Here's How To Keep Your Fish From Sticking To The Grill

If it's barbecue time but you're off of red meats for health or ethical reasons, all is not lost. Fish is a wonderful substitute for a summer cookout. But the memories of grill-related fish disasters can be scarring so it pays to do a little bit of research before you begin.

The first way to ensure that your fish doesn't stick to the grill is to use the right kind. While flaky whitefish like sea bass, cod, pollock, and sole can be good for a number of preparations like fish and chips, they are not the type of fish that you want to barbecue. If you're going to grill fish, you need a meaty, thick, dense species that won't disintegrate while it's cooking. Think of a fish like swordfish, tuna, marlin, or mahi mahi (via Food Republic).

Another way to ensure that your fish doesn't stick to the grill is to use some sort of a barrier between the fish and the metal grates of the grill. For example, some people grill fish on planks made out of aromatic woods like cedar, alder, or cherry to impart a smoky flavor. This is an especially popular method with salmon, which is one of the best fish to smoke (via Men's Journal).

More methods to prevent fish from sticking to the grill

Using aluminum foil can also help to isolate the fish from the slats of the grill. While your fish won't have the tell-tale grill marks that some like to see on their finished dish, you'll still get the charcoal flavor that everyone's looking for when they light the grill in the first place (via Food).

A third way to build a barrier between the grill and the fish is to slice a lemon, lime, or orange and lay the fish on top of the slices. This imparts a nice citrus flavor as well as serving as a blockade between the surfaces (via The Kitchn). Food Network suggests coating the fish in mayo to keep it from sticking.

Cleaning the grill is also an important step. If there's a lot of debris burned onto the grate, it will increase the likelihood of the fish sticking. A quick application of cooking spray can sometimes help to lubricate the slats (via Cooking Light). If you don't like the idea of using cooking spray, you can rub a little oil onto the skin side of the fish which will also help grease things up a bit. Grapeseed or peanut oil are good options given their high smoke point and the high heat of the grill. Oils with low smoke points like walnut oil or flaxseed oil shouldn't be heated (via The Globe and Mail).

Keep the heat high and the skin on

It's also important to get the temperature right. If your grill is too cold, the likelihood of the fish sticking to it will increase. By having a flaming hot grill, you can sear the outside of the fish, which will prevent sticking. The best cuts of fish to use on the grill still have their skin on. In many ways, the skin acts as a built-in barricade even if you don't want to use foil, wood planks, or a bed of citrus.

Once your fish is on the grill, it's important not to mess with it until it's time to give it the flip. When it's time to flip or remove the fish from the grill, it's essential to use the right type of spatula as well or else the fish will fall apart and ruin all of your hard work. Sometimes marketed as a "fish turner," a long and thin spatula is what you're looking for. A normal, wide spatula may cause the fish to break apart.