When grilling fish, sometimes people get stuck because they do not know how to grill the skin properly! The skin of most fresh fish will dry out or even burn when grilled too high or burnt raw in some cases. This is definitely not desirable!
Luckily, there are several fool-proof ways to cook the skin of almost any kind of fish. In this article, we will discuss one such method that can be applied to pretty much every type of fish!
Disclaimer: We would like to emphasize that although this recipe works for almost all types of fish, it may still hurt slightly if you handle it correctly. Make sure your hand is very well washed before handling the meat!
What is butterflying?
Butterflying refers to cooking a whole piece of meat either totally or partially under or over a hot surface. For example, seared steak cooked completely underneath an oven broiler or pan fried chicken cooked under oil in a frying pan.
In this case, our butterfly takes place on the grill! By putting the fish across a hot element (the grill in this case), the outside layer cooks quickly due to exposure, while the inner part stays warmer for longer.
Brush the fish with oil
When cooking oily foods like salmon or trout, it is important to give them a place to sit while they cook. This way, they can melt in the pan slightly and taste better!
To do this, you will need to brush some olive oil onto a plate or grill bed. Place the fish on top of this oil and then cover the grill so that the plastic wrap touches the grill surface. Now, cook under the broiler until the skin starts to brown and crisp.
Once done, remove the foil and let the meat rest for 5 minutes before slicing and serving. If needed, run a knife underneath the silver skin to separate it away from the flesh.
Put the fish on a grill pan
When grilling most meat, the trick is to make sure that the internal temperature reaches 145° F (63º C) before you take it out! For thicker cuts of meat like beef or pork, this is no problem, but for thinner pieces like flaky whitefish or thick fillets of seafood, this can be tricky.
When cooking thin foods, what we call “skin-on” food, how ever hot your grill gets, the outer layer will continue to cook more slowly than the inner part. This creates an extremely dry and crispy outside while the inside remains raw.
To avoid this, there are two things you can do. The first is to pre-cook the fish in the oven so that it becomes soft and fluffy. The second is to use a grill pan instead of normal grill bars or plates. A grill pan has very heavy metal trays that work as conductors to help heat spread easily across the surface.
By using a grill pan, not only does the internal temperature reach its goal faster, but also the skin cooks much better due to the higher temperatures.
Cook the fish until the flesh is opaque
When cooking thin fillets of fish, like trout or flounder, it is very important to make sure that they are cooked all the way through. If you have a grill with temperature settings, start at low heat and increase as needed to ensure the meat is always completely cook.
With thicker whitefish like cod or halibut, omitting the skin can sometimes result in dryness due to not enough moisture in the meat. To prevent this, try leaving the skin on the fish when grilling. Just be careful to keep an eye on it, and pull it off when it is fully crisp and browned!
General tips: Grilling thinner fish faster than thicker ones will help achieve this. Make sure to check for firm, soft, and loose flakes of flesh when done.
Flip the fish and cook the other side
When grilling skin-on fish like salmon or trout, how you grill it makes a big difference! The trick is to always have a plate lined with paper towels next to the grill so that you can pull up the excess fat as it drips.
When cooking the second side of the fish, make sure to give it a little more time until both sides are browned and cooked through. This will depend on the thickness of the meat and whether or not there are thinner pieces in the fish.
Another tip is to use a good quality brush to scrape off some of the burnt bits of fish as they dry.
Serve with your favorite salad or crusty bread
When cooking fish, whether it is fresh or frozen, there are two main things you need to know how to do!
The first is to make sure that the skin of the fish is cooked all the way through before taking off the grill. This will depend on the thickness of the fish, as well as what kind of grilled fish you are preparing.
Fish such as flounder, trout, and perch can be tossed in olive oil and then seasoned and broiled or roasted whole until done. However, thicker white fish like salmon and tuna require more attention to ensure they cook completely.
By starting with a hot grill, lowering the heat slightly, and adding extra time for the thick meat to fully cook, this step can be overlooked.
Tips for great grilled fish
When it comes time to grill your next piece of fish, how you cook it really makes a difference! The best way to prepare most any kind of fish is by first drying it with a good amount of olive oil or butter.
Next, season with salt and pepper and set aside until ready to cook. Once cooked, wash off the excess fat and then either serve hot or refrigerate and use later.
This article will go into more detail about different types of fish that require different amounts of time and tips specific to each one.
Make sure the fish is not skin-covered
When cooking most types of meat, whether it be chicken, lamb, or beef, the internal temperature can usually be ascertained by using an oven thermometer.
The same goes for grill worthy seafood! You want to make sure that you have checked your grill properly and that it is working correctly.
If you notice that the flames are burning lower than before while grilling the fish, that means the oil in the flesh has melted and absorbed into the grill. Now, depending on the type of fish this may either taste good or bad so you will need to determine if the latter applies here.
We recommend always ensuring that your grill is hot enough and that the flame is high enough. This way, the fish does not burn which would lose some of its flavor and texture. As with any other grilled food, let the cooked fish rest until cool before serving to allow the warm fat to reabsorb onto the plate.
Brush the fish with oil
After washing your meat, let it sit until it is dry. Then coat it in an olive or vegetable oil such as flaxseed or canola oil. This will help prevent burning and ensure that the skin doesn’t stick when you grill the fish!
When grilling most types of fish, the best way to cook it is white-flesh-only. This means no pink inside! To achieve this, make sure your grill is very hot before putting the fish onto it. If the outside is browned just a bit beyond what looks like cooked flesh, then put the fish down and move the grill closer. Or turn the burners up for a few minutes!
How to Cook Grilled Fish With Skin
You can either broil the fish after cooking it on the grill or fry it in butter or olive oil. Both methods are preferred over boiling because there is less water content which makes it harder to cook.