Fish On!

Fish On!

Grilling fish and seafood tends to be one of those things that seems scary for many grilling and barbecue fans. The delicate nature of fish along with the fact that it can go from perfect to “order pizza instead” in the blink of an eye, are all things that scare many otherwise expert, outdoor chefs away.  

The reality, however, is once you master a few things, cooking fish is no more difficult than anything else—it just requires a bit of attention to detail.  

Fortunately, pellet grills or pellet smokers can make cooking fish especially easy to do.  With their electronic temperature controls combined with the great taste of the wood pellet fuel, making fish on a wood grill fueled with pellets like Griller’s Gold pellets couldn’t be easier.  That said, great results can be had on a gas or charcoal grill—just make sure to manage your heat. And it’s easy to add that wood grill flavor to charcoal or gas grills by just using Griller’s Gold pellets.  More on that below.

What type of fish should I grill?

In terms of what kind of fish to make on the grill—well, the answer is “any is great.” After all, people have been cooking fish over fire for as long as they’ve been catching and cooking fish!  

Thicker cuts of firmer fleshed fish tend to work better on the grill—halibut and swordfish are ideal for the grill; trout, salmon, grouper, redfish, cod, and other less firm fish can also be grilled very successfully, and small/thin filets such as panfish filets (sunfish, crappies, bluegills) require the most attention as they cook the fastest, but again, are great on the grill.

When is fish done? 

Most chefs like to cook fish to just past medium rare—which means the fish is juicy, just past opaque, and can be pulled apart in layers easily. For temperature, about 130 degrees in the center.  

You often hear “cook to flaky” which most chefs think is dry and overdone – this is when the fish pulls apart into fine “flaky” bits. That is usually around 145 degrees or higher.

Shellfish and crustaceans like shrimp and lobster LOVE the grill—and the good news is that their firmer texture makes them a bit more forgiving. 

For shrimp, fish, lobster and scallops, “perfectly done” is opaque but tender—once it becomes opaque, it’s pretty much done—and that doesn’t take a long time! But don’t overcook—it gets tough and rubbery.

Rules for Success:

  • Manage your heat—on a wood pellet grill, use 350 degrees as your maximum heat, and depending on how smokey you want your fish, you may want to go as low as 225 degrees—classic “low and slow” territory. Specific examples are below.
  • Clean and oil your grill’s cooking gridfish loves to stick to dirty grill grids.  Before you preheat your grill, give the grid a good scrubbing and then brush it with cooking oil.  Preheat, and just before you put the fish on, brush it again with oil.  Following this regimen will keep your fish from sticking.
  • Use a marinade with oil on your fish—whisking oil into your fish’s marinade will also help it to avoid sticking.
  • PAY ATTENTION—fish cooks really fast—so stay by the grill, and keep track of your cooking time.
  • Use the fish rule of thumb for cooking time—8 minutes of total cook time for a 1” thick piece of fish over medium-high (400 degrees) direct heat.  Using this as a starting point, you can usually, pretty successfully cook fish, adjusting cook time for variables such as distance from heat, heat level (medium is 350), indirect versus direct, etc.

Recipes and Cooking Methods:

Let’s have some fun and try it out! 

Here are some great techniques for cooking on pellet wood grills, charcoal grills, gas grills, and some great/easy recipes to try:

Expert Hints for Cooking Fish  

Here’s a great fish cooking checklist that works on all types of grills:

