Do you love to grill, but worry about grilling seafood? Learn how to grill fish, get tips and tricks, and find out what the best type of grilling is for the fish you’re cooking.
Whenever I share a grilled fish recipe, I can feel some of you shrinking away from the recipe on your phone screens.
You probably already know.
Fish can be delicate.
Fish can be expensive.
Fish can either stick to the grill, or fall apart and meet a tragic end in the red-hot coals.
And so, I’m here today to help you learn how to grill fish without fear!
We’ll review the main ways that you can cook seafood on the grill, which type of fish works best for each technique, and (of course) check out some recipe ideas.
How to Cook Fish Directly on the Grill
Cooking directly on the grill results in gorgeous char markings, and requires almost no special equipment (other than the grill itself).
This technique is best for fatty or oily fish (like sockeye salmon or king salmon), sturdy fish (like ahi tuna or swordfish), large sides of fish or whole fish, fish steaks or collars.
Make sure to preheat the grill, clean the grill grates and brush with oil, and let the fish come to room temperature before cooking.
Try it: Make this grilled swordfish with tangy rosé wine mayonnaise from Platings + Pairings
Here are a few of my favorite recipes for cooking directly on the grill!
How to Use a Fish Grilling Basket
Using a fish grilling basket (or a fish grill) is the perfect way to prevent delicate or expensive fillets from sticking to the grill grate or falling through it.
Just like with grilling directly on the grill, these baskets create charred markings on the fish.
This technique is best for delicate fish (like tilapia and flounder), lean fish (like halibut and cod), expensive fish (like king salmon), and small fish that could fall through the grill grate.
Make sure to preheat the grilling basket (along with the grill) before adding the fish, and either buy a fish basket with an insulated handle or use a heat-proof glove.
How to Grill Fish in Foil Packets
Using foil packets is a simple way to protect your fish, achieve an evenly cooked fish, and seal in moisture.
This method achieves a smoky flavor, but does not give the fish charred grill markings.
This technique works well with almost any type of fish!
Make sure to set a timer when you’re cooking. Since you can’t see the fish, you can’t rely on the usual indicators to know when it’s finished.
Use a high-quality foil. Some budget-friendly foils are very thin, and may not hold up well on the grill.
Try it: Make this easy grilled salmon in foil from the Cookin’ Canuk.
How to Grill Fish on a Cedar Plank
Using a cedar grilling plank is a perfect way to add a smoky, cedar flavor to your fish.
It also provides a barrier between your fish and the grill, preventing the fish from sticking to it.
Buying cedar planks can get pricey, so this method is best reserved for high-quality, large pieces of fish.
This technique is especially perfect for large sides of salmon.
Make sure to soak the cedar wood for 2 hours before adding the fish and grilling.
Try it: Make this cedar plank salmon with lime and sriracha glaze from Killing Thyme.
How to Grill Shellfish Directly on the Grill
Shellfish that are still in the shell have a natural protection from the heat of the grill. Add shell-on shellfish directly to the grill for an easy, low maintenance grilling technique.
This works best with any shell-on shellfish that is large enough to set on the grill without falling through the grate.
Mollusks (like clams, oysters, and mussels) typically pop open when heated. Remove the shellfish from the heat when it opens, and take care not to spill the juices.
Crustaceans (like lobster, crab, and crawfish) are sometimes split open before grilling. Brush any exposed fish with butter or oil to prevent sticking.
How to Grill Fish + Shellfish on Skewers
Grilling fish and shellfish on grilling skewers is an easy way to grill small pieces of fish or small shellfish. The skewer allows you to flip the seafood easily and quickly.
Try this with small shellfish with soft or partial shells (like shrimp), shellfish with the shell removed (like shell-off sea scallops), thick fish cut into cubes for kabobs.
Wooden grilling skewers should be soaked for 30 minutes prior to grilling.
Metal grilling skewers will become very hot. Use ones with insulated handles, or use a heat-proof glove.
How to Grill Fish on a Cast-Iron Skillet
Another fantastic grilling option is to use a cast-iron skillet directly on the grill. This allows you to mimic stovetop cooking but also achieve a delicious, smoky flavor.
I especially like Lodge’s 12″ cast iron skillet.
This works well with any fish!
Make sure to allow mollusks to cook thoroughly and pop open on their own.
Preheat the pan on the grill before adding fish to achieve a seared, caramelized fish.
Use a heat-proof grilling glove or pot holder when moving the pan.
Try it: Make these Cast Iron Roasted Clams from Epicurious