Seafood is one of the most intimidating foods to grill. Fish tends to be delicate and difficult to maneuver without mishap — and smaller foods like shrimp and scallops can overcook in a flash or fall through grates into the fire.
Luckily, seafood is easy to master once you know the tricks of the trade. Here are a few tips to help you achieve perfectly grilled fish every time.
1. Keep the skin on the fish.
Plenty of recipes call for fish with "skin removed." This is fine if you're baking it and don't have to fuss with it much. But grilling is an "action" cooking method where you often need to move or flip your food to get it cooked just right. To prevent fillets from falling apart, consider leaving the skin on (if it comes that way). Fish like trout or mackerel have thin skin that gets delightfully crispy, while tougher-skinned fish like salmon and halibut are best eaten without skin — simply remove the skin after grilling and before serving.
2. Use a fish basket.
Another way to keep fish from flaking apart is by using a fish basket. Instead of flipping the fish directly, you'll flip the basket that holds it, which can help the fish stay in one piece.
3. Cook it in a packet.
You wouldn't steam a steak, but steaming seafood in foil packets is a great way to keep it moist. Simply stack two 20-inch sheets of foil. Coat the center of the top layer with oil or cooking spray. Layer your seafood on the foil, adding ingredients such as thinly sliced veggies or lemon, if desired. Bring the short ends of the foil together, leaving enough room in the packet for steam to gather. Fold the foil over and pinch to seal, and then pinch the seams together along the sides. Place the packets on a gas grill over medium heat or on a charcoal grill 4 to 6 inches from medium coals. Cover the grill and cook about 8 to 10 minutes for a fish fillet, and 4 to 5 minutes for shrimp and scallops. Handle the hot packets with a large spatula or oven mitts. Carefully open both ends of the packet and allow the hot steam to escape.
4. Try using a plank.
It may sound fancy, but grilling seafood on a plank is much easier than grilling directly on the grates. Soak the plank in water for at least 2 hours before grilling. Then, simply place your fillets on the presoaked plank and cover your grill — no flipping required. You may have to reposition the plank over lower heat if your grill is extra hot and the fish is not quite done cooking. You'll enjoy the subtle smoky flavor the wood gives your food.
5. Use a skewer.
Sure, you can grill shrimp and scallops right on the grates, but who wants to flip them constantly or risk losing them to the fire? Instead, thread smaller pieces of seafood on a skewer to make cooking easier. You'll only have to flip the skewers once or twice instead of tending to each piece of seafood individually.