School may be out for summer, but that doesn’t mean you still can’t learn a thing or two. What better way to boost your brain power than by combining two of the most loved aspects of the season – barbecue and the ocean – than to grilling up some fresh fish? With its mind-boosting omega-3s, grilled fish will ensure that you clear your brain of the summer “fog,” and when done right, it will blow those boring hamburgers and hot dogs out of the water. So get ready for Grilling Fish 101.
1. Fish Selection As any cook knows, starting with the right ingredients is the key to a successful dish. First, choose a hardier fish, such as salmon, tuna, swordfish or sea bass, because they all hold up well on the grill. Avoid delicate fish like cod as it tends to break apart when grilling. Also, it is best to grill thick, skin-on filets or steaks since they are sturdier and easier to flip.
2. Flavorings The only way to truly ruin a piece of fish is to overcook it, so get creative with flavor! Experiment with different spice rubs and marinades until you find your favorite. Salmon can stand up to more robust seasonings because of its naturally intense flavor, but to highlight the simple flavors of any fish, I recommend seasoning it with just a little lemon juice, salt, and pepper. (See below for great fish grilling recipes.)
3. Prepare the Grill Having your fish stick to the grates of your grill will earn you a failing grade in this Fish 101, but such a mishap can be prevented by properly preparing the grill. First, loosely place aluminum foil or a disposable aluminum pan over the grates and preheat the grill on high for at least ten minutes before adding the fish. Doing so will ensure a completely clean and hot (a hot grill is key) cooking surface, which helps prevent sticking. Next, remove the foil and brush the grates clean with a wired-grill brush. To further avoid sticking, rub the grates with an oil soaked paper towel until grill appears shiny.
4. Cooking the Fish Before placing it on the grill, dab fish dry and brush with oil to create the best sear and to avoid sticking. Turn the grill down to medium heat, add fish (skin side up if grilling filets), and flip with a fine-edged spatula halfway through cooking. In general, for every inch of thickness, fish should be cooked for approximately ten minutes until the fish separates into flakes, appears opaque and reaches an internal temperature of 145⁰F. BE CAREFUL! Check the fish two minutes before the estimated cook time is up because fish continues to cook once removed from the heat source, and as any good student knows, overcooking fish will earn you a spot in detention.
5. Alternatives If grilling directly on the grates still seems to be above your grade level, there are some easy alternatives, such as grilling the fish en papillote, which involves cooking the fish in an enclosed pouch or envelope of aluminum foil. Simply wrap the fish along with vegetables, lemon juice and additional seasonings in a foil pouch and grill over medium heat. Although this method is easy, it does take away from the smoky flavors produced by the grill.
Now, what would any 101 course be without a final exam? It’s time for you to put your newfound knowledge to the test with these basic tips and yummy recipes from grillmaster Bobby Flay!