On Saturday night, I arrived in Key West, Florida for a week-long vacation filled with drinking beer on the street and scarfing down as much seafood as I can possibly handle. I’ve already eaten soft shell crabs, conch fritters, prawns, oysters, grouper, anything that I can get my hands on really. As a Chicagoan, the opportunity to indulge in fresh seafood is rare, and while we’ve been hitting up local haunts like B.O.’s Fish Wagon, we also wanted to visit the seafood markets and prepare the fish ourselves.
Yesterday, we headed over to Eaton Street Seafood Market and picked up some grouper and yellow snapper fillets with the intention of grilling them. I’m not experience with the grill, especially when it comes to a delicate meat like fish.
Let’s just say that it was a valuable learning experience. Determined to improve, I embarked on a research project and compiled a list of facts on grilling fish from around the internet. Here’s what I discovered:
the learning curve
Choose your fish
Prep Your Station
Grill grates are like a photo album. The memories of all former dinners coat the grill with muddled, smoky flavor. To start, you’ll have to clean the grill well. This prevents that smoky, meaty flavor from tarnishing the fish. This will also prevent the grill from sticking. The best way to do this is to light all the coals and cover it for five minutes. When the grill heats up, it’s much easier to scrape away all the nasty residue with a grill brush.
Once it is clean, oil it well. Don’t forget to let the grill fully heat up before adding the fish, but don’t dawdle. When it comes to grilling, time is of the essence so have your fish prepped and ready to go. Blast the heat!
Toss it on the grill
The goal is to pull the fish just before it’s done cooking. To check for doneness, take a fork and flake away a bit of skin. if the meat is opaque with a slight translucent center, it’s ready. If you use a thermometer, it should read between 130-135° F before coming off the grill.
Once it’s done, squirt with a bit of lemon. That’s about all you’ll need.
If you choose to grill a whole fish, which is much more difficult to overcook. Cut 3 -5 slashes perpendicular to the back bone on each side of the fish. The slashes should be 1 -2 inches apart. There should be more slashes towards the head, where it’s thicker. Stuff the cavities with lemon slices and fresh herbs, oil it well and place it on a piping hot grill. Let it sit for at least 3 minutes before flipping it. A fish that weighs 1/2 -1 pound will take about 5 – 7 minutes per side, or about 10 minutes of cooking per inch of thickness on each side. Test for doneness by sliding a thin skewer into the thickest part. It should be removed easily.