If you’ve ever grilled fish, you’ve likely scraped mangled fish off a grill at some point. There’s no better reminder that steak is sturdy and fish is delicate. We have the information you need to keep fish from sticking to the grill.
Clean the grill (only really clean it)
We all know that a little bit of charred stuff left on the grill can add flavor to grilled foods (we know it’s bad for you, but it’s Grilling Month). Unfortunately, if there’s any of it on the grates and you’re grilling fish, you can say goodbye to any attractive plating, because burned stuff attracts fish flesh and won’t let it go without a flaky, messy fight. Fire the grill up briefly to loosen the particles and to make cleaning easier, scrub the daylights out of it with a sturdy steel wire brush, rub the grates with a little vegetable oil, scrub again, then wipe down with paper towels.
Grilling fish with the skin on helps the fillet stay together. It’s not necessary if you’re for some reason averse, but it also helps keep it moist (and slightly charred grilled fish skin is delicious and good for you).
Grease it up
Since you’re cooking at such a high heat, use a high-heat oil like grapeseed or peanut. Brush the fish lightly with oil, then brush the grill just before you drop the fish on.
Heat it right
Don’t put fish on anything less than a blazing hot grill. Searing. Really, really hot. Put the lid on, walk away and come back in a while. Don’t necessarily trust the grill thermometer if yours has one, either; give it a few extra minutes. The super-hot grates will flash-cauterize the fish — anything less will stick.
Walk away. Forget that fish even exists for three minutes. Don’t even poke it. Then…
Use the right tool
You’re going to need a fish turner, AKA “a longer slotted spatula.” If you try to turn it with a regular-sized spatula, you run the risk of breakage. Slide the whole spatula under the fish and turn extremely gently.
Know your fish
Don’t insist on grilling fish that doesn’t want to be grilled, like flounder or cod. They’re just not suited for direct grilling (planks are fine) and are more susceptible to overcooking and/falling apart. Sturdy guys like tuna, swordfish, salmon and shellfish are good practice fish to develop a sense of cooking time (rule of thumb: way less than meat).
More important basics on Food Republic: