Thursday, April 30, 2015

Getting Grilled Fish Right

Fresh fish and seafood have become the preferred alternative to red meat and chicken on the grill, and for good reason! From fresh Alaskan salmon to grilled Florida snapper, seafood offers by far the widest range of wonderful choices.  And it’s good for you as well.  But what if you've never cooked anything but brats or burgers?  We take the mystery out of grilling seafood, and make it easy to enjoy the delicious grilled fish you usually eat in restaurants, right in your own back yard. But remember, once you've tried grilled seafood, it’s tough to return to burgers...not that we’d be disappointed if you never looked back.
Tools of the Trade:
As they say in scouting, be prepared.  Having the right tools can make your job easier and your results better:
Grill Toppers - stainless steel, aluminum or porcelain-covered metal  grill toppers to set on top of your grill grate.
Sandwich-style Grill Basket - makes turning small whole fish, fillets, steaks or kebabs a breeze.
Skewers - wood or metal, for easy and elegant kebabs.
Electric starter or chimney - makes starting coals easy, eliminates starter fluid which will adversely affect flavor. They really can make your fish taste like jet fuel.
Wood Cooking Planks - placing your fish on one of these, which you soak in water first, adds a delicate extra bit of flavor, and keeps the fish from falling through the grate. Best when using the lid on your grill so that the fish cooks without turning.
Mesquite & hardwood lump charcoal - use some of each to impart a sweet, naturally smoky flavor to fish. Confession - after decades of starting bonfires in our old Weber kettle, we have made the switch to Weber gas and are grilling a lot more often, because it's so much easier!! And less messy!
Other handy accessories:
Spring-loaded tongs, metal grill brush and towel to clean your grate; a long handled spatula.
Dry herbs and wood chips - dried herb twigs or bay leaves dropped into the fire are a trick used by the French to add flavor to grilled fish.  Oak, hickory or apple wood chips soaked in water can be sprinkled over charcoal or gas grills to impart pleasant, smoky flavors to your seafood.
Spray bottle of water - to douse flare-ups on charcoal grills that can quickly turn beautiful fish to cinders.
Non-stick vegetable spray - to spray your grate before putting over the fire, to prevent the fish from sticking. (So far this hasn't seemed necessary on our gas grill.)

Choosing your fish: 
The following selections are easy to cook because of their firm texture, and can easily be placed directly on a well prepared grate.  Beginners, start here!
salmon fillets or steaks, tuna steaks, swordfish steaks, halibut steaks, grouper fillets, Chilean sea bass, sturgeon, shrimp & scampi, mahi mahi, marlin steaks, wahoo/ono
Once you've mastered the first list, try some of these:
scallops (on skewers), lake trout, lobster tails, halibut fillets, live Maine lobsters, whole flat fish, black sea bass, red snapper fillets, whitefish, rainbow trout, squid (calamari), whole snapper, other whole fish, tilapia (use grill topper for more delicate fish)

Cleaning/Heating Things Up
      Before you put your fish on the grate, make sure that the steak or burgers you cooked last aren't hanging around. Scrape the grate with a metal brush. For gas grills, make sure the grate looks free of cow before putting on your seafood. On charcoal grills, after scraping, spray a little non-stick spray on the grate before starting the fire. 
      Adequate pre-heating is essential to the success of your seafood grilling.  Start by using enough charcoal to cover the the grill bottom when spread out, and allow it to burn to a light ash before cooking.  Spread the coals evenly. Remember -- 10 minutes cooking time per inch of thickness of your fish, measured at the thickest point, over medium high heat. Don’t overcook! Stay by the grill, don't wander off for an extended chat with the neighbors. Fish cooks really fast, and keeps on cooking even after removed from the grill. Err to the rare! 
      Gas grills should be set to medium high, around 450 degrees. Test the temperature by holding your hand about 5 inches from the grate.  If you can count to 5 slowly, it’s just right. If it’s too hot, let the coals burn longer, or turn down the gas. Always pre-heat your grate, and spray vegetable oil on grate BEFORE putting it over the fire.  Remember, fish tastes best when bought fresh and cooked quickly.
      Marinating - placing your seafood in a flavorful marinade for 15 to 30 minutes before cooking can turn a good meal into a great one.  Try one of Burhop’s delicious all natural marinades - ask your sales clerk for ideas.
      Toppings - we have some outstanding rubs plus great salsas and relishes that are fantastic with grilled fish - check our Burhop’s Pure & Simple® case and ask your Burhop’s clerk for items that are great additions to grilled seafood! If you don't live near one of our stores, think fresh salsas, pestos, marinades, rubs. 
      The Evanston Farmers Market is opening next week, can't wait to have fresh greens to go with our grilled fish!  One of our favorites is a beautifully grilled piece of salmon placed on a bed of lightly braised fresh arugula topped with just a drizzle of Lemon Dill Sauce. My mouth is watering in anticipation...

NEXT WEEK: Favorite Grilling Recipes for Mother's Day

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