Grilling 101: Fish

For years I thought I could grill anything, chicken, steaks, pork chops, never had any problems.  Until the day by grilling ego met a scaly little creature known as fish.  No matter how hard I tried my fish was terrible, it was dry, it was broken, and looked like hot mess on a plate.  It wasn’t until recently my fish grilling techniques improved enough to master delicate delicacy and I’ve finally got the pics to prove it.

Grilled Tilapia, Asparagus & Roasted Potatoes (Photo taken by Cheryl V.)
This week I grilled up some tilapia. Tilapia is on of my favorite fillets because it’s a very mild fish and great for testing seasoning blends. It’s also very inexpensive; a package of 12-15 filets at Costco or Sam’s is about $25.  As with most fish tilapia is good for you, 6 ounces  is only 219 calories, packs 45 grams of protein and contains only 4.5 grams of fat, so I can eat a lot of it without breaking my caloric budget.
Although I’ve had my difficulties, I’m not one to let a slice of aquatic protein kick my butt.  Here’s a few trick’s I’ve learned to grill moist, delicious and whole fillets…most of the time.

Seasoned and Oiled Filet
  1. Lubricate!  One way to avoid cooking up a pile of fish shrapnel, make sure my grates and fish fillets are well lubed with a good coat of cooking spray.  I coat the grates with a good cook of spray cooking oil or Pam.  I also spray a light coat on the fillets then season with a little rub. 
  2. At the Turn.  Fish seams to cook better on a hot grill 425-450º.  Once I lay the fillet on the grill just let it cook for 4-6 minutes and resist any temptation to flip or touch the fish what so ever.  I just let the fish cook and get a good sear, once its seared it will easily release from the grate and flip in one whole piece.  It just takes a little patience and a very thin spatula helps too.
  3. Don’t Over Do It.  After the flip I let the fish cook until it reaches and internal temperature of 140º.  Cooking to the proper temperature ensures the fish will be moist and delicious.
  4. If all else fails get a set of GrillGrates.*  They make cooking fish easier but I still follow steps 1-3 religiously, no matter what cooking surface I’m using.             *Disclaimer, I received no compensation for the plug, I just really believe in the product and use them regularly.
Tilapia on the grill
My fish cooking has improved greatly but not yet perfected but I’ll keep trying.  I still break a few fillets, but for the most part they come whole and blog worthy.  My cats are still enjoying the broken fillets but there are fewer of them. As for my grilling ego it’s fully restored and probably bigger than ever, just ask my wife.

5 thoughts on “Grilling 101: Fish

  1. Fish was very scary to me too, as grilling other meats was easy, but fish fillets was very intimidating. I've learned to have a light hand with both heat and time when grilling fish.

    A cedar plank works great under the fillet to keep the fish from turning into “fish schrapnel”.

    I also learned from you that your Green Chile Rub rocks on fish, if used lightly.

  2. Fantastic looking fish! I cant get mine looking like that. We eat a lot of Tilapia here and it is on the Lodge menu for two meals a week. One lunch as part of a salad and one main course grilled. I dont cook it it, its done by the lodge chefs and it varies immensely. And THAT is where the skill comes in! Consistency. I have mastered crumbed or floured fried fish but I really need to get my grilled fish to look like yours.

  3. These instructions followed correctly will ensure your fish are beautiful. In my experiance most folks try and move the fish to check for doneness before the flip. Trust the time and temp above and it will not burn. like Kirk said, LEAVE IT ALONE!

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