There is just something so beautiful about Grilled Whole Fish. The vibrant colors of the fish stuffed with fresh citrus and herbs is just so lovely. The bone adds another level of flavor and moistness. Red Snapper, Bronzino, and even Trout are great for grilling whole. I was lucky enough to grab two, three to four pound whole red snapper from The Carolina Meat & Fish Co.
There were six of us for dinner. Honestly, I probably could have grilled up three. It may seem like a lot, but once the fish is grilled, and the bones and skin removed, there really is not a lot of meat.
PREPARING THE WHOLE FISH TO GRILL
The fish was partially gutted and cleaned, but I still had a little bit of work to do prior to stuffing. Try to get your fishmonger to clean out entirely for you. If you are unable to, then I’ll guide you. With a very sharp knife, cut off the dorsal fins. Using that same knife, cut out the gills. If you have a tool to pull out any pin bones, do that at this time.
Take a peek inside and be sure that the fish is fully gutted. With a butterknife, scrape the outside skin of the fish to remove any scales. Rinse the inside and the outside of the fish under cold water. Allow to dry on paper towels. Pat the inside dry.
STUFFING THE FISH
Feel free to change up the ingredients. I went very simple with the seasoning so as to enjoy the inherent flavor of the red snapper.
Coat the inside of both fish with a tablespoon each of the light olive oil. Season the insides with a teaspoon of kosher salt and a half teaspoon of black pepper. Layer the inside of both fish with the orange and lemon slices. Top the citrus with the fresh herbs.
Take a sharp knife and score the fish on both sides. Scoring the whole fish serves two purposes. First, it allows the fish to cook more evenly. Secondly, scoring allows the seasoning to to penetrate the thickest part of the flesh. Rub the outside of each red snapper with tablespoon of the light olive oil. Season with the remaining kosher salt and black pepper.
GRILLING THE WHOLE FISH
Heat the grill to high. Preferably, you will want to use a fish basket or fish rack that is specifically made for grilled whole fish. I was visiting family while I was preparing this, so I did not have these tools available. As an alternative, I opted to tie the fish up with cooking string. Be sure to soak the string in water for at least 15 minutes prior to tying up the fish. I would highly recommend a basket or rack. As the fish were finishing on the grill, I had to place each under a piece of aluminum foil. The fish will become very flakey as it grills. I wanted to ensure I did not lose any of the meat in between the grates.
Oil, or use non-stick spray on the grill grates prior to placing the fish. Place the fish on the hot grill. Grill on a high setting for about two to three minutes per side. You will know when its time to flip because the fish will release from the grate very easily. For smaller fish, after grilling on the opposite side, the fish should be done.
For larger fish, like the ones I grilled, turn down the heat. Cover and allow to cook through.
To test for doneness, you can use a thermometer. Stick in the thickest part of the fish. The fish is done when the internal temperature reaches 135 degrees. Simply enough, you can just cut into the thickest part of the fish to ensure the flesh is opaque.
Remove fish onto a platter with a large metal spatula. You should be able to easily release the flesh from the bone. Watch out for pin bones. Even if you think you removed them all prior to grilling, I can assure you there will be a few remaining after grilling.
I hope you ENJOY my recipe for Grilled Whole Fish. Serve up with Roasted Potatoes and Grilled Corn.
If you love the flavor of grilled fish and seafood, check out these recipes!