preheated coals.
Cook about 8 minutes on each side or until the fish flakes easily with a fork.
Serves 4 to 5.


Lime, butter and ginger are important ingredients when grilling fish.

  • 2 Pound salmon fillet
  • ½ Teaspoon salt
  • ¼ Teaspoon ground white pepper
  • ¼ Teaspoon black pepper
  • 2 Tablespoons grated lime zest
  • 2 Tablespoons minced fresh ginger
  • 1 Teaspoon fresh lime juice
  • 4 Tablespoons melted butter

Rinse salmon and dry; cut fillets crosswise into 4 equal pieces.
Season salmon with salt and pepper; sprinkle with lime zest and ginger.
NOTE: Gently press the lime zest and ginger into salmon.
Thoroughly oil the grill rack; place rack about 3 inches above the coals.
Place the fish on a grill tray or a piece of heavy foil 2 inches larger than fish.
Place on the grill; mix lime juice into melted butter.
Pour HALF of butter mixture over salmon.
Cover with grill lid and cook 8 minutes; pour remaining HALF mixture over salmon.
Cover and cook until salmon is opaque through about 7 minutes.
Check for doneness by making a cut in the thickness part of the salmon.
NOTE: Pull back the meat of the fish slightly and check for doneness.
To serve remove any skin by sliding knife between skin and fish.
Serves 4 to 5.


You will find various alcoholic beverages and herbs are in many recipes for grilling fish.

  • 8 Salmon steaks (¾ inch thick)
  • ¾ Cup dry vermouth
  • ¾ Cup oil
  • 1 ½ Tablespoon lemon juice
  • ¾ Teaspoon salt
  • Dash black pepper
  • ¼ Teaspoon thyme
  • ¼ Teaspoon marjoram
  • 1/8 Teaspoon sage
  • 1 Tablespoon chopped parsley

Place salmon in a large pan.
Mix remaining ingredients and pour over fish; refrigerate 3 to 4 hours.
Remove fish from marinade; place on preheated oiled grill (Reserve marinade).
Cook about 15 minutes brushing frequently with reserved marinade.
Serves 6 to 8.


When grilling fish butter and lemon juice are often used for adding moisture.
Tartar sauce

  • 1/3 Cup mayonnaise
  • 1 Tablespoon sweet pickle recipe
  • 1 Tablespoon chopped fresh dill weed

Grilling Fish Recipe

  • ¼ Cup melted butter
  • 1 Teaspoon lemon juice
  • 4 (4 ounces each) whitefish

FOR TARTAR SAUCE combine and mix all ingredients; refrigerate.
FOR FISH in separate bowl combine butter and lemon juice.
Place fish on oiled grill rack or basket about 4 to 6 inches from coals.
Brush fish with lemon butter; cook 6 to 9 minutes until fish flakes turning once.
Serve with sauce; serves 3 to 4.


Grilling fish in banana leaves protect the fish from drying out (Can also wrap in foil).
Grilling Fish

  • 2 Banana leaves9 cut crosswise into 4 rough squares)
  • 3 Tablespoons olive oil
  • 8 Red snapper fillets with skin (About ¾ inch thickness; each about 6 ounces)
  • Salt/ pepper

Orange Ancho Relish

  • 3 Naval oranges (Remove peel and white pith; section)
  • 1 Medium ancho chile (Remove stem and seeds)
  • 3 Tablespoons fresh lime juice
  • 1 Tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 Tablespoon grated fresh mint
  • 1 ½ Teaspoon minced garlic
  • 1 Teaspoon honey
  • Salt/ pepper to taste

MAKE RELISH FIRST by placing orange sections in bowl.
Coarsely grind chile or finely chop; place in bowl.
Add to bowl the lime juice, oil, mint, garlic and honey.
Gently stir mixture into the oranges.
Let stand at room temperature for 45 minutes.
Season with salt and pepper.
FOR GRILLING FISH light charcoal grill or preheat broiler.
Spread the banana leaves on a flat surface; brush lightly with half of oil.
Place fish fillets skin side down on leaves; brush with remaining oil.
Season with salt and pepper; fold leaves like an envelope to enclose fish.
Set envelopes seam side down on grill; cover with lid and cook 7 minutes.
Arrange packets seam side down on a baking tray; place pan on grill.
Cover grill with lid; TURN GRILL OFF letting packets under the lid for 10 minutes.
Serve with Orange Ancho Relish; serves 8.


  • 4 Flour tortillas (8 Inches)
  • 1 Pound lean mild flavored fish
  • ¼ Teaspoon salt
  • ¼ Teaspoon pepper
  • ¼ Cup sweet barbeque sauce
  • Vegetable oil
  • Sour cream
  • Sliced green onions
  • Lime wedges

Preheat oven to 350F degrees.
Wrap tortillas in foil; bake for 10 minutes until heated.
Sprinkle fish with salt and pepper.
Brush each side of fish lightly with barbeque sauce.
Brush grill basket with vegetable oil; place fish in basket.
Place fish basket over medium coals. Cook 5 minutes on each side.
NOTE: Fish should flake easily when tested with fork.
Remove fish from basket and flake gently.
Spoon fish evenly down center of each tortilla.
Top with sour cream and green onions; squeeze with lime wedge.
Fold opposite sides over filling and serve; serves 4.