Red Snapper is one of the most popular of all white fish. In fact, snapper is increasingly becoming a generic term for white fish. Red Snapper can be found all over the world with most fish being harvested in the Gulf of Mexico and Indonesia. The high demand has led to a high price and the high price has led to fish fraud. A University of North Carolina class project found 17 out of 22 fish they bought labeled as Red Snapper were actually some other kind of snapper.
This is, of course, illegal, but the USDA doesn't have the staff or the funding to enforce it.
Anyway, the lesson here is to buy your fish from someone who knows what they are actually selling. Real Red Snapper has a great, firm texture and a sweet, nutty flavor that lends itself very well to everything from hot chilies to subtle herbs. And, of course, Red Snapper is excellent for grilling.
Red Snapper can reach weights of up to 35 pounds, but most fish sold are well under that size. The fish is also found whole or in fillets. Whole fish can be found in weights from about 2 to 5 pounds. Whole red Snapper is a great grill. While it might seem difficult, grilling whole fish really isn't hard. The skin acts to hold the whole thing together and to protect the meat from the flame. After all, you don't eat the skin. Simply take a whole Red Snapper, fill the body with lemon slices, chili peppers, butter, herbs and spice and you are ready to grill.
While you want a hot grill you want the fish itself to sit over a lower heat, not necessarily indirect grilling, but low direct heat. In many parts of the world, the way to grill snapper is on a wet banana leaf, so if you can get some of these you should try it. You might also try grilling it on a cedar plank, always a great way to grill fish.
As I said before, Red Snapper can be expensive. It is a favorite in many restaurants and so they buy up a lot of what's available. If you can not find or can't afford Red Snapper you can try a different kind of snapper. Caribbean Red Snapper is about the closest to the traditional Red Snapper you will find. Also, mutton, vermilion, mangrove, and yellowtail are all similar kinds of snapper that will do for most any recipe that calls for Red Snapper.
When buying whole Red Snapper look for clear, red eyes, bright red skin that fades towards the belly. If you are looking for fillets try to buy it with the skin on. This will help hold the fish together and lets you get a look at the skin to make sure it’s the real thing. Grilling with the skin on is not only easier but helps hold some of the flavors to the fish. I wouldn't suggest putting out a lot of money for a Red Snapper fillet that doesn't have the skin. You can also shop for Red Snapper year round since it is constantly harvested.
Season Red Snapper with lots of flavor. Lemon, butter, fresh herbs are all great. Also, consider trying some hot chili peppers. If you want something mild try some fresh Anaheim chilies or go all the way with a chopped up habanero.
Also good are tropical fruits. Remember Red Snapper comes from warm climates where people like flavorful foods. Red Snapper is a particular favorite in Mexico.