July 12, 2014
The truth of the matter is that grilling fish on the barbie, though possibly daunting at first, needn’t be a difficult experience. You do hear of people that just won’t barbecue fish anymore as they lose too much to the bottom of the barbecue or it all sticks to the grill. With a few very simple little tricks, grilling fish can be as rewarding as it is delicious.
To begin with, you’ll want to choose the freshest fish you can find. If you are shopping at the supermarket be sure to check the date the fish was packaged. When using fish that has been filleted use my rule of thumb and pick one that was packaged no more that 48 hours prior. If shopping at the market or at the fish monger, be sure to pick a fish that has crystal clear eyes. Frozen fillets are fine to use as they are normally flash-frozen but look out for any signs of freezer burn (whitish, dry-looking patches) as this indicates that it has been frozen for too long. Fish that has been frozen should be defrosted in the refrigerator. The fish in the above picture is trout, a mild-flavoured fish introduced to Australia in the latter part of the 19th to the earlier part of the 20th century depending on the region. Salmon, snapper, barramundi, bream and John Dory are all good choices for grilling with the skin on.
When grilling fish on the barbie you’ll want to rinse it thoroughly and pat it dry before seasoning it. If not already done, be sure to remove any scales that the fish monger may have missed. Bones are present in many types of fillets and there really isn’t anything you can do about them. The key to the bones is to either learn how to separate them from the fish right before serving or to just serve as is but remember to advise your guests to watch for bones.
After having rinsed and dried the fish thoroughly season it right away. The choice is up to you when it comes to the seasoning though go sparingly if using a mild flavoured fish. Naturally, there are different techniques when it comes to seasoning fish, such as pungent spices and wrapping it in banana leaves Asian-style or Cajun blackening from the south of the USA but we will look at those in other chapters of the Poseidon’s Bounty Series. For the time being, start off with simple Murray River salt, black pepper and olive oil to season. Be sure to get the oil and seasoning on both sides of the fish. Place the fish, skin-side down on the grill. Once the fish has been placed on the grill and the skin has seared (see the next caption), baste it with a melted herbed-butter such as one made with dill or parsley, roughly two parts butter to 1 part herb with salt and pepper to taste. Baste the fish as often as you like but be careful of the flare-ups caused by the butter. The hood of the barbie should be closed in-between basting. If your barbie doesn’t have a hood, I suggest tenting it loosely with foil while it cooks. Click on the image to view our BBQXL 4 piece deluxe toolset.
If the fillets you’ve chosen are long, as is the case with the trout fillets seen above, it’s wise to slice them in half across the width before proceeding to the grill. You should have pieces that fit comfortably on your spatula. If it’s a larger piece of fish, cut it to fit your spatula. This will help when nudging the fish loose from the grill and removing it to serve. Make sure that your barbie is very hot, around the 250C mark. This will ensure that the skin sears on contact and minimises any possible sticking.
With the spatula turned upside down and using downward pressure, gently nudge the fish clear of the grill. Do not use excessive force or you will end up breaking the fish. The movement should be gentle and the fish will come lose from the grill when it’s ready. Don’t force it.
When fish is grilled in this manner, it is not necessary to flip it to flesh-side down. When the hood on the barbie is closed, the fish will cook through to perfection. If the fillet is very thick, such as snapper, you may want to reduce the heat and move it to an indirect heat position on the bbq once the skin has seared. To test for doneness, using a fork, flake away a small portion of the fillet. It should flake away effortlessly when fully cooked.
When serving fish from the grill you may wonder about what to serve with it. Hotplate-cherry tomatoes are an excellent option and are really easy to make. Try to find cherry tomatoes that are still attached to the vine and simply rinse them gently under cold water ensuring not to knock them of their stems. Season with extra virgin olive oil, Murray River salt and black pepper.
Cooking on a hotplate is simple! Just be sure to grease it sufficiently to avoid anything from sticking, prior to placing it over the fire .
The stainless steel hotplate seen above is actually from the BBQXL Bamboo chopping block and stainless steel tray set. Though there are many uses for the tray itself, it makes a fantastic griddle and the fact that it can go from the hot bbq to the bamboo tray and then directly to the table ensures that the food gets there fresh and hot! Click on the image for more info.
When the tomatoes have browned around the bottoms and the skins are splitting slightly they’re ready. Sprinkle with another light dusting of salt and pepper and season further with your choice of herbs such as basil or oregano. You can even opt to sprinkle them lightly with your choice of vinegar.
Now, back to the fish!
When the fish is ready you should be able to separate it clear from the skin with little to no effort. How you enjoy it is up to you in this case and quite honestly skin-on can be delicious; if the skin has been cooked properly, and I mean crispy and not moist, it will have the grilled flavour we all love laced with salt, pepper, herbs and butter. A treat!
Serve the fish with the tomatoes and a fresh sprig of the herb you used to season it. You can also serve it with a small bowl of herbed butter for dipping. This makes an excellent starter course or main course when accompanied by a side of wild or wholegrain rice.
Enjoy and Happy Grilling!