By Chef Alli on May 13, 2019
Delicious grilled fish and seafood is not as difficult as you might think. Follow my top three tips below, and you’ll soon be hooked.
1. Remember all fish and seafood cooks very, very quickly, no matter how you’re cooking it.
I find cooking fish on medium to medium high for eight to 10 minutes for every inch of thickness works well. For example, a salmon fillet is going to cook in eight to 10 minutes, while a tilapia fillet should be done closer to four to five minutes, since tilapia is about half an inch thick.
And how do you know when the fish is done? When you can gently stick a fork into the center of the fillet and the flesh gently gives, nearly falling apart. Don’t forget the fish is still going to cook a bit longer from residual heat, so err on the side of the fillets being a bit under-done. After all, you can always give it more cooking or grilling time, but once you’ve overcooked your fish or seafood, you’re sunk.
2. Use a super clean grill (or grill pan) that’s nicely oiled and very well preheated, and fish that’s been brushed well with oil.
The above steps are key for making sure your fish doesn’t stick to the grates of your grill, causing it to fall apart when you turn or remove it.
Make sure to use a nice, large spatula, too, since fish is very tender. You don’t want any part of the fish falling away from the spatula and down between the grill grates where you can’t get to it. If you are cooking thin fillets or very delicate fish, use an aluminum foil packet. The foil won’t keep the fish from taking on the flavors of the grill, yet keeps it contained for easier cooking.
3. If you want to play with your fish, wait until it’s on your plate.
Constantly turning your fish only aggravates it and is one of the biggest causes of fillets that can’t brown beautifully on the grill; this bad habit can even cause your fish to fall apart. Keeping the skin on your fish also helps hold your fillet together.
When I grill salmon, I cook it first with the flesh side down for about 70 percent of the cooking time (five to six minutes), turning it skin-side-down to finish out the remaining two to three minutes. You will find when the salmon fillets are fully cooked, they will very easily lift right off the skin. The skin also insulates your fish, helping guard it against over cooking.