  • Portion your fish. Smaller/thicker pieces of fish work the best on the grill but even if using thinner fish, cutting into smaller size pieces that fit your spatula will ensure you are able to turn the fish without it falling apart.
  • Clean and oil the grids. Remove the cooking grid from the grill and give it a good scrubbing to remove old food, grease and carbonized “gunk”, then brush it with cooking oil like canola, vegetable or peanut oil. Many outdoor chefs we know buy an extra cooking grid that they use just for fish and they keep it super clean.
  • Preheat to medium heat. 350 degrees if your grill has a numeric temperature control or to medium heat if it doesn’t (like on a gas grill).  Once the grill is fully preheated, brush the grid with oil again, and put the fish on.  See special hints for gas and charcoal below.
  • Cook the fish turning once halfway through the cook time. If you’re using the “8 minute rule” a good way to do this is go 3 to 4 minutes on the first side, flip it and then adjust the rest of your cooking time depending on how cooked it is when you turn it.  
  • Use a heated platter!  Remove your fish to a heated platter when it’s done – for some reason, fish loses its heat much faster than a beef steak or pork chop. Head that off by preheating your platter in a warm oven and putting the fish on it right off the grill. Don’t overdo it though—you’re going for warm, not hot.
  • Use a Cast Iron Skillet. For smaller fish filets like panfish and tilapia, use a cast iron skillet on the grill, brushed well with oil.  You’ll still get the great grill flavor but your fish won’t fall apart on the grill grates.  Avoid cooking on aluminum foil—it just doesn’t work as well as a good cast iron skillet.

Cooking fish on a Wood Pellet Grill

First of all, start with the right wood fuel—Griller’s Gold!  Fish, interestingly responds well to both mild and sweet woods like the Griller’s Gold Cherry or Fruitwood blend, and also to stronger flavors like Hickory, Smokehouse Blend, and Competition Blend.  The key is to just experiment and learn what you like best. From there, follow the hints above!

Cooking fish on a Gas Grill

The good news is that with a gas grill it’s easy to manage heat – but get to know your grill’s heat—learn what burner setting gives you 350F.  Also, you can get the great taste of wood fire grilling by using Griller’s Gold pellets in your grill. There are perforated tubes and boxes on the market that work great on gas grills—just fill them up with your favorite Griller’s Gold wood fuel pellets and put them below the grate on the flame deflector bars.  

The heat from the gas flames will light off the pellets and you’ll get great smoke flavor!  If you don’t have a pellet tube or box, the “cigar” method below works well too. 

One additional hint for best success—preheat the grill with all burners lit, then when you put the fish on, shut off the middle burner(s) and put your fish there—you’ll get a good sear as the grid will be hot from the burner being on, but that area will cool a bit and the grill will act more like an oven.  Then follow the rest of the above hints.

Cooking fish on a Charcoal Grill

The same reasons that make charcoal fun—the “meat/fire/good” equation, the heat, etc. can also make it tricky with fish.  Here are 3 quick hints that are additional to the ones above.

  • Use less charcoal, less charcoal = less heat.  For a typical regular-sized “kettle” grill (like a 22” Weber kettle), use about 25 briquettes or a half-chimney of charcoal—you’ll get about 350 degrees of temperature from it.
  • Set up for indirect cooking. Concentrate your lit charcoal on one half of the grill, and cook on the other side—this is more “oven” like but it will yield the best results.
  • “Cigar method” Use Griller’s Gold pellets for extra flavor. Place a cup or so of Griller’s Gold pellets in the center of a doubled piece of aluminum foil, roll into a closed “cigar” shape (closed at both ends) and poke several holes top and bottom in the foil.  About 4 or 5 minutes before you put the fish on, put the “cigar” directly on your coals.  You’ll get great smoky wood-grilled flavor!  You can also use a smoke tube or box like above.

Quick & Tasty Recipes for Grilling Fish

Garlic Butter Shrimp, Lobster, or Scallops

Melt a stick of butter and add, whisking well:

  • juice of ½ lemon
  • 2 cloves of minced garlic
  • ½ tsp Old Bay seasoning
  • ½ tsp paprika

Brush over the shrimp, lobster, or scallops prior to cooking and after turning.  By the way, this is delicious on just about any fish—and for that matter—chicken breasts too!

Spectacular Lobster Tails

Using strong scissors or kitchen shears, cut the underside of the tail from where it joins the body to just short of the flippers. Spread the tail apart and then pull the meat out of the tail without detaching the flipper end, then close the shell underneath it.  Spread the meat out over the tail. Prepare your grill per above instructions. Brush well with the garlic butter mixture above and place on grill meat side down. 

