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How To Perfectly Grill Fish Outdoors - Tips For Every Kind of Grill

Jul 15th 2022

Grilling salmon on a grill in foil with shallots and onion

You have had a successful day of fishing or you picked up a whole fresh fish from the farmer’s market and that is when inspiration struck: this would be perfect on the grill! 

If you haven’t grilled fish outdoors before and are not sure where to begin, Fireside BBQ & Appliance can help you get started.

Selecting the Perfect Fish to Grill

There are two components to learning how to grill fish outdoors; what kind of fish to grill and what kind of heating method you have.

Fresh fish come in all shapes and sizes. Large and robust fish, like salmon and white fish varieties, are easier to filet and cook in sections. Smaller or delicate fish will require a different type of cooking method - like wrapping in foil or using a grill basket.

Fresh seafood variety on ice

Robust, easy to grill fish like salmon or white fish are good beginner options. If you are eager to learn how to grill a whole fish, then let that be your guide. If you select a delicate fish the key will be how you prep it for the grill.

Here are our top recommendations for learning how to grill fish outdoors.

  • Best Fish Filets
    • Salmon
    • Swordfish
    • Tuna
  • Best Whole Fish
    • Salmon
    • Mahi-Mahi
    • Snapper
  • Best Delicate Fish
    • Tilapia 
    • Flounder
    • Sole

Now that you have selected a fish, let’s cover the four main grill types to grill them on.

How to Grill Fish on a Charcoal Grill

A popular grill choice with iconic brands like Everdure or Kamadocharcoal grilling is an iconic staple on the nationwide barbecue landscape.

A Big Green Egg Kamado large modular grill with nesting station and charcoal bag

Benefits of grilling a fish on a charcoal grill include:

  • Taste
  • Temperature control
  • High temperatures and quick ignition
  • Zone cooking

Charcoal kicks out a lot of heat, and grilling fish requires a delicate touch. If you are grilling on the grate, spray/coat the grate (not the fish) with oil to limit sticking. If you are learning how to grill fish filets with the skin on, start with the skin side down.

Make sure to utilize the temperature zones. Charcoal can be moved around the bed. Hotter, active coals can be used for a quick sear. Cooler, less active coals take longer to cook but will produce a more even temperature.

Charcoal grills produce excellent flavors to enhance the fish but make sure you monitor the cooking process and shift the coals as needed to keep temperatures accurate.

How to Grill Fish on a Wood Pallet Grill

A Traeger Timberline series wood pellet grill

Traeger has a fantastic following of devoted grill masters nationwide and is one of the most popular wood pellet grills on the market.

Benefits of grilling a fish on a wood pellet grill include:

  • Easy ignition
  • Easy to use
  • Even heat distribution
  • Packs a smoky flavor punch

An excellent option for learning how to grill whole fish because of the ability to keep and maintain temperatures. Whole fish grilling is tricky because you will be unable to see the flesh until you cut into the skin.

Learning how to grill fish filets is easy to master on a wood pallet grill - you can be confident in your grill temperatures for perfect grill marks. Plus, depending on which wood smoke you use, creating mouth-watering flavor profiles is easy with a Traeger grill.

How To Grill Fish on a Gas Grill

Gas grills are one of the most common types of home grills in the nation because they are economical and efficient.

A Summerset Alturi gas grill with rotisserie

Benefits of grilling fish on a gas grill include:

  • Economical and efficient
  • Easy to clean
  • Portable gas grills commonly available
  • Emit little smoke

If you plan to grill directly on the grate, make sure the grate receives a coating of. Apply oil after each batch since it will burn off during cooking. If you are starting out, learning how to grill fish with filets will be easier.

If you have a lot of fish to grill and your grill has a smaller surface area, cooking in stages will benefit your timing. Finish with a quick sear and serve.

How to Grill Fish on an Electric Grill

Another popular option for  outdoor grilling are electric grills. One of the reasons people choose an electric grill is for safety. Like gas grills, electric grills can also be portable.

A Coyote portable electric grill

Benefits of grilling fish on an electric grill

  • Quick to heat up
  • Safer than other grill types
  • Easy to use and easy to clean
  • Generates less smoke

Tips for grilling on an electric grill are similar to the gas grill. If you are using a small cooking area, work in stages instead of finishing one piece at a time. The heat will be consistent around the grill surface, so pay attention to make sure you are not overcooking any of your filets.

Enjoy All Your Hard Work!

Learning how to grill fish whole or in filets outdoors is easier than it looks. The key points to remember are to understand the fish you are working with and the type of grill you are using. Proper planning will yield delicious results and your next fish grill will be remembered by all your guests. 

Let us know if you have any questions. We are happy to help! If you are in the Los Angeles area, don’t forget to check our calendar of upcoming events, and come see some of the grills discussed here in action!

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