Some people are afraid to grill fish.
True, this can be hazardous. Leave the fish on too long, and it dries out or burns. Take it off too early, and the raw, mushy middle creeps out you and your guests. There's also the problem of flipping fish; sometimes it falls apart before it ever gets to the table.
But we find that grilling fish and other seafood can be as easy as cooking a great steak on the grill— if you follow a couple of easy guidelines:
- Buy filets. You can leave the skin side on the grill grate, so you don't have to flip the fish. Few people will eat the skin anyway, so if it gets a little dark or burned, so what? You can even slide the filet off the burned skin before serving it.
- Prep the fish. Up to an hour before grilling, we squeeze a lot of lemon on the filet or steak (cut across the fish rather than lengthwise) to help keep it moist and to start it "cooking" much like lime works in ceviche. Then, just as we do with beef steaks, we drizzle olive oil over the fish to give it a bit more flavor and moistness. This lemon-oil prep is the most important step.
- Salt the fish somewhat liberally, and pepper it lightly.
- If you follow the preceding steps, you can place your fish on a very hot grill. Then, if you're using a gas grill, turn the heat down to medium. If you're using charcoal, cut off some air to lower the heat.
- Cover the grill and try not to open it too often or for too long a time. Let the fish cook until it loses its translucency. Plan about ten minutes per inch of thickness, maybe a bit more if you don't like rare fish.
There's a way to poke the fish to tell whether it's ready to serve, but we can't think of a good way to describe the technique — and we don't always rely on it, anyway. So find a discreet corner of one of the pieces (the one you're serving yourself), cut it off, and taste to see if it's ready.
If you pulled the fish off the grill too early, and you find it's not done, put it back on the grill or (don't tell anybody) put it in the microwave for about 15 to 30 seconds. But be careful: even an extra second or two in the microwave can dry out a beautiful piece of seafood.