Fire up your grill!
Advertisement
Grilled steak salmon
Credit: Malyugin/Getty Images

A piece of grilled fish with one or two sides is a dreamy summer meal—delicious, light, and healthful. For many Americans, fish isn't on the typical rotation for the grill, but there's no reason why it shouldn't be! Grilling fish imparts a rich, smoky flavor to the flesh, and a crackling finish to the skin, and it's an easy process once you know what you're doing. It's best to keep the skin on your fish, both to preserve moisture and because it's a crispy treat when cooked correctly. If you don't have a fish spatula in your kitchen, consider buying yourself one; it makes flipping filets a breeze.

Whether you go fishing yourself or visit the fishmonger or grocery store for your fish, we have the low-down on how to grill your filets to perfection. Keep reading for tips for grilling cod, snapper, and more.

How to Grill Cod

Cod is a mild fish that's often a great option for people who don't like that fishy taste. It has a dense, flaky flesh that makes it a great option for the grill, though it can fall apart if you're not careful. If you're worried about your cod filets breaking apart, try flavoring them (with anything from Cajun seasoning to a simple salt, pepper, and garlic powder mixture) and grilling them in aluminum foil. The foil will help keep the fish together while it cooks, though it's not necessary. If you don't use the foil method, make sure to place the fish on a hot, well-oiled grill rack skin-side down.

  1. Preheat a grill to medium-high heat. Temper the cod filets so they're at room temperature when you're ready to grill, and drain them of excess marinade.
  2. Place a piece of nonstick aluminum foil on the grill grates, making sure that the foil doesn't completely cover the grill. This will allow for air flow. Poke several holes in the foil with a grilling fork so any excess marinade can drain.
  3. Place the cold filets on the foil, spaced apart a bit. Cook for about 10 to 12 minutes, flipping the fish halfway through. You'll know the fish is done when it starts to flake when pulled with a fork. (You can also check for doneness by inserting an instant-read thermometer into the thickest part of the fish. The temperature should read 130 to 140 degrees.)

How to Grill Salmon

Salmon is a hearty, robust fish that can stand up to high heat, which makes it a great option for the grill. It's tasty on its own, but if you want to pack a punch, try a marinade with orange zest, lemon zest, finely chopped cilantro, and grated garlic.

  1. Preheat a clean, seasoned grill, making sure to establish two zones: hot for searing and a cooler side to finish cooking. Temper the salmon filets so they're at room temperature when you're ready to grill, and drain them of excess marinade.
  2. Once preheated, set the salmon skin-side down on the hot zone and let sit for around 6 minutes, or until it releases easily when you flip it (ideally with a fish spatula).
  3. When you flip the salmon, move it to the lower-heat area and let cook for 2 to 4 minutes, or until it reaches your ideal doneness. (You can check for doneness by inserting an instant-read thermometer into the thickest part of the fish. For context: 120 degrees is medium-rare.)

How to Grill Tuna

On the meatier side, tuna is a winner on the grill, but it's a pretty lean fish, so you have to make sure not to cook it for too long so it doesn't dry out. Marinating the fish helps with moisture, as does avoiding cooking it past medium-rare. It's important to buy high-quality fish, especially in a scenario like this one where you're leaving the center somewhat raw. We like an Asian-inspired tuna marinade with soy sauce, sesame oil, grated ginger, and lime juice.

  1. Preheat a clean, seasoned grill to high heat. Temper the tuna steaks so they're at room temperature when you're ready to grill, and drain them of excess marinade.
  2. Once preheated, set the tuna on the grill and sear for about 2 to 3 minutes on each side. (Remember that cooking all the way through will toughen the fish!)
  3. Let rest for about 5 minutes before serving.

How to Grill Snapper

Snapper has a white flesh with a mild, clean flavor, so it's perfect for people who aren't so sure how they feel about fish. We suggest treating it simply, with lemon and olive oil. The final product should be opaque, tender, and flaky.

  1. Preheat a clean, seasoned grill, making sure to establish two zones: hot for searing and a cooler side to finish cooking. Temper the snapper filets so they're at room temperature when you're ready to grill, and drain them of excess marinade.
  2. Once preheated, set the snapper skin-side down on the hot zone and let sit for 3 to 4 minutes, or until it releases easily when you flip it (ideally with a fish spatula).
  3. When you flip the snapper, move it to the lower-heat area and let cook for 3 to 4 minutes, or until it's cooked through at around 130 to 140 degrees. (You can check for doneness by inserting an instant-read thermometer into the thickest part of the fish.)

How to Grill Mahi-Mahi

Mahi-mahi is a white fish with a firm but juicy texture when cooked. Like snapper, it's fantastic prepared simply with lemon and olive oil, but it's also good rubbed with spices like paprika, oregano, and a dash of cayenne.

  1. Preheat a clean, seasoned grill, making sure to establish two zones: hot for searing and a cooler side to finish cooking. Temper the mahi-mahi filets so they're at room temperature when you're ready to grill, and drain them of excess marinade (if applicable).
  2. Once preheated, set the mahi-mahi skin-side down on the hot zone and let sit for 4 to 5 minutes, or until it releases easily when you flip it (ideally with a fish spatula).
  3. When you flip the mahi-mahi, move it to the lower-heat area and let cook for 4 to 5 minutes, or until it's cooked through at around 130 to 140 degrees. (You can check for doneness by inserting an instant-read thermometer into the thickest part of the fish.)

Sides to Serve With Grilled Fish

One of our favorite things about grilled fish is that it goes well with just about any side dish. In the mood for carbs? Serve grilled fish alongside some couscous or pasta salad. If you prefer a side that's a bit lighter, try a salad or a veggie-filled dish. The possibilities are endless!

Toasted Israeli Couscous With Corn and Herbs Recipe
Credit: Greg DuPree

1 Toasted Israeli Couscous With Corn and Herbs

get the recipe

Bright and herby, with rich caramelized onions, this couscous dish is like a modern pasta salad.

Eggplant Panzanella Recipe
Credit: Andrew Purcell

2 Eggplant Panzanella

get the recipe

This riff on the classic Tuscan bread salad includes grilled eggplant and shaved Manchego cheese.

Spicy Street Corn Salad
Credit: Jen Causey

3 Spicy Street Corn Salad

get the recipe

Taking cues from Mexican street corn, this salad is packed with flavor thanks to jalapeño, lime, cilantro, and more.

caprese-skewers
Credit: Getty Images

4 Caprese Skewers with Balsamic Glaze

get the recipe

This colorful, no-cook side takes zero effort and looks beautiful and summery on your plate.

RELATED: 12 Easy Summer Salad Recipes That Use The Season's Best Ingredients

Peach and Arugula Salad With Burrata
Credit: Greg DuPree

5 Peach and Arugula Salad With Burrata

get the recipe

Burrata always steals the show, especially when paired with sweet summer peaches and salty prosciutto.

Lemony Cucumber-and-Herb Pasta Salad
Credit: Greg DuPree

6 Lemony Cucumber and Herb Pasta Salad

get the recipe

This untraditional pasta salad has feta, lots of fresh herbs, and refreshing sliced Persian cucumbers.

Orzo Tomato Salad Recipe
Credit: Jennifer Causey

7 Orzo Tomato Salad

get the recipe

The cherry tomatoes shine in this simple orzo salad with a Dijon-honey dressing.