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  • VOL 08, ISSUE 01 • WINTER 2020
A Winning Grill

A Winning Grill

Follow these tips for grilling the best fish

They say if you give a man a fish, he can eat for a day, but if you teach a man to fish, he’ll eat for a lifetime. But what about showing someone how to properly grill that fish? Well, then she not only eats for a lifetime, but also continues to bring joy to so many others who feast on that delicious fare.

Getting that perfectly cooked fish takes skill, and it all starts with selecting the right type of fish to throw on a grill.

“Avoid delicate, flaky fish like tile fish, cod and catfish,” advises Adam Hodgson, executive chef at 5Church in Charleston, S.C. “You want to grill a fish that will hold up on the grill and retain moisture like cobia, triggerfish or wild striped bass. You’re looking for more dense meat, preferably fatty.”

Ensure you ready your grill. It has to be cleaned, seasoned and primed. Sure, it sounds like “grilling fish 101,” but we’ve seen enough mangled fish in our time to know not everyone understands the techniques.

“First, make sure it’s clean and then oiled with a towel or some paper towels soaked in oil,” says Jeffrey S. Merry, corporate executive chef with Reinhart Foodservice in Boston. “That will help with the sticking of the seafood.”

Prepare your fish with a simple brine or add seasoning or a citrus profile, but unlike meat, you don’t need to marinate fish for more than approximately 30 minutes.

“A lot of times with marinades, there’s an acid and if you take something delicate like fish, acid can break down the cell structure and tenderize it,” Merry said. “Lime and lemon juice can actually cook the fish.”

When heating the grill, gas can be easier to control than wood or charcoal, but Hodgson favors coals.

“Wood flares up and could cause burns or excessive charring,” he says. “Coal will add a nice smoky flavor as well as keeping that heat consistent.”

Don’t even dare overcook the fish by leaving it on the fire too long. Merry likes cooking fish in a cast iron atop the grill as it acts as a heat conductor to get a good sear. Hodgson says to ensure your grills are hot to avoid sticking and suggests putting your presentation side down first because, “that will make the best marks,” he says. And give you the highest marks for your grilled fish as well.