Get Hooked on Grilled Fish

andy mueller | in the kitchen with chef andy | june 2017

Now that we see the spring season start to become a little more seasonable, the wave of demand for fresh fish is building. Ocean favorites like salmon and halibut are starting to show signs of availability and the price is headed in the right direction for those of us who like to take advantage of healthy and tasty foods that work perfectly on the grill.

Of the many types of fish available in today's seafood section at the market, the ones that work best cooked directly on the grates of the grill are the ones that come in the form of a steak. Halibut, tuna, marlin, shark, swordfish, salmon, sturgeon and arctic char can be cut into steaks and grilled without the fear of smaller flakes falling through the grates or the entire fish falling apart while trying to pry it off the surface. Steaks, unlike fillets, are cut from the top of the fish down to the belly of the fish as you look at it from the side. They contain both sides of the fish with the spine of the fish in the center of the steak. Fillets, on the other hand, represent only one side of the fish, and are cut from nose to tail avoiding bones from the spine. One fish can yield many steaks but that same fish can have only two fillets (although the fillets can be cut into smaller fillet portions if the fish is large like a salmon or mahi mahi).

When it comes to grilling steaks vs. fillets, steaks stay together better because they are cut against the grain of the meat, making the flakes much longer and larger than with a fillet. Fish that are typically cut into fillets are done so because they are thinner and can't be cut into a steak that has any size to it. Filleted fish like walleye, perch, trout and pan fish like crappie and bluegill, don't grill well because their meat is very flaky and will fall apart the moment they cook through. These fish are best lightly breaded and either pan or deep-fried or baked, broiled or sautéed using quick high heat. The breading process involves coating lightly in flour, then dipping into egg wash, followed by a quick dredging into any coarse or fine crumbs of your liking. The flour helps the egg wash stick, and the egg wash helps the breadcrumbs stick. The breading process allows the fish to remain intact while cooking in hot oil or baking in the oven and helps seal in the juice because it forms a quick protective crust.

Typically, if I'm going to grill a fish without the help of a tinfoil wrap, grill baskets or other outside assistance, I'm going to opt for a steak like salmon, tuna or swordfish. These allow me to simply spray the fish with a light pan spray before placing it on a clean a hot grate, turn it forty five degrees after a few minutes then turn it over and cook it for a few more to finish. The result is a flaky, tender fish that has the tell tale diamond shaped grill marks, and it has the flavor, convenience and accurate cooking temperatures the grill so generously provides. To make sure your fish is done, simply pull back on the flesh with a fork. If it flakes easily, it is done. Be careful not to spray or oil the fish too heavily before putting on the grill or it can cause flare-ups. Grilling fish is a sensible idea as long as accompanying sauces or condiments are also healthy. Try this salsa with grilled tuna, salmon or other fish steak that appeals to you. This one comes together quickly and easily, and is a perfect, cool compliment to grilled fish.

Mango Salsa

In a mixing bowl combine:

2 cups fresh, ripe mango - diced (two large mangoes)

2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro

1 small red onion, diced

1 small jalapeno pepper, seeded, minced

1 small red pepper, diced

Juice of one large lime

1 tablespoon honey

1 tablespoon white balsamic vinegar

1 tablespoon canola oil

Pinch salt and fresh ground pepper

Stir ingredients to combine, chill for one hour. Serve over grilled fish.


Chef Andy Mueller is a well-seasoned Chef with over 30 years in the restaurant business. He's been on Food Network with Guy Fieri, was Reggie White's personal chef during their Super Bowl run in 1996 and has been Executive Chef at Zimani's in the late '80s, the original Executive Chef at Black & Tan Grille the first four years of operation and owned restaurants in Door County including Glidden Lodge restaurant north of Sturgeon Bay and Hillside Restaurant in Ellison Bay. He currently owns the massively popular supper club "Galley 57" in Allouez at 2222 Riverside Dr.

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