Friday, June 13, 2008

Easy Tips for Grilling Fish

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Perfectly grilled fish can be tricky and intimidating, because it's so easy to overcook (and therefore ruin) fish on the grill. But if you follow these easy tips, and err on the side of undercooking (generally, fish will be done *before* you think it's done), you'll have perfect grilled fish every time. Credit for these tips goes to my husband Greg, the king of grilled fish.

* Cleanliness is key: Make sure the grates on your grill are thoroughly clean before you attempt to grill fish. Dirty grates are sticky grates, and sticky grates spell disaster for fish. These award-winning GrillGrates are ideal for grilling fish (and anything else) because of their unique ridged surface and superior temperature control.

* Oil your grates: After you clean your grates and before you light your grill, wipe the grates down with an oil that has a high smoke point. The coating of oil over the clean grates will create an ideal non-stick surface. Greg likes using pure olive oil, but I say stick with peanut oil or something else with a very high smoke point.

* Oil your fish: Either brush both sides of the fish with oil (again, a high smoke point is crucial), or spray both sides with a non-stick spray.

* Patience is a virtue: After you light the grill but before you place the fish on the grates, make sure the grates are hot enough to quickly sear the fish. If the grates aren't yet hot enough, the fish is more likely to stick to them.

* Restraint is also a virtue: Flip the fish exactly once. The more times you flip, the more likely the fish will break apart.

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* Wider is better: Use a wide spatula that can hold the entire piece of fish as you flip it. Greg and I have a nifty metal spatula that "fans open" into 3 blades, thereby tripling the surface. You can also use a fish basket, sold where grills and grilling tools are sold, and you can also order online on our BBQ & Grill Accessories page. The fish basket will let you turn all your pieces of fish at once and hold them together (no risk of fish falling through the grill grates).

* Uniformity is a good thing: One problem with most fish fillets is that the thickness will vary greatly within the single piece of fish. That usually causes one end to be overdone while the other end is not yet fully cooked. If possible, cut the raw fish into pieces that are a uniform thickness to ensure the entire piece will be done at the same time.

* Marinades are your friend: Especially if you plan on grilling one of the "fishy-tasting" types of fish, a good marinade will help remove any undesirable flavors while also enhancing the taste of the fish. Marinating for 30 minutes to 2 hours is enough for fish, and don't use a mostly-vinegar marinade because that could "cure" the fish. A marinade with a bit of oil can really help keep the fish moist and in one piece while grilling.

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* Use a grilling plank: Instead of placing your fish in a grilling basket or directly on your grill, use a wood grilling plank that's been soaked in water for a delightful, lightly smoked flavor. Grilling on a plank is a popular cooking method in the Pacific Northwest, and will ensure your fish remains moist and in one piece. Popular wood choices include cedar and alderwood, but you can also use fruit woods or even maple grilling planks. I don't recommend hickory or mesquite because their flavors are too strong for fish.

* Use high heat. Remember, fish is more delicate and has less "mass" than poultry or meat. You want to sear and quickly cook the fish, which means high heat. "Long & slow" is the enemy of edible grilled fish.

* Remember the "carry-over" effect. When you grill fish, there is enough residual heat in the fish that it will continue to cook even after you remove it from the grill. If you keep the fish on the grill until it is fully cooked, you'll end up with dried-out, overdone fish - yuck. Instead, remove the fish from the grill when it's almost but not quite done. The carry-over heat will finish cooking it to perfection as you plate it. It's better to err on the side of underdone fish, because you can always "nuke" the fish for 15 seconds or so in the microwave if the carry-over effect doesn't completely finish cooking it -- but you cannot "undo" overcooking.

* The finishing touch: Just before you think you're going to remove the fish from the grill (maybe a minute or so before), drizzle a little sauce or fresh marinade over it. This adds great flavor without burning, since the sauce will only be exposed to high heat for just a minute. If you prefer a simpler flavor, use melted butter and lemon, but keep in mind that butter has a low smoke point (it will burn quite easily) so wait until you're ready to remove the fish from the grill.

Zestfully yours,

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