Grill for about 2 ½ minutes, then turn the meat side up, brush with more garlic butter mixture and grill until just cooked through, time will be dependent upon the size of tails.

Chili-Brown Sugar Salmon, Grouper, or Trout

Prepare your grill and your portion of your fish for cooking.  
Mix together:

  • 2 T brown sugar
  • 1 T chili powder
  • 1 tsp kosher salt
  • 1 tsp black pepper

Brush your fish filets with olive oil and then sprinkle well with the seasoning.  If cooking skin-on fish, just season the skinless side. If your fish is skinless, season both sides. Place skin side down (without skin, it doesn’t matter), cook 3 minutes, then turn and cook until fish is done to your liking. This preparation is also great on freshly caught lake bass and walleye.

Grilled Fish Sea bass on metal grill grid with lemon and rosemary on dark background

“Blackened” grilled fish

Purchase a good quality blackening seasoning like Paul Prudhomme’s Cajun Redfish Magic.  Melt a good quantity of butter and brush your filets (Chilean sea bass, redfish, grouper, mahi-mahi, catfish, bass, walleye, even salmon are all great this way) with the butter and then season generously with the blackening spice. Grill as usual, brushing with more butter at the turn.

“Bright and Tasty Tilapia”

While this recipe is great on tilapia, it’s also great for other small-filet fish like panfish or even perch filets. 

  • juice of 1 lime
  • 2 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 2 T fresh cilantro chopped fine
  • 2 T olive oil

Whisk the above ingredients together and brush over your fish.  Let marinate for 5 minutes (no more or you’ll wind up with ceviche!) then onto your pre-heated grill. If you’re feeling confident in your skills, cook directly on the grid, otherwise put into a preheated cast iron skillet on the grill—no more than 2 minutes on the first side though! 

Turn and cook until done—probably only 2 or 3 minutes more.  Serve immediately!

char grilled fillet of fish over mashed potatoes and green beans close up

Super Simple Chilean Sea Bass

While not inexpensive, Chilean Sea Bass (aka Patagonian Toothfish) is one of the best flavored fish there is.  And if you don’t feel like popping the big $$ for it, this recipe works great on cod as well.

  • Melt a generous amount of butter
  • Brush your fish servings with the butter, then season gently with salt and pepper
  • Grill to done, brushing with more butter at the turn.

Since Chilean Sea Bass tends to be thicker, measure the thickness of your filets and adjust cook time accordingly, going a bit longer on the first side.

Results:  Mmmmm.  Perfect.  Seriously, nothing better than this!

And that’s it!  Get your fish on, and use Griller’s Gold pellets for outstanding flavor!

And check out our other post on smoking fish on a pellet grill.

For a grilled main dish for the holidays, go upscale

For a grilled main dish for the holidays, go upscale

Is there a more special occasion than a home-cooked holiday feast? We think not. So we’d like to encourage you to look at holiday grilling as the celebration it is. Pick elegant foods to cook on your pellet grill before you put them at the center of your holiday table. Thanks to Peter Jautaikis, whose The Wood Pellet Smoker & Grill Cookbook inspired us, we propose:

Hickory New York Strip Roast for the main event

A NY strip steak is always a good call for the meat lover; it says ‘steakhouse’ and that means quality. Now picture serving thick NY strips cut right from the roast which has been smoked over hickory pellets after being rubbed with garlic and the prime rib spice mix of your choosing. The flavor is luxe, the meat is a treat. Consult your butcher to order the right size for your holiday gathering, and plan for time to marinate, smoke, and rest the meat. Something this special is worth the effort.

Now that you’ve gone all festive for the main dish, let’s move on to starters and sides

This grilled Brie with cranberries looks seasonal and tastes very rich and indulgent, too. We recommend you spread it on grilled bread slices.

Finally, for a perfect starch to accompany that fancy NY strip roast, take scalloped potatoes to a whole new level with perhaps the ultimate luxury ingredient: the truffle.

