The Beginner’s Guide to Perfectly Grilling Fish

Photo: Andrey Trusov/Unsplash

By: Patterson Riley

Grilled fish is definitely delicious, but it’s so delicate that it can be the most difficult food to grill. Don’t let that keep you from enjoying it, though! All you have to do is know the proper technique, which is much easier to master than you might think. Here are some of the basics that you should know by heart.

1.    Don’t “Undress” the Fish!

How to properly grill fish - Photo: Patterson Riley/
Photo: Patterson Riley/

Although plenty of recipes ask you to skin the fish, it’s different with grilling. Why? Basically, grilling is a method of cooking that requires action in order to cook the food just right. It’s not like baking meat, where all you have to do is season it, put it in a baking pan, slide the whole thing into the oven, and wait until it’s ready.

So, if you’re going to grill a fish fillet, you can prevent it from falling apart by keeping the skin intact. This would ensure that everything stays together. There are also some types of fish, such as mackerel and trout, that have thin skin, and grilling them gives a mouth-watering crispy skin when grilled.

On the other hand, tougher-skinned fish can be an exception for this. You can grill them even without the skin on.

2.    Prepare the Grill.

Tips for grilling fish - Photo: Patterson Riley/
Photo: Patterson Riley/

Before putting the fish on the rack, make sure that you have already preheated it on high.

Doing this has plenty of benefits, such as bringing the grill up to the temperature that would caramelize the fish and bring out all of its immense flavor. It will also lessen the amount of time of having your fish stay on the grill (overcooking is a huge reason why some grilled fish tastes dry).

Lastly, it’s the secret of fish that doesn’t stick to the grill! Yes, you read that right. Even with leaner fish, it would naturally release itself when it’s cooked — only if you have preheated your grill correctly.

3.    Check the Temperature.

Another helpful tip when it comes to grilling is monitoring the temperature. It doesn’t matter if your fish has skin or not, the temperature should stay at medium to high heat. Usually, around 400-450 degrees Fahrenheit is ideal.

4.    Brush, Brush, Brush!

How to grill a fish - Photo: Patterson Riley/
Photo: Patterson Riley/

Now that you’re almost ready to start grilling, make sure there isn’t any debris on your cooking grates. Give it a quick brush using a stainless steel brush. You don’t want your fish to have some odd taste; that’d completely ruin the experience, no matter how perfectly grilled it is.

Also, sometimes this can be the reason why your fish is sticking to your grates — it’s either because you didn’t preheat it properly, or failed to clean the grates thoroughly.

5. Consider Using a Fish Basket.

If you’re still having a hard time grilling your fish, then you should try using a fish basket. This would keep the fish from flaking apart. Also, fish baskets are available in various shapes and sizes.

The principle behind the fish basket is that it keeps the fish in place, so instead of flipping the fish itself, you flip the whole basket containing it. This prevents the meat from falling apart, even if it’s already without skin.

Here are a few other useful tips: 

How to grill salmon - Photo: Patterson Riley/
Photo: Patterson Riley/
  • Look for the perfect spatula: The key to flipping a fish perfectly is by using a spatula specifically made for it.
  • A light coat of oil can also prevent the fish from getting stuck on the grates while grilling.
  • For fish fillets, the grilling time would be around 10 minutes per inch of thickness.
  • When grilling a fish with skin, it’s recommended to grill the flesh side first, then flip it on the other side after some time. Basically, the flesh side should consume 70 percent of the cooking time to ensure that it won’t flake once you flip it.
  • Know your local fishmonger! It’s important to know where your fish was from, and the way it was caught. Though, it would be better if you’ll be catching your fish instead. Don’t worry, it’s not that hard anyway, as long as you use the right equipment, such as a braided fishing line. This would allow you to catch fish like a pro.


About the Author: 

Patterson Riley - bloggerMy name is Patterson. I have a strong understanding and passion for all things related to fishing. When I am not out wetting a line, I am sharing a range of tips and tricks on Fall For Fishing — to help others to snag their big catch!




Top Photo: Andrey Trusov/Unsplash

1 Comment

  1. Jeremy says: Reply

    All of a sudden, I have the worst craving for salmon … excellent post!

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