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.
Why? 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
HEADS UP! THE AMAZON LINKS BELOW ARE AFFILIATE LINKS, WHICH MEANS I MAKE A SMALL COMMISSION IF YOU PURCHASE THROUGH THE LINK.
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
Don’t have a grilling basket? Shop for one here!
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 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
Don’t have cedar planks? Shop for them here!
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 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 skewers should be soaked for 30 minutes prior to grilling
- Metal skewers will become very hot. Use ones with insulated handles, or use a heat-proof glove.
Don’t have skewers? Shop for them here!
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.
- 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 glove or pot holder when moving the pan
Don’t have a cast iron pan? Shop for them here!
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