Add earthy truffle flavor to your favorite scalloped/au gratin potato recipe with a dash of white truffle oil, which is available at many groceries and specialty food stores this time of year. Or, choose a cheese that includes truffles, and grate into the cream sauce. Get even more savory by layering mushrooms into the baking pan. If you want to skip the improv and have all those ingredients mapped out in one easy yet fabulous recipe, try Chef John’s Truffled Potato Gratin from Allrecipes.

We wish you and yours all the joy of feasting this holiday season.

Give the grilling gift of the year: Bluetooth BBQ thermometers

Give the grilling gift of the year: Bluetooth BBQ thermometers

What’s not to love about Bluetooth BBQ thermometers? They generally cost around $50—a nice price for a holiday gift that’s perfectly situated between ‘stocking stuffer’ and ‘splurge.’ They help you stay warm indoors while your food heats up on the grill outside. They connect to your phone. And they earn a whole lot of enthusiasm from consumer reviewers. This helpful grilling technology also has big fans on the Griller’s Gold team—here’s how Scott summarized the joy.

“We love using ours so you can keep an eye on what’s happening without being tied to the grill or smoker.”

This is what real-world users say they’re glad to get from these grilling tech goodies:

  • Convenience and comfort—you monitor your outdoor cooking without standing outdoors. (This is especially welcome when you’re preparing slow-cooked, smoked foods.)
  • Ease of use—from quick setup on your mobile phone to clear temperature readouts on the screen.
  • Digital precision—those temperatures are going to be exact. With multiple probes, you can even check the temps in different parts of a larger cut of meat to ensure consistency.

Four top-rated Bluetooth meat thermometers

These 5 picks all get five-star ratings on Amazon. (There are plenty of additional choices that get four-plus scores, too.)

CHUGOD Bluetooth Meat Thermometer

Franker Wireless Meat Thermometer

AJY Smart Bluetooth Wireless Remote Digital Food Thermometer 

Nobebird Bluetooth Meat Thermometer

While you’re thinking about winter grilling, here are some best practices when the weather outside is frightful .  If your holiday gift shopping list needs some more items, check out our griller gift list post, updated for Christmas 2019. And send Griller’s Gold pellets to your friends with wood pellet grills; you can order on Amazon.

Happy grilling to all from Griller’s Gold!

Grilling is for side dishes, too

Grilling is for side dishes, too

This summer, we’re serving up three great side dishes. They’re going to look kind of familiar, but each is deliciously distinct from its traditional picnic ancestor. What makes these sides the next generation of outdoor dining goodness? It’s simple. The main vegetable in each is grilled.

 

Corn off the cob

First up, check out this grilled corn salad. Why leave corn on the cob once you’ve roasted it up? Slice it off and then mix it into a bowl with fresh, colorful ingredients like green pepper, tomato, and red onion, with a cilantro and olive oil dressing. (From allrecipes.com)

 

Sophisticated spuds

Next, we have a creamy grilled potato salad. Start by browning and crisping up the potatoes on the grill, then go rich with a dressing of mayonnaise zipped up by pickle juice, paprika, and mustard. Add the crunch of chopped dill pickles and the yumminess of boiled eggs. (From tasteofhome.com)

 

Slaw that slays

Finally, there’s this gorgeous grilled variation on a coleslaw theme, two-toned grilled cabbage wedges with spicy lime vinaigrette. (From breannasrecipebox.blogspot.com)

 

Learn more about mixing and matching these sides with other items on your BBQ menu here.

If burgers are your main dish choice, read this.

 

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Grilling and Smoking Classic Easter Entrees

Grilling and Smoking Classic Easter Entrees

Lamb or ham? That is the question.

 

Does your family put a leg of lamb at the center of the Easter table every spring?

Keep up the tradition but update it, too, by grilling your leg of lamb.

