How to Grill Fish and Seafood

It Might Seem Daunting, But Seafood on the Grill Is Easy

Salmon on grill
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Meals that feature grilled fish are delicious and healthy, but grilling fish and seafood can seem a bit intimidating if you've never done it before. But it's not hard to get great results. Tuna, salmon, swordfish, halibut, mahi mahi, barramundi, trout, mackerel, yellowtail and sea bass are some of the best types of fish to grill. Read up on the basics and then try a recipe or two from the list below.



  • A hot fire is key. You should cook seafood quickly to retain the natural juices and flavor.


  • A clean grill rack is equally important. Fish will stick to a dirty rack and make turning the fish difficult.


  • Oil the rack when the barbecue grill is hot, just before you're ready to cook. Also, oil the fish whenever possible. Use a high-temperature oil, such as grape seed, peanut or olive oil.


  • Skin side up or down? Conventional wisdom says to cook the skin side first, but doing the opposite gives a nicer, crusted surface on the non-skin side, and the skin helps the fillet hold together for turning. The result is a moist, more appealing fillet.


  • Fish will hold together better and be less likely to stick if you leave it alone during grilling. Cook it for the estimated time, then lift it carefully.


  • A wide, thin spatula is essential for flipping and removing fish. Having two close at hand is even better.


  • If you're grilling thin fillets, or just want to make life easier, you can grill fish and seafood in the type of double-sided, long-handled grilling rack used for hamburgers and steaks. Or use a specially shaped one made for grilling whole fish.


  • A good rule of thumb is to grill fish for a total of 10 minutes per inch of thickness (measured at the thickest point.) So if you have a half-inch thick fillet, grill it for about 3 minutes on one side, then flip it and cook for 2 minutes more.


  • Avoid sugary marinades or glazes, especially with thick fillets or whole fish, because the sugar can burn and turn bitter before the fish is fully cooked.


  • As with other seafood cooking methods, fish is fully cooked on a grill when it begins to flake and is opaque at the center. Some fish, like salmon and tuna, are often served while still somewhat rare, like steak.