Using a Bar-Be-Que grill for preparing fish is a great way to create unique flavors. But because fish is a delicate meat to handle, there is often a fear that preparing it this way will cause it to fall apart. However, you can prevent this from happening by mastering a few grilling techniques designed specifically for fish. Here are some tips and on how to Bar-Be-Que fish for great results every time.
Start with a clean grill –
Good heat distribution and a very clean grate will assure that your fish cooks evenly without sticking to the grate surface. Clean out old ashes and coat your grate with a light oil or non-stick spray. Do not apply too much oil or spray the grate over hot charcoal because the coating will flare and burn.
Be sure the charcoal and grate is hot –
Fish is best prepared on a hot surface. Let your coals become red-hot then spread them evenly in your grill and allow to turn totally white before grilling the fish. You want a hot temperature, but not too hot as this can cause fish to cook too quickly or dry out. Also be sure your grate is hot before placing fish on the surface to prevent sticking. The grate should be hot enough to create a slight sizzle when you place the fish on it.
Always use fresh fish –
Any type of fish you Bar-Be-Que should be fresh, well-textured and firm. Frozen fish does not hold up well because the freezing and thawing process breaks down the texture and natural oils in the meat. Thick cuts of fish, preferably with the skin left on one side, hold up better on the grate. The flavors and oils in fish are actually in the skin and transferred to the meat while cooking. The skin can be removed before eating, or cooked thoroughly to add an added crunchy texture to the meat. The fish should be cool, but not cold when placed on the grate.
Season fish only while cooking –
If you are adding any type of seasoning, do so only while the fish is on the grill. Almost all seasonings contain salt, which will dry out fish if applied too early and cause the fish to fall apart while cooking.
Handle light textured fish delicately –
Light textured fish like tilapia and halibut will easily fall apart and fall through the grate. Support these types of fish by using a grill fish basket or covering your grate with heavy-duty aluminum foil with a few holes poked through the surface. Do not use thin foil as it will burn and fall apart over hot coals.
Do not over cook and over turn the fish –
Fish cooks very quickly and needs to be monitored constantly while on the grill. Over cooking fish will dry it out and cause it to fall apart. Normally, most fish will require only 5 to 10 minutes of cooking time. Thicker textured and larger cuts of fish like salmon and shark will usually require more cooking time, but should still be watched carefully while over the coals. All types of fish should be turned only once while on the grate. When one side is seared, flip the fish with a large spatula and continue cooking the other side for an equal amount of time. Keep in mind that due to their high oil levels, fish will continue to cook internally for a few minutes even after removing from the grate.
Create aromatic smoke for extra flavors –
Adding aromatic wood chips like hickory or mesquite to your hot charcoal will create deeper flavors in the fish. Wood chips should be thoroughly soaked in water before using to avoid flare ups. For salmon, placing whole, large dill sprigs directly on the grate beside the salmon and closing the lid while barbecuing works very well.