Hooked on the grill

A fearless guide for barbecuing your favorite seafood

Andrew Baker


"I like the fishes, swimmin' round in the sea,
I like to plop 'um on the grill
And I cook 'um up for me with a big pat of butter
Man it can't get better than this."

― "Moloka'i Slide," by Tad Suckling

Those words from a catchy Hawaiian tune echo the sentiments I felt on my first trip to Hawaii. Everywhere I ate, seafood was in abundance, prepared as easily as the song says: grilled and served with a simple sauce. But while the serendipity of throwing together a beachside meal makes for good lyrics, in practice, grilling seafood successfully takes a little know-how.

The challenge lies in the physical makeup of fish, which is more fragile than a hunk of meat. Success is based on how you "plop 'um on the grill."

Dense, firm fish in pieces that are at least 1 inch thick and small enough to slide onto a wide spatula (or thread onto skewers) can be placed directly on the grill. Turn them once, carefully.

But even for firm fish, as well as others that are more delicate, a little support works wonders. Set the fish (or piece) on foil trimmed to fit the outline of the fish, then lift the two together on and off the grill. No sticking. No falling apart. You don't need to turn the pieces over. Cover the grill so thick pieces will cook through.

Most fish cooks well over direct heat (see "How to Grill Fish" on page 2 of this article). For large, thicker pieces, such as whole trout or salmon, indirect heat provides temperature controls more like baking.

Shellfish presents few problems on the barbecue: Clams, oysters, and mussels pop open to eat. Barbecue shrimp and lobster in or out of the shell. Crab is best if cooked first, then warmed on the grill.

Around The Web