Bobby Flay Has An Important Tip For Grilling Fish

Celebrity chef Bobby Flay may just be one of the the most well-known names in food. This comes as no surprise considering the multitude of hit TV shows he's starred in: "Beat Bobby Flay," "Throwdown with Bobby Flay," and "Hot Off the Grill with Bobby Flay," to name a few. Flay is known for being the lead authority on BBQing, earning the title of "barbeque aficionado" and "grill master," so it only makes sense to consult him for all things grilling.

Fish is not the easiest protein to grill. If you've ever attempted the task, you know there's a high likelihood of your fish sticking to the grill grates unless you take proper measures. This is because fish has a high water content. According to Food Fire Friends, fish muscle contains 70-80% water, which can make it easier for the protein to stubbornly adhere to your grill, especially if the grates aren't properly heated or adequately oiled.

Luckily, there are several methods that can help determine whether your fish will break apart in a mess, or come off clean with beautiful sear marks. Grill master Flay shares his top tip for grilling fish in an episode of "Bobby Flay's Barbecue Addiction," where he makes halibut tacos in the style of Veracruz.

Before you grill

Before Bobby Flay shares his key piece of grilling advice, he demonstrates three useful tricks to keep his fish from sticking to the grill grates. In the video, Flay is seen working with a pristinely clean grill, which is a major factor that determines whether your fish will stick or not. According to Serious Eats, when you cook with caked grill grates, carbonized bits of your prior meal will stick to your new meal. Mmmm, burnt pork chop-crusted fish, anyone?

Flay then brushes his filet of halibut with oil and seasons with salt, pepper, and ancho chili pepper. Oil does more than just add flavor; it helps your food become easily flippable. According to Cook's Illustrated, coating grill grates with oil creates a protective layer through oil polymerization — similar to the process of seasoning a cast iron pan. Make sure to use a high smoke point oil, since you'll be grilling at a high temperature.

When Flay slaps his filet down, he notes that the grill is nice and hot, which is essential for getting a proper sear — and to avoid stickage. According to Reader's Digest, a sear is actually a "chemical bond" that happens when the fish comes into contact with the hot metal grates. To maximize searing and minimize sticking, RD suggests preheating your grill for 3-5 minutes.

However, Flay's key piece of fish grilling advice doesn't actually involve these preparations.

If it sticks to the grates, it's not ready to flip

Bobby Flay's ultimate piece of fish-grilling advice is simple and involves just a little bit of patience. The chef revealed it on an episode of "Bobby Flay's Barbecue Addiction," where he served up some grilled fish tacos with a Veracruz-style "relish." "The longer this halibut sits on that hot grill," he says, "the easier it will come away from the grate itself."

Flay's advice gives a nod to the chemical process that takes place when cooking proteins. In the browning process, heat causes raw proteins to break down and form new molecular compounds. As stated above, getting a good sear, or brown, on your fish ensures it won't stick to the grill.

This advice rings true for all proteins; when your meat is sufficiently cooked, it should no longer stick to the grill grates — provided you apply the tips above. Cook's Illustrated echoes this advice and recommends checking the fish by gently lifting it with a spatula. If it sticks, keep cooking it, checking in 30-second intervals until the fish releases from the grates on its own.