Grilling a whole fish is action-packed and provident, all at the same time. You get to grace the table with grilled fish while having lost far less meat than you would have lost had you decided to fillet the fish beforehand.
Moreover, grilling the fish whole lets the skin keep the fish moist and seals in the flavor! Here is an easy to follow step by step procedure of how to grill a whole fish.
Step 1: Fish Slashing
In this first step, you start with a fish that has been scaled and gutted, as well as it has had the gills cut out. Once you have your fish ready, you then proceed to slash the fish on both sides after every three inches or thereabout.
The reason for doing this is to ensure that the whole fish cooks evenly. Failure to do this means that the thick part would still be raw when the tail end was overcooked.
Step 2: Oiling the Fish
Grilling fish can be problematic at times because the fish tends to stick to the grill more often. This can, however, be minimized by making sure that your grill is well-cleaned, hot enough and oiled very well too.
This is a simple procedure that can be done with the help of a paper towel. Soak the paper towel in canola or some other readily available oil, then wipe down the grill with the paper towel just before putting the fish down.
On the other hand, the fish should be oiled with a different type of oil, a tastier oil such as olive or sesame oil to be precise. This is important as it prevents the fish from sticking to the grill and helps the seasonings adhere completely to the fish.
Step 3: Prepping the Fish
While prepping the fish, having a “wet” hand and a dry hand will make your work easier and convenient as well.
As you will need to handle the fish more frequently as you deal with its preparation, having one hand oily or wet and the other hand dry will prevent you from running to and from the sink to wash the oil off your hands.
While this might seem a little bit overboard, it’s an important tip whilst prepping your fish.
Step 4: Salt the Fish
Thoroughly salt your fish, more than you even think you need to! We all crave a salty, grilled fish that has been cooked over a hardwood fire because of the yummy taste!
Amply sprinkle salt over all the parts of the fish, including the head, tail as well as the inside of the body cavity.
At this point, the addition of any more seasonings is not suitable and is therefore discouraged.
Most other seasonings, even black pepper, tend to burn on the cooking grates and will thus impart a bitter taste on the fish when you eat the fish.
The additional seasonings are usually saved for later when the fish comes off the heat.
Step 5: Grilling Whole Fish
How to grill the whole fish also requires a little bit of skill. While grilling, the fish is put down carefully on the cooking grates with the tail facing farthest away from the heat.
This is done as it enhances faster cooking than the head end, even with the side slashes that are already present.
Also, it is always advised not to grill large fish over very high heat. the reason behind this is that the fish will burn to a crisp on the outside before the center is well cooked through.
A steady and medium heat will suffice for grilling such fish.
You are probably wondering for how long will you be grilling the fish.
Time is very important while grilling as you can either undercook or overcook your fish. The recommended time is about 10 minutes per side on a 20-inch fish.
The rule of thumb for grilling whole fish is ten minutes per inch of thickness.
Moreover, you are encouraged to flip your fish only once. While it might seem like a difficult operation, it is something that can be done, given you are careful enough.
With the help of two spatulas or one long one, you carefully lift the fish and gently flip it over.
If you have followed and done everything correctly, little or no skin at all should be sticking to the grill.
Even if sticking happens, there is no need to be distressed. You can bet the fish will still be savory!
Step 6: The Grilled Fish
How do you know your fish is completely grilled? This is quite simple.
By looking at the exposed backbone in one of the slashes once the fish has been grilled will tell you whether it’s done or not.
The fish should be cooked through to the point where the backbone is visible for you to know it’s now ready.
After affirming that your fish is well cooked, take it off the grill and set it on a platter to “chill” or rest for a little while.
You can enjoy the oohing and aahing with your guests as you wait on the fish.
Step 7: Serving the Whole Fish
Your fish is now ready to be enjoyed by you and/or your folks! Serving is easy when using a spatula.
You just slide a spatula under a section that had been earlier on scored and simply lift it out onto a plate.
Everybody has their style of serving but for a boneless and easy way out, you can serve as follows:
For the portion that is closest to the head, shift the spatula into fish’s topside over the ribs-which start beneath the backbone-then about the top and down onwards to the ribs while maintaining a semicircular motion. This ensures you get a boneless piece.
Even though most people tend to do away with the head of the fish, there will always be spheroids of delicious fish meat under each eye, just right on the cheeks of the fish.
Moreover, if the tails aren’t burnt, they are crunchy and have a nutty-like flavor! You can also have a pick of the meat that’s between the ribs as well as in the belly.
Having a grilled whole fish makes for an essential and deeply satiating meal! A whole fish that’s hot and off the grill with its crisp skin and savory tender meat is one of several people’s favorite foods.
Grilling fish is more fragile than beef or poultry. As such, it requires a little bit extra attention on how to grill a whole fish, especially to keep it intact and prevent it from falling on the grill.
Choosing the right type of fish and grilling it over a fire that’s not too hot helps keep the fish moist and full of flavor, as well as in one piece!