Omnivores who associate barbecue weather with steak, chicken, burgers, and dogs may not be so quick to consider seafood as an option for grilling. Many types of fish are a bit too delicate for this preparation; others, while sturdier, still have a relatively tender structure that requires gentler handling. But don't let that intimidate you—there's so much seafood that takes beautifully to the flames as long as the right technique is applied. Below are 24 recipes to convince you, including blackened Creole catfish, Vietnamese-style shrimp summer rolls, and multiple takes on fish tacos.
A perfectly grilled piece of salmon—complete with a juicy, tender center and crispy seared skin—is easy to master. You’ll want to source a fattier salmon and use thick, skin-on, center-cut pieces. This helps ensure that the fish properly sears on the outside without overcooking internally. Most of the cooking will happen on the skin side, while the flip side only needs to cook for a minute or two to reach your desired temperature.
Tuna isn’t cheap, so you’ll want to use good technique to make sure you grill it just right. In order to get a nice sear on both sides of the tuna without overcooking the center, you’ll need a thick cut of fish which you’ll then grill on high heat. The edge of your tuna steak will help you gauge the status of the meat in the center. The center will be good so long as you can still see the deep purple of rare fish on the edge. After the tuna is done grilling, we like to slice it and serve it with nothing more than a drizzle of olive oil and a dash of salt and fresh black pepper.
The key to grilled swordfish that’s nicely seared on the outside and oh-so juicy on the inside is properly preparing your grill. You’ll want to make sure that the grill grate is cleaned and oiled beforehand to prevent sticking. Aside from lightly oiling and seasoning the fish, there’s not much else that goes into it. You’re left with a juicy blank canvas of fish that can be topped with whatever summer flavors you choose.
Sure, it's kind of old-school, but the best way to get well-cooked salmon steaks on the grill is to debone them, evening out the shape of the steaks into rounds. Don't be afraid: It's actually quite easy (and we have step-by-step instructions to walk you through it). Once the steaks are rolled and tied with butcher's twine, you'll gently season the fish with a quick saltwater brine, then grill the steaks with our awesome homemade teriyaki sauce.
Roasting a whole fish is one of our favorite fancy-but-easy tricks, but frankly, grilling a whole fish may be even better, crisping the skin and keeping the fish moist. To prevent the delicate flesh from sticking, make sure your grill is hot, clean, and well oiled, and your fish is thoroughly dried. A powerfully flavored sauce of Kalamata olives, garlic, and tomatoes adds savory intensity to the fish's overall mildness.
Inspired by LA's Coni'Seafood, these Mexican-style fish tacos are made with grilled whole red mullet seasoned with ancho chili powder, cumin, and lime juice. Assemble your tacos using the only reasonable approach to a whole grilled fish: picking the meat straight off the bones with your fingers, then piling it in a warm corn tortilla or two and adding lime vinaigrette and a cooling cucumber pico de gallo.
When grilling skinless fish fillets, you'll want to pick out a firmer, more robust kind—halibut and swordfish are two good, sturdy options. Again, be sure that grill is well slicked with oil, and oil the fish, too, for maximum ease of flipping. A dusting of salt and pepper and a squeeze of lemon after cooking are all the seasoning you'll need.
Another firm-fleshed fish that's hearty enough to stand up to grilling, mahimahi has a light flavor that's complemented here with an earthy rub of chili powder, paprika, cumin, and brown sugar. Since you'll already have the fire going, it only makes sense to grill the mangoes, onions, and jalapeños used to make the fruity-hot salsa on the side. Flake the fish, stuff it into tortillas, spoon on the salsa, and revel in the flavors of summer.
Not everyone loves the fact that fish tastes...well, fishy, which is how recipes like this one are born. A spicy Cajun rub, blackened over the blasting heat of the grill, softens the flavor of the catfish without wholly masking it. For a touch of freshness, we serve the fish with a peppery tomato-based Creole sauce.
There’s nothing quite like a fresh fish sandwich to make us feel like we’re sitting beachside. This version is a classic in Florida, and prides itself on a combination of simple flavors. A paprika-based spice mix is rubbed onto a white-fleshed fish like mahimahi or grouper. This spice rub acts as a barrier for the fish when it hits the grill, reducing the chances of sticking. Once your fish are dark and juicy, all that’s left to do is toast your buns and load on the lettuce, tomatoes, mayo, and any other condiments that you fancy. A little bacon never hurt anyone either.
Red curry paste gives grilled halibut a Thai makeover that’s packed with flavor. The marinade mixes the curry paste with a bit of olive oil, in order to prevent the fish from sticking on the grill. Meanwhile, for the vinaigrette, we whisk together the olive oil and curry paste, as well as lime juice, fresh mint, and cilantro. An ingredient that does double-duty? We’ll take that any day.
