Grilled fish is significantly more nutritious than most barbecue fare. Unfortunately, it’s not always easy to manage; try to cook fish like you’d cook a burger, and you’ll end up scraping half of your meal off of your grill. With a bit of prep, you can prevent flaking and greatly improve your versatility as a grill master. Here’s everything you need to know.
1. Don’t remove the skin.
If you’re cooking salmon, whitefish, or other fatty fish, leave the skin in place while you cook. The skin will hold the meat together, and you can remove it easily after cooking if you’d rather not eat it.
Start grilling with the skin side down. Oil both the grates and both sides of the fish, and the meat should hold when cooked over low or medium heat.
2. Consider using a pre-soaked plank.
If you’re still worried about flaking, consider plank grilling. Take an untreated plank of wood (cedar, hickory, maple, and cherry work especially well) and soak it in water for at least two hours.
Keep the plank on the cool side of the barbecue, and you’ll be able to impart some great smokey flavor while cooking the fish over indirect heat. This method can take longer, and you won’t get as crispy of a skin, but it’s an ideal technique when working with thicker cuts.
3. Think of other ways to separate the fish from the grill.
One particularly novel tactic: Cut some slices of lemon or lime, then lay the fish on the slices. This is a particularly useful trick for cooking salmon, which benefits greatly from a touch of citrus.
If you spend a lot of time in front of your barbecue, you might consider investing in a fish basket. These inexpensive devices keep fish intact, and when you’re ready to flip the meat, you simply flip the entire basket.
Most fish also cook well in aluminum foil packets. Just be sure to oil the meat liberally, as foil can stick.
4. Control the heat.
Fish cooks best over medium heat. High heat will dry out the meat and cause flaking, so if you’re dealing with either of these issues, you probably need to lower the temperature of the grill or move the fish off to the side. When in doubt, remember that lower heat won’t ruin the fish.
Ideally, you’ll only flip your fish once. If the meat has its skin, flip it when it’s about 75 percent cooked (about 4-5 minutes for most single-serving fillets). Let it rest for a few minutes after removing it from the grill, and you’ll have a deliciously satisfying addition to your barbecue menu.