Firm varieties of fish — tuna (pictured), swordfish and halibut — are great choices for the grill. The're easy to turn and move without falling apart. | AP
Grillers, like fishermen, like to tell the story about the one that got away. The fish whose flesh stuck to the grate or the fillet that crumbled into the coals.
“I hear it all the time. Someone tries to grill fish and it turns out a mess, so they never try again,” chef Eric Naddy said.
With the right choice of fish and proper technique, there’s nothing intimidating about grilling fish, said Naddy, who teaches fish-cooking classes at Sweet Basil Gourmetware and Cooking School in Scottsdale, Ariz., and owns Tall Order Catering in Chandler, Ariz.
First, choose steaks over fillets for grilling. Fillets are cut parallel to the bone, making them delicate and flaky. Fish steaks are cross-cut, making them sturdier, firmer and better-suited for grilling. Tuna, salmon, mahi-mahi , marlin, swordfish and halibut are a few of the top choices for fish steaks.
They vary in thickness, so select steaks that are at least 1-inch thick for slow, even cooking.
Fishmongers typically remove the bones, but it’s always a good idea to run a finger lightly but firmly across the flesh, feeling for bones. Use tweezers to pull them out.
Steaks from the ocean can be grilled almost bare — just a touch of olive oil, salt and pepper — or jazzed up with a marinade, sauce, crust or rub. Marinating beef steaks tenderizes tough cuts, but marinades simply enhance the flavor of fish. Marinade no longer than 30 minutes.
“Steaks can really stand up to bold flavors, so pair a favorite fish with a sesame crust or pineapple glaze,” Naddy said. Serve with a flavorful vegetable side for a light, healthy summer meal.
Another must when grilling steaks is to avoid overcooking, which makes the flesh dry and crumbly. Fish are done when the flesh becomes opaque but is still moist.
“When the fish is fresh and the steaks grilled to medium-well,” Naddy said, “a steak from the ocean is hard to beat.”
How to buy fish
Buying fresh fish steaks can be tricky. Here are a few buying tips:
† Fresh fish smells briny, but not “fishy.”
† Pass on slimy steaks. The flesh should be firm to the touch.
† The quality of much of today’s frozen fish is just a tad off of fresh. Stock your freezer with favorite varieties and defrost just before grilling. If in doubt, ask the fishmonger which variety is the freshest.
† Grill as soon as possible, within 24 hours of buying.
How to grill fish
Follow these grilling tips for moist, flavorful fish steaks:
† To prevent fish from sticking, clean the grill well. Next, oil liberally and allow it to heat up. Hot grates make for instant sear, preventing both the flesh and skin from sticking. Medium-high typically is the best temperature.
† Position the fish so it lies across the grill bars, not alongside them. The less metal in contact with the meat, the less the chance for sticking.
† Once the fish is on the grill, leave it in place for the first few minutes. Moving too soon also causes fish to stick to the grill.
† Be gentle with fish. Use tongs and a spatula to turn it. First, try turning it gently with tongs, but if the fish sticks slightly, slide a thin spatula underneath the steak to turn.
† Finally, when handling the fish, proceed slowly and gently.
Gannett News Service