Seafood Grilling 101
Posted by by Michael Selby, executive chef
Friday, July 12, 2013
How often does grilling yield better results than baking or pan roasting? If you have to think about it, the real answer is something along the lines of “who cares?” The flame, the aroma, the cold beverage, the “neighborhood showoff” factor, the simple act of cooking outside… it’s all about the experience and the taste!
The most important point to understand is that somewhere inside your grill lives an evil spirit whose only job in life is to make your food stick to the grill grates when you’re intimidated or ill prepared. Well maybe not, but it can seem like it!
Read on if you are interested in becoming a master of grilling. Read on if you want to free yourself of laying down sheets of aluminum foil. Read on if you want to grill seafood this weekend!
Prep the grill
This is by far the most crucial part; don’t pass on this. Make sure you have a thick wire brush that’s in good working order. Depending on how often you grill, a typical grill brush will need to be replaced every two years. They’re less than $20 and a new one will save you.
Begin by scrubbing the entire surface of the grates with some serious elbow grease. Give it a good five minutes, being sure to scrub the entire surface. Once the surface is clean, rub the grates with an oil soaked paper towel (don’t use extra virgin olive oil for this part as it will become bitter) until grill appears shiny. Wait for the black smoke to taper off, then repeat twice using a fresh towel each time. Typically the first layer of oil acts as a sealant over small uneven char particles on the grate. The second and third layers are when the “grate seasoning” takes place.
Prep the fish
Using a paper towel, dab the fish dry and brush with oil and seasoning. At all costs, avoid drenching the fillet with oil; this will only cause flare ups and bitter flavor. Place fish in refrigerator until show time.
Remove fish from refrigerator and gently set (don’t sling the fish like a card dealer) on the hottest section of the grill. Carefully peel a corner of the fillet - if the fish shows any sign of sticking, let it be. Resist the urge to chisel!
Two minutes per side is recommended. For those of you grilling fillets less than ¾ inch thick (tilapia, walleye, sole, small shrimp, etc.) you’re almost finished!
For those grilling fish of the thicker variety, such as tuna, salmon, marlin, lobster tail or scallops, proceed directly to what I like to call the “sear and beer” technique. This is when you start by placing the fish on the hottest section of the grill to sear those perfect grill marks. 3-6 minutes per side is recommended, depending on preference of doneness. Finish it off by moving the fish to either an upper rack or a swinging basket, turning the heat down 50% and enjoying a cold beer while the fish slowly roasts to the finish line.
Regardless of the cook time or type of fish, the end result should look shiny, free of char and feel like a perfectly ripened peach that’s slight firm to the touch.
When it comes to seafood, grilling is one of the healthiest and fastest preparation methods you’ll find. Especially when topped with a cold garnish of shrimp ceviche or mango crab salsa. Give it a shot!
Let me know if you have any grilling questions. Enjoy!