Do you love to grill, but worry about grilling seafood? Learn how to grill fish, get grilling 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 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 fish on the grill, which type of fish works best for each technique, and (of course) check out some recipe ideas.
How to Grill Fish Directly on the Grill
Cooking directly on the grill gives the fish gorgeous char markings, and requires almost no special equipment (other than the grill).
- 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
- Preheat the grill
- Clean the grill grates and brush with oil
- Let the fish come to room temperature before cooking
How to Grill Fish in a Fish Grilling Basket
Grilling fish in a fish grilling basket (or a fish grill) is the perfect way to protect delicate or expensive fillets from sticking to the grill or falling through the grill grate.
Just like with grilling directly on the grill, fish baskets create charred markings on the fish.
- Delicate fish (like tilapia and flounder)
- Lean fish (like halibut and cod)
- Expensive fish (like king salmon)
- Small fish that could fall through the grill grate
- Preheat the grilling basket before adding the fish
- Buy a fish basket with an insulated handle, or use a heat-proof glove
Try it: Make this grilled king salmon with plum sauce.
How to Grill Fish in Foil Packets
Grilling fish inside 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.
Best for: Any fish!
- Set a timer when you’re cooking. Since you can’t see the fish, it’s harder to know when it’s finished by sight.
- Use a high-quality foil. Some budget-friendly foils are very thin, and may not hold up on the grill.
How to Grill Fish on a Cedar Plank
Grilling fish on 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 the grill.
Buying cedar planks can get pricey, so this method is best reserved for high-quality, large pieces of fish.
Best for: Any, but especially sides of salmon
Tips: Soak cedar wood for 2 hours before adding the fish and grilling
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.
Best for: 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.
- 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.
Try it: Try making my grilled scallops with bourbon sauce!
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 achieve a delicious, smoky flavor.
I especially like Lodge’s 12″ cast iron skillet.
- Any fish!
- Allows mollusks to cook through and open without losing any juice
- 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
Check out these ideas for grilling with cast iron:
- Cast Iron Roasted Clams from Epicurious
- Shrimp on the Griddle from Saveur
- Grilling with a Cast Iron Pan from Bon Appetit
How to Grill Fish
- grill (charcoal or gas)
- grill brush (for cleaning grill grates)
Grill Basket Grilling (For Delicate or Expensive Fish):
Cedar Plank Grilling (Especially Good for Salmon):
Skewer Grilling (Best for Small Pieces of Fish):
Foil Packet Grilling (Great for Adding Veggies + Herbs):
- aluminum foil
Prepare Grill + Equipment:
- Pre-heat grill over medium heat. Brush any debris off the grill grates.
- If using a delicate or expensive fillet of fish, pre-heat a grilling basket on the grill grates. Make sure to use a heat-proof glove if the grill grate has a metal handle.
- If grilling with wooden skewers, soak skewers in water for 30 minutes before grilling. If using a wooden grilling plank, soak in water for at least 2 hours before grilling.
- If grilling inside aluminum foil packets, spray or brush the inside of the foil with oil. (It doesn't matter if you use the shiny or dull side of the foil as the outside or inside.)
- Let your fish come to room temperature for about 20 minutes before grilling. Cold fish is more likely to stick to the grill.
- Pat your fish dry. Wet fish is more likely to stick to the grill.
- Season fish with any dry seasonings desired.
- If using skewers, add fish to skewers.
- If cooking in foil, set fish inside the foil along with any vegetables, herbs, or other add-ins.
Prepare sauces or other sides:
- If brushing fish with a sauce while grilling, prepare it now.
- If serving the fish along with other sides, prepare them now so that the fish doesn't get cold while you're doing it later.
- Oil the grill grates.
- Add your fish to the grill. Cover grill, or leave uncovered for fish that cook very quickly or fish you want to keep a close eye on.Tip: I like to leave the grill cover off for lobster, scallops, or other expensive seafood.
- Cook about 10 minutes per 1 inch thickness of fish. If cooking fish in a grill basket, on skewers, or directly on the grill, brush top with oil and flip fish halfway through.
- Allow fish to rest 2-3 minutes after grilling. Serve while still hot.