 

Methods of cooking lamb

  • Many top chefs strongly encourage boning the leg before grilling. Butterflying is the most common suggestion. Leave it to your butcher to carefully separate the meat from the bone while keeping the main pieces connected. Then the meat is spread out in one piece, like a butterfly opens its wings. Try this recipe here.
  • Instead of butterflying a boned leg of lamb and cooking it whole, slightly more ambitious home cooks carefully cut along the four natural muscle separations, which are visible, and pull the four pieces apart. Grilling the lamb this way contributes to the most delicious crust, makes it easier to determine the doneness of pieces of different thickness, and simplifies carving. Try this recipe here.
  • For a simpler approach, grill the leg bone-in. Because this cut is so thick, it requires slow cooking over indirect heat – perfect for the wood pellet grill. Try this recipe here.

 

If your family typically cooks ham for the holiday, this year, try smoking one for yourself.

Learn how at HowToBBQRight.com Here’s what these savvy smokers say:

“You can indeed smoke a ham from scratch. It’s a pretty interesting process, involving brining for 12 to 14 days, among other things. If you want to save the time but want to add your own delicious smoked flavor in your own backyard, start with a pre-cooked ham.”

The site’s Malcolm Reed offers this great recipe (also shown here in video) to get the juices flowing. Malcolm combines a pre-cooked ham, a homemade sweet glaze, and an expedited smoking technique. Yum.

Malcolm adds this tip:

“Since we’re essentially “double-smoking” the ham, you should stay away from using stronger woods like Hickory or Oak. These will easily overpower the natural flavor of the ham. Place the ham on the smoker and check it every hour. If the outside starts to look a little dry, use some of the glaze for basting.”

The entire cooking time should take about 2 ½ – 3 hours.

Whether you choose lamb or ham, enjoy a great grilled holiday.

 

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Whatever the weather: winter grill and smoker tips

Whatever the weather: winter grill and smoker tips

From the fine Floridians at Grill Junkie, here’s a whole lot of hot info on grilling and smoking in cool spells. Yes, even in Florida, wind and weather can challenge the outdoor cook. You need to make adjustments to help ensure success. Read this excerpt, check the forecast, and get ready to BBQ with attitude all year ‘round.

The Prime Directive: Keep your BBQ hot enough to smoke, no matter how cold it is.

Smoking in cold temperatures presents several challenges. When operating a charcoal, gas or wood-fired backyard smoker, the weather is always something you need to pay very close attention to. When temperatures are very low you need to be especially careful. Reaching and maintaining ideal smoking temperatures can be difficult at best, and very hard if the wind is blowing. Metal smokers are particularly challenging because the metal acts to conduct the heat quickly away from your BBQ, grill or smoker.

Temperature

The first thing to imagine is the temperature difference. On a nice warm summer day, you might find that your smoker, sitting in the sun, has an internal temperature around 100° F. without a fire in it. Open the lid to get things ready and maybe it cools down to 85° F. If your target temperature is 225 degrees F. then you need a fire that will increase in smoker temperature by 125-145° F. If, on the other hand it is a cold, overcast day the internal temperature of your smoker could be 35° F, meaning you need to increase the temperature by 190° F. This is near twice the temperature difference. This means that you will have to have better temperature control, a hotter fire, and more fuel than usual on hand.

Wind

Now we need to take into account the wind. The most important thing about wind is the direction relative to your smoker. Some smokers, like the large offset smokers, have a definite airflow path. Air comes into the smoker through the firebox and moves across the cooking chamber and out the stack. If the wind is blowing in this direction the increased airflow will burn your fuel faster and can cause high-temperature spikes. This means keeping the vents closed down more than normal. If the wind is going in the other direction it can stop the airflow entirely and keep the heat out of your cooking chamber. It is best to let the wind add to the airflow and not stop it so if possible position your smoker so that the wind is blowing in the direction of the natural smoker airflow. It is very important to keep an eye on the wind as well as your smoking temperature.

Precipitation

Of course, it’s very difficult to smoke in heavy rain but cold weather also brings the occasional unanticipated light rain or snow. When water hits your smoker it is going to evaporate. Evaporation pulls heat from your smoker. If, during the course of a smoke you find some rain or snow falling it is time to open up the vents, getting things stoking, and bring up the temperature to offset this heat loss. Keep a close eye on it and you should be okay.”

Read more about the technical aspects of smoking and cooking on a wood pellet grill in this article about Indirect Heat.

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