Fillets are the hardest cut of fish to grill, yet people like them because they’re free of bones and the broad surface area readily absorbs charcoaled flavors. The problem is that fish fillets tend to stick to the grate and crumble when turned.
The secret is to use a fish or vegetable grate, a porcelain or enamel-coated metal plate, with lots of small holes, that fits on top of the grill. This holds the fillets flat, so pieces won’t fall between the bars when you turn them. If you don’t have a fish or vegetable grate, and are a big fan of grilled fish, you owe it to yourself to get one.
Skinless Fillet Method
1. Preheat the grill to high.
2. When ready to cook, place the fish grate (if using) on the grill and preheat it for 5 minutes. Brush the fish fillets with oil or melted butter and season with salt and pepper. Generously oil the fish grate or the grill grate. Arrange the fillets on the grate and cook until browned on the bottom and starting to turn opaque on the top, 3 to 6 minutes.
3. If the fillets are really fragile, like sole or flounder, avoid turning them. Instead, cook with the grill covered. For other, more sturdy fillets, brush with oil or melted butter, turn carefully with a long spatula and cook until browned on the second side, 3 to 6 minutes more. When done, the fish should break into firm flakes when pressed with a finger.
This works well for fillets of oily fish, like bluefish and salmon.
1. Preheat the grill to medium-high.
2. When ready to cook the fish, brush the skin of the fish with oil or melted butter. Place the fillets, skin side down, on the grate. Cover the grill. Cook the fish until the skin is darkly browned and crackling crisp and the meat flakes easily when pressed with a finger, 6 to 12 minutes. If the skin starts to burn before the fish is cooked, pull the fillets onto a piece of aluminum foil. The top side will cook by the trapped-in heat.
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