Give any grilled whole fish a boost of flavor by topping with molho à campanha, or Brazilian pico de gallo. Unlike Mexican pico de gallo, which uses citrus juice, this Brazilian mixture incorporates vinegar instead, and also adds more peppers to the mix of tomato, onion, and cilantro. To maximize the flavor of your tomatoes, we recommend salting them in advance.
Transport yourself to the Spanish Basque coast with the seaside flavors of this grilled whole turbot. Thanks to its natural amounts of gelatin, it’s the perfect fish for grilling whole. Its scaleless skin helps trap the gelatin as it cooks, keeping it rich and juicy over high heat. To keep the skin from drying out, we like to drizzle the turbot with a simple vinaigrette while it’s on the grill. The vinaigrette then becomes the base of the sauce, which is mixed with the gelatin-rich cooking juices from the turbot and spooned over the meat. With a fish as succulent as this one, you’ll want to make sure you pull every last bit of meat off its bones.
As good as they are when done right, grilled shrimp disappoint more often than not—their translucent flesh can overcook in an instant, leaving them with a dry, rubbery texture. To get them plump and juicy, we first brine our shrimp with salt and baking soda, then let them dry thoroughly in the fridge. Get the grill ripping-hot, then cook the shrimp quickly to brown them on the outside. A simple vinaigrette of olive oil, lemon juice, garlic, and parsley is all you need to set them off.
Once you've got the technique down, you can dress your perfectly grilled shrimp however you'd like. Here, we use chermoula, a North African condiment reminiscent of chimichurri that's made with fresh parsley and cilantro, cumin, lemon, and olive oil. You'll get the best flavor if you crush those ingredients with a mortar and pestle, but a blender or food processor works, too.
A skewer of grilled shrimp is satisfying on its own, but we couldn't resist stuffing them into a sandwich, too—in this case, Chinese-style folded steamed buns, along with quick-pickled cucumbers, shredded cabbage, and a hot Sriracha mayonnaise. The sweet and tender shrimp play beautifully with the acidity of the pickles and the cabbage's crunch. You can heat up your store-bought buns in a steamer, or just use the microwave.
Want an even more straightforward approach to keeping shrimp juicy—as long as you're willing to go with a slightly more rustic appearance and messier eating experience? Just keep the shells on. They'll act as a buffer against the flames, holding precious moisture inside. Here, we marinate shell-on shrimp with lemongrass, ginger, and garlic, plus a couple of splashes of fish sauce for extra flavor.
These light and refreshing summer rolls are made with grilled shrimp marinated in a mixture of fish sauce, sugar, garlic, and black pepper, then wrapped up with crunchy pickled vegetables, fresh herbs, and rice vermicelli. Assembling the rolls does take a bit of practice, but have patience and you'll get there. Don't forget the peanut sauce for dipping.
Seafood boils are one of summer's greatest joys in Cajun Country (or anywhere else), but hosting one is an involved affair. For the flavors of a shrimp boil in a less-muss, less-fuss format, combine the classic components—shrimp, andouille sausage, corn, and potatoes—by threading them onto skewers and grilling them with a fiery Cajun seasoning mix. Parboil the potatoes before grilling them—they need much more time to cook than everything else.
Grilling lobster results in tender, sweet meat that's perfectly accentuated by the brightness and richness of the lemon-shallot butter we use here. Though you can grill lobster simply by throwing it over the fire, a quick steam and a shock in ice water first will help to set the meat.
Sure, any Spaniard will tell you that paella mixta, which combines seafood and meat, isn’t traditional paella, but that doesn’t make us love it any less. Flavors like saffron, smoked paprika, tender chicken, and Spanish chorizo combine with the seafood flavors of clams, mussels, and plump shrimp. Best of all, using the grill makes cooking up a big batch even easier. Just a few tricks, like using a lighter stock or broth, helps prevent the paella from burning.
Fresh squid, grilled simply with olive oil and lemon juice, represents all that's wonderful about Mediterranean cooking: It's inexpensive and uncomplicated, and it maintains the focus squarely on quality ingredients. It's also super easy to make—just be sure to dry the squid well and coat it with plenty of olive oil so that it browns before overcooking and turning dry.
Try to grill raw octopus and, most likely, it'll turn out chewy and inedible. Instead, boil the octopus (anywhere from 45 to 90 minutes, depending on whether it's fresh or frozen) before putting it on the fire. Happily, this will give you an opportunity to add extra flavor—in this recipe, we dress it lightly in olive oil infused with chilies and fresh oregano.
While we’ll never pass up a raw oyster, we love how tender oysters get when thrown on the grill. How do we take it up a notch? With the addition of the mouth-watering taste of compound butters such as garlic-parlsey butter, kimchi butter, or Parmesan-basil butter. It’s an easy and flavorful way to get your seafood fix on a warm, sunny day.
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