Grilled: Another Way to Cook Fish

by Mike Porter, senior wildlife and fisheries consultant /

Most people in the South, where I grew up, seem to prefer fried fish. I like fried fish, but I like some fish even better when grilled, baked, broiled or sautéed.

Grilling fish with the approach described in this article seems to work best when either fillets or fish flesh attached to the spine are 0.5 to 1.5 inches thick. For grilling, fillets of many fish species can have the skin and scales attached (sometimes described as “on the half shell”) or have the skin removed. Fresh fish is better than frozen fish, but both are good when cooked properly.

Grilling works well with many fish species. I have successfully grilled freshwater species, such as largemouth bass, and channel and blue catfish. Channel and blue catfish smaller than 1.5 pounds grill best when attached to the spine without the skin. Larger channel and blue catfish grill best as fillets without the skin, but the fillets tend to draw up and curl. Fillets of crappies, bluegill, redear sunfish and green sunfish do not grill well because they are relatively delicate and crumble during grilling; if grilled, their flesh should be attached to the spine.

I have successfully grilled at least 18 saltwater fish species. Examples include red snapper, red drum, black drum, spotted seatrout and blacktip shark. Red drum should be smaller than 33 inches, and black drum should be smaller than 28 inches, because fillets from larger fish can be course and chewy. Skin of spotted seatrout is too thin for the half-shell approach.

I generally serve grilled fish with baked sweet or white potato; a broiled green vegetable such as asparagus or green beans; and often with stuffed crab, stuffed shrimp or stuffed jalapeno.


  • 6 to 8 ounces of fish fillet per person (could weigh more when skin or spine is attached)
  • Lemon or lime concentrate juice
  • Butter or margarine
  • Worcestershire sauce (Mike prefers French’s)
  • Chef Paul Prudhommes’ Blackened Redfish Magic seasoning
  • Crushed rosemary (optional)


  • Heavy-duty aluminum foil (use one time and then discard)
  • Serving fork
  • No-stick grill spray (e.g., Pam, Crisco, etc.)
  • 1-quart stainless steel saucepan
  • Basting brush
  • 2 spatulas
  • Grill
  • Serving platter


Step 1: Fold edges of a piece of heavy-duty aluminum foil to fit all the fish and fit the available grill space (edges should be folded to the bottom). The doubled edges strengthen the foil. Punch holes 1 to 2 inches apart throughout foil using the serving fork. Spray top side of foil with no-stick grill spray.

Step 2: Prepare basting sauce for two servings of fish by melting approximately 4 tablespoons of butter or margarine in the saucepan and mixing in about 3 tablespoons of lemon or lime concentrate juice and no more than 2 tablespoons of Worcestershire sauce. I often vary the relative amounts of each ingredient to give the sauce a different flavor.

Step 3. Heat the grill

For fish without skin

Step 4: Place the aluminum foil on the grill and then place the fillets without skin onto the foil with the side filleted off the spine down first. This side absorbs the sauce better when the fillet is partially cooked and turned over. Place either side of a fish onto the foil when it has the spine in it.

Step 5. Use the basting brush and sauce to baste the top side of the fillets immediately before turning them when the fish is approximately half-cooked (fish fillets start to turn white near the edges). Only turn the fish once while cooking. I use two spatulas to turn and move cooked fillets, because larger fish fillets tend to fall apart when using only one spatula. Baste the second side (the one facing up) after turning. Sprinkle blackened redfish seasoning and optional crushed rosemary on top of the second side after last basting before fish is completely cooked.

Step 6: Place cooked fish on the platter, and serve and eat immediately. Fish is ready to eat when it flakes and turns white in the middle of the thickest portion. Do not overcook. Fish cooks quickly, requiring only a few minutes.

For boneless fish with skin and scales (“on the half shell”)

Alternative Steps 4 and 5: When cooking fish on the half shell, place skin side down on the foil. Cook without turning, and baste only the top side. Cooking fish on the half shell requires more time than cooking skinless fillets of the same thickness. Basting, seasoning and determining readiness are the same as for fillets or fish with spine in it. Use a spatula to separate the cooked fillet from the skin when serving.

Bon appetit!

Read more in the August issue of Oklahoma Farm & Ranch.