Robert Irvine's Top Tips For Grilling Fish - Exclusive

Poorly cooked fish is a major disappointment, but a piece of fish that's been perfectly prepared can be a revelation. It's all about contrasts: The combination of flaky meat with crispy skin and on-point seasoning is hard to top — especially if the fish is cooked on a grill. But all the things that make grilled fish delicious also make it notoriously tricky to prepare. Fish is delicate, easy to under- or over-cook, and tends to stick — not exactly a recipe for success.

In an exclusive interview with Mashed, Chef Robert Irvine gave us a few grilling tips that just might save your summer cookout. Irvine knows a thing or two about putting fish on the grill: He ran a restaurant in Jamaica and has cooked across the Caribbean, so he's seen some seriously fresh fish and he knows how to handle it. He told us to clean our grill grates, keep the skin on, make sure the fish is dry and at room temperature before grilling, and wait until the protein caramelizes to flip. With Irvine's know-how and a hot grill, you're well on your way to a perfect piece of fish.

Prep the fish and clean the grill

First things first, get the best fish you can find — and keep the skin on. "I always keep the skin on fish — always — because it's the best piece of the fish if it's done right," Irvine explains. Choose the right fish (ideally one with a firmer texture), as really delicate fish simply won't hold up to grilling. For even more impressive results, grill a whole fish instead of just a filet.

With your fish in hand, make sure it has come to room temperature and that the skin is dry. If the surface of the fish is wet, you'll wind up with stuck skin.

While the fish is coming to room temperature (Irvine recommends taking your protein out of the fridge an hour before you're going to cook it), work on cleaning your grill. "You have to warm the grill up, clean the grill with a brush, and then wipe it down with a rag," he explains. This is especially important for fish, which will stick to any leftover burnt bits. Then, apply oil to the grates before you place your fish over the heat — Irvine uses grapeseed oil.

Give your fish time to cook

Once your fish is on the grill, leave it alone. "When the sugar comes out of the product, whether it be shrimp, chicken, beef, pork, it doesn't matter, that's when it will tell you to move it," says Irvine. 

If you've got more than one protein on the menu, be sure to grill the fish first while your grill is totally clean. Irvine explains that if you cook another meat before you cook your fish, anything left on the grill will cause the fish to stick. Avoid having to stop and clean your grill by preparing your proteins from lightest to heaviest.

Allow for a bit of carryover cooking by taking the fish off of the grill before it's completely done. Serve your fish skin-side up (remember, the crispy skin is the best part) and enjoy.

Find out more about Robert Irvine's shows, products, and upcoming appearances at his website.