We’ve run a couple of killer recipes lately from Field & Stream‘s Wild Chef columnist, Jonathan Miles, including a cool Salt-Crusted Fish technique I’m dying to try. (Though I have to admit, using that much salt in one recipe really grates on the Scotch-Irish skinflint in me.) Still, what a unique way to fix up a whole fish for a great tableside presentation.
One technique we haven’t covered much of lately is grilling fish. I admit this is my fault, as I haven’t been able to get on the water in what seems like ages. Still, let’s go over a few tips for cooking fish over the coals, just in case someone takes pity on me and sends me a few fillets.
1. Forget the foil. A lot of people wrap fish in foil, and then grill it, which misses the point of cooking fish over coals in the first place. To get that smoky, char-grill flavor, cook your fish directly on the grate.
2. A little oil will go a long way toward keeping the fish in one piece when it comes time to flip it. Drizzle olive oil over each side of the fish just before cooking.
3. To help prevent fish from sticking, make sure your grate is clean and well oiled. After scrubbing the grate with a wire brush to remove any burned-on food and ash, get your coals glowing red. Close the lid for about five minutes to super-heat the grate, then dip a paper towel in canola oil and, using tongs, wipe the grate down generously. Close the lid again and let it heat up for a minute before adding the fish.
4. Once you set the fish on the grill, don’t touch it. Let the heat cook off the moisture and sear fish with some nice grill marks. After about five minutes, it will start to release. Then you can flip it using two flat spatulas to turn the fillet or steak without breaking it apart.
5. Figure about eight minutes for an inch-thick fillet or steak. A whole fish will take closer to 10. Either way, flip the fish halfway through then check for doneness by lifting a corner of the fish. If the meat flakes easily and is opaque, it’s ready to eat.