How to perfectly cook fish on a bbq

We all love outdoor cooking, and eating, when the weather allows. Traditionally, people rush out and plunder the butchers, or local supermarket, for the best cuts of meat – however, fish makes a great BBQ cooking alternative!

Whilst some people may go into a blind panic when faced with cooking fish on a BBQ – it can be more complicated than grilling meats, but it doesn’t have to be difficult – and the results of successfully cooked fish are amazingly tasty and satisfying!

Here are some tips as to how to properly prepare for, and execute, the perfect barbecued fish:

When buying your fish

  • Ensure that it is fresh – and BBQ it on the day of purchase
  • Try and buy thicker cuts – steaks and fillets will cook more easily
  • If cooking a whole fish, ask the fishmonger to clean, gut and scale it for you

Prepare the grill

  • Ensure the grill (especially the grid) is clean – the biggest problem people have when trying to BBQ fish is it sticking to the cooking grid
  • Prepare the BBQ grill so that you have access to two cooking zones – both direct and indirect heat will be needed to successfully cook the fish
  • Leave the skin on the fish – this helps keep the fish complete and stops the flaking
  • Lightly oil both the cooking grids, and the fish, with a high-heat oil to prevent the dreaded sticking

Prepare the fish

  • Simply season the fish with salt and pepper
  • If applying any citrus flavouring (lemon, lime or orange), try grilling them and then squeezing the juice over the fish just prior to serving
  • If marinating your fish, ensure you don’t overdo it – 30 -60 minutes MAXIMUM, or the fish could deteriorate, or even start to ‘chemically’ cook!

Thick fish

  • Meaty fish like tuna, salmon, swordfish or shark can be bought as thick steaks or fillets, and are best seared over a high heat
  • Cook, initially, flesh side DOWN to create sear marks, then turn over to the skin side to finish
  • Searing can take 3-5 minutes per side. If the fish is sticking to the grid when you try to turn, or flip it, it isn’t ready!

Thinner Fish

  • Leaner fish like cod, haddock and sea bass can be more difficult to BBQ – they have a tendency to flake more easily whilst cooking. These are best grilled on a pre-heated pizza stone with a parchment paper lining or barrier.
  • You can use a grilling plank to good effect with the thinner fillets and more delicate fish
  • Alternatively, you can BBQ the fish in a foil pouch with butter and even vegetables, or use a grilling basket to hold the fish above the cooking grills
  • For smaller seafood items, such as prawns, shrimp, scallops and squid, then cooking on a skewer over the heat works well.

A whole fish

  • Cut slits in the skin of both sides of the fish and season thoroughly
  • You can flavour the fish by filling the cavity with sliced citrus fruits and appropriate fresh herbs, if you wish
  • Use indirect heat to cook the fish – if you wish to ‘crisp up’ the skin towards the end of the cooking, then apply over direct heat

How to tell when cooked

  • The flesh will flake easily and will be opaque right through
  • Insert a metal BBQ skewer, knife or fork into the thickest part of the fish and leave it for a few seconds. On withdrawal, if the implement is warm to touch, then the fish is cooked through.
  • A general guide to follow is to allow 10 minutes cooking per inch of thickness in the fish.


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