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How to Grill Fish Perfectly Without Letting it Flake

Updated on September 30, 2010

Grilling is something that you get better at the more that you do it. That's because it's something of an intuitive form of cooking. You have to use your senses; look at the food on the grill and smell it and get a sense of texture to tell whether or not it's done grilling. This is definitely true when you are grilling fish. However, there are some basic guidelines that you can follow to make it more likely that your grilling will go well.

Choosing the Right Fish to Grill

Good grilling starts with choosing the right cuts of meat. When it comes to fish, the type of fish that you choose doesn't really matter. What does matter is the cut of fish. Fish comes in whole round, pan-ready, steaks and fillet cuts. The most difficult cut of fish to grill is the fillet. This is because it doesn't have too many bones in it to help hold it together as it grills. It's the cut that is most likely to flake and fall apart. Many people don't like to get whole round or pan-ready fish, though, because there are too many bones and skin to deal with. Grilling fish is supposed to be an easy meal and it's a lot more complicated when you have to deal with the fish bones once it is grilled. For that reason, fish steaks are usually the top choice for grilling fish.

Preparation for Grilling Fish

Grilling a fish is easy. In fact, you will probably spend more time on the prep work than you will on actually grilling. That's because it typically only takes a few minutes to grill a fish but there are some important preparation steps that you need to take first. You'll want to start with a clean grill that you heat properly according to the manufacturer's suggestions. It usually takes about twenty minutes for a grill to get up to its full heat.

Second, you'll want to prepare the fish. The most important thing is to make sure that the fish isn't going to stick to the grill. Brushing the fish with olive oil is the easiest way to do this. A flavored olive oil, such as a lemon oil, will add flavor and help the fish to avoid sticking to the grill. Another option is to oil the grill instead. At this time, you can also season your fish with dry seasons (such as salt and pepper) if you so choose.

Grilling your Fish

Now that you've picked the right fish and prepared it, you've come to what you'll eventually begin to see is the easy part: actually grilling the fish. When the surface of the grill is hot and ready, add the fish to the grill. Leave the fish on the grill without touching it until the edges of the fish begin to look slightly flaky. If you are working with fish steaks, you'll look at the edge that does not have skin on it when eyeing it for signs of flakiness.

When the fish just begins to get flaky, you will flip the fish over on the grill. The ideal way to flip your fish on the grill is to use a broiler fork. The fork can slide between the bars on the grate of the grill and completely under the fish. Flipping the fish with the form from the center of the fish makes it less likely that it will fall apart. This is especially true if you have chosen to grill fillets instead of steaks. Grill the other side of the fish for approximately as long as it took to grill the first side of the fish. The fish will probably only need a couple of minutes on each side to be ready to go.

Additional Tips for Grilling your Fish

Some other things that might help you when grilling your fish include:

  • You can always add butter or olive oil to the fish as it is cooking. If you notice that the fish is starting to dry out, simply drizzle a bit more olive oil on to it. You don't want a dry fish because it won't taste good and it's also more likely to stick to the grill
  • If you choose to grill whole fish then realize that it's going to take a little bit longer for the fish to cook. One great tip is to add a bit of stuffing to the fish - lemon slices work great - to open it up for allowing in more heat and reducing your grilling time.
  • Before flipping your fish or removing it from the grill, use your broiler fork to slightly lift up the fish. Look underneath the fish to see if there are grill marks on the fish. If there are, the fish is ready to be flipped or removed from the grill.
  • Test the fish with a fork before removing it from the grill. If it doesn't flake fairly easily then it is not cooked all the way through and needs to be grilled a little bit longer.
  • Eye the fish for an opaque quality when you are grilling. You want your fish to be opaque because this indicates that it is done cooking. If you can see through the fish at all then it needs a little bit more time on the grill.
  • If you regularly have problems with your fish falling apart on the grill then you might want to invest in a grill fish basket. The problem may simply be that you are using fillets. However, it is more likely due to the fact that you are choosing delicate fish (such as tilapia or flounder) rather than meaty fish (like salmon and tuna). If you prefer delicate fish fillets then a fish basket will make grilling much easier. If you don't have a fish basket, you put foil on the grill to catch the flaky parts of the fish so that you can eat them.


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  • profile image

    Jaylene 3 years ago

    Fiidnng this post solves a problem for me. Thanks!

  • profile image

    Marilyn 3 years ago

    Still looking for the reivew from you guys on the char broil gas and electric grills. There are also small metal cans like tuna cans you can buy that have wood chips for smoke flavor. I'm more partial to smoking, but it's nice to be able to do both or either. I'm not big on burnt fat flavor and have used maple chipsefbbbf and cherry chips for brats and chicken. Piercing is best for draining the fat. George Foreman grills burn grill lines and I didn't care for that and cleaning was a pain. Keep looking

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    Shanna 3 years ago

    Ah, i see. Well tht'as not too tricky at all!"

  • minnow profile image

    minnow 7 years ago from Seattle

    great hub! thumbs up!

  • ocbill profile image

    ocbill 7 years ago from hopefully somewhere peaceful and nice

    makes me think of the ever so delicious grilled salmon.