Salmon and tuna steaks are about as adventurous as many folks get when it comes to grilling seafood. Those "meaty" pieces of fish don't seem to intimidate weekend grill masters. But there's an ocean of other possibilities out there.
Grouper and halibut are fine candidates for the grill, says chef James Papadopoulos from Sam & Harry's in Schaumburg.
Binny's Beverage Depot pairings for grilled fishCedar Plank Salmon: Elk Cove Pinot Noir: Cool climate Pinot Noir from Oregon is what's needed here. Its high tones and tangy red fruits along with its touch of smokey oak could be the best match you can find for salmon prepared in this fashion.
Lemon-Rosemary Scallops:Reverdy Sancerre: This pure, expressive Sauvignon Blanc from the Loire Valley in France is undoubtedly what inspired imitators around the wine world. The mouthwatering white fruits and lemon zest freshness will echo the notes in the dish beautifully.
Blackened Halibut: Domaine Weinbach Gewurztraminer Reserve Personelle: Spice usually calls for red wine, fish usually white. Alsace Gewurztraminer is a real go-to here and will make the perfect foil while leaving you wanting more!
Baja Fish Tacos: St. Bernadus Wit: As with most Belgian witbiers, this one is spiced with orange peel and coriander. The added citrus element pairs great with spicy toppings. The fatter, meatier mahi-mahi is perfectly balanced by the quenching acidity of this witbier.
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"You want to go with a fish that's got more body to it," he said, adding that "delicate" fish like sole and fluke are best saved for oven or stovetop cooking.
Sturgeon, snapper, mahi-mahi, sea bass and tilapia are contenders for the grill as well.
One of the attractions to cooking fish on the grill is the quick cook time, about three minutes a side for halibut, four minutes for salmon, Papadopoulos says.
"It really doesn't take that long; over direct heat it's quick," he adds.
Direct heat. That's the key. Unlike many cuts of beef, pork and chicken that start over high heat for a nice sear and then move away from the glowing coals to finish, fish cooks over the hot coals. Still, those coals should be tamed with no flames licking the grates.
"Control the heat by spreading the coals evenly," he says. And clean the grates well once the heat loosens the grit from last night's burgers.
"Treat the fish with some respect, there should be no debris on the grill," Papadopoulos says. He also suggests brushing the fillets or steaks with a bit of oil before they hit the heat to ensure slick removal.
In "The Barbecue Bible," grilling guru Steven Raichlen also promotes brushing the fish with a bit of oil or melted butter, and he endorses porcelain or enamel fish or vegetable grates designed to fit on the grill's surface.
Even with a specialized grate, don't touch the fish too much. Flip once; any more than that and you're just asking for the fish to start falling apart. You'll know when the fish is done if it breaks into firm flakes when pressed with a finger, Raichlen says.
If cooking skin-on fish, place the oiled fish on the grate skin-side down, cover and cook six to 12 minutes, he says, depending on the thickness of the fish.
When it comes to flavoring the fish before it reaches the grill, Papadopoulos rules out citrus juice.
"Don't marinate with anything acid, like lemon juice," he says, "use acidity after the grill."
He suggests giving your favorite fish a quick dip in an oil-based marinade made with chopped dill, garlic and lemon zest. For tuna, try a bit of cherimoya juice with salt and pepper, toasted cumin, garlic and cilantro.
Papadopoulos also likes "blackening" spices, a pepper-heavy, herbaceous mix, for fish. The bold rub holds its own against smoky flavors imparted by the grill.