• How to grill seafood

    How to Perfectly Grill Different Types of Seafood

Seafood lovers, rejoice! As summer temperatures rise, so does the allure of grilling. Combining the fresh flavors of the sea with the smokiness of the grill results in a meal that’s both delectable and memorable. But grilling seafood can be a daunting task. Fear not, for we’re diving deep into the art of perfectly grilling different types of seafood. So, if you’re aiming for a ‘seafood grillmaster’ title, you’re in the right place.

Understanding Your Seafood

First, let’s demystify the types of seafood that work best on the grill:

Firm-fleshed Fish: Such as salmon, tuna, and swordfish. Their dense texture allows them to stand up to direct heat without flaking apart.

Delicate Fish: Includes flounder, sole, and tilapia. These require a bit more care on the grill.

Shellfish: This category covers shrimps, prawns, scallops, and lobsters. Generally quicker to cook, they offer a unique, succulent taste when grilled.

Choosing the Right Seafood for Grilling

When selecting seafood for grilling, it’s crucial to consider not just the type but also its origin and freshness:

Wild-caught vs. Farm-raised: Wild-caught fish often have a richer taste due to their diverse diet and natural habitat. However, farm-raised can be a more sustainable choice, depending on sourcing. Research brands and certifications to ensure you’re making an informed decision.

Sustainability: Oceans are overfished, and some species are at risk. Opt for sustainable seafood choices, like mackerel or Pacific sardines, which are both delicious and eco-friendly.

Preparing Seafood for the Grill

1. Freshness Matters: Always choose fresh or quickly thawed seafood. It should have a moist appearance and a fresh sea smell. Avoid fish that has a strong, fishy odor.

2. Dry it Out: Pat your seafood dry. Removing excess moisture ensures a good sear and prevents sticking.

3. Marinate or Season: While seafood tastes fantastic on its own, a simple marinade or seasoning can elevate its flavors. Use olive oil, herbs, and citrus for a zesty punch. But remember, marinade times for seafood are much shorter – usually around 30 minutes.

Marinating and Seasoning Tips

Different seafood types have distinct flavors. Here are some specialized marinating and seasoning tips for a flavorful experience:

For White Fish (like Tilapia, Cod): Go with a light marinade. Lemon zest, garlic, olive oil, and fresh parsley can enhance its mild flavor.

For Oily Fish (like Salmon, Tuna): A marinade with soy sauce, ginger, a touch of brown sugar, and sesame oil can balance and complement their rich flavors.

Shellfish: Opt for garlic, butter, a touch of chili, and lemon. These simple ingredients help elevate their natural saltiness and sweetness.

Grilling Techniques for Different Seafood

Firm-fleshed Fish

Preheat the Grill: For fish like salmon and tuna, a medium-high heat works best. Ensure your grill grates are clean.

Oil the Grill: Before placing the fish, brush the grill grates with a high smoke point oil. This minimizes sticking.

Skin Side Down: Begin grilling skin side down. It helps the fish retain its natural oils and results in crispy skin.

Flip Once: Cook one side thoroughly (about 4-6 minutes) before flipping to avoid breakage. Another 4-6 minutes on the other side and your fish should be ready.

Delicate Fish

Use a Grill Basket or Mat: Due to their delicate nature, these fish benefit from grill baskets or mats. It ensures they don’t fall apart or drop through the grill grates.

Lower Heat: Preheat the grill to a medium setting. High heat can cause delicate fish to dry out quickly.

Shorter Cooking Time: These fish types cook faster, often just 2-3 minutes per side.


High Heat: Preheat the grill to high. Shellfish, especially shrimp and scallops, need a quick sear to retain their juiciness.

Use Skewers: For smaller shellfish like shrimp and scallops, using skewers can make them easier to manage on the grill.

Watch the Color: Shrimp will turn a pinkish hue when done, while scallops will get a slightly opaque appearance.

Pairing Seafood with Sides

What you serve alongside your grilled seafood can elevate the entire meal. Here are some suggestions:

  • Grilled Vegetables: Zucchini, bell peppers, and asparagus are excellent when grilled. Their charred, smoky flavor complements the seafood.
  • Salads: A fresh Greek salad or a tangy coleslaw can provide a refreshing contrast.
  • Starches: Consider grilled corn on the cob, roasted sweet potatoes, or a classic potato salad.

Grilled Seafood Sauces

While seafood is delicious on its own, the right sauce can make it even better:

Mango Salsa: A tropical blend of mango, red onions, cilantro, and lime juice. Perfect for grilled shrimp or mahi-mahi.

Herb Butter: Melted butter infused with fresh herbs like dill or parsley. Divine on grilled lobster or scallops.

Tzatziki: This yogurt-cucumber sauce with a hint of garlic is refreshing and pairs well with grilled salmon.

Troubleshooting Common Grilling Issues

Grilling seafood can sometimes come with challenges. Here’s how to tackle the most common ones:

Sticking to the Grill: If your fish is sticking, it might not be ready to flip. Give it another minute. Ensure the grill is clean, oiled, and appropriately preheated.

Overcooking: Seafood cooks quickly. Constant vigilance is key. Use a timer and always check a minute or two before the suggested cooking time.

Flare-Ups: If you’re experiencing flare-ups, move the seafood to another part of the grill. It’s also helpful to have a spray bottle of water on hand to douse any unexpected flames.

Storing and Reheating Leftover Grilled Seafood

Grilled seafood is best enjoyed fresh, but if you have leftovers:

Storing: Place in airtight containers and refrigerate. Consume within two days for optimal freshness.

Reheating: To retain moisture, gently reheat in a skillet with a touch of butter or oil over medium heat. Avoid microwaving as it can make seafood rubbery.

Grilling seafood opens up a world of flavors and textures that are distinct from any other cooking method. With the right preparation, techniques, and pairings, you can transform your grilling experience into a gourmet seafood feast. So, the next time you’re looking to impress, remember these tips and dive deep into the delicious world of grilled seafood.

More BBQ inspiration