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How to grill fish is a question many people have, whether they are experienced cooks or beginners. Grilling fish is an excellent way to add variety to your diet, especially if you’re trying to eat more seafood. It’s a healthy and delicious option that can be easily customized to suit your taste preferences. 

However, if you’ve never grilled fish before, it can seem a bit intimidating. Fortunately, with a few simple steps, you can master the art of grilling fish and enjoy a delicious meal in no time. In this article, we’ll guide you through the process of grilling fish, from selecting the right type of fish to seasoning and grilling it to perfection. So let’s get started!

Grilled fish
Grilled fish with vegetable and lime garnish

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Choosing the right fish

When it comes to grilling fish in Nigeria, choosing the right type of fish is key. Here are some factors to consider when selecting fish for grilling:

1. Freshness

Choose fresh fish that smells clean, without a strong fishy odour.

2. Firmness

Look for fish with firm flesh, which will hold up well on the grill without falling apart.

3. Flavour

Choose fish with a mild, sweet flavour that will complement the smoky flavours of grilling.

4. Availability

Consider what types of fish are available in your area, as different regions may have different options.

5. Sustainability

Choose fish that are sustainably sourced and not overfished to support responsible fishing practices.

Some popular fish for grilling in Nigeria include tilapia, catfish, barracuda, and mackerel.

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How to eat grilled fish
Red snapper grilled fish

Preparing the Fish for Grilling

After selecting the right fish for grilling, it’s important to prepare it properly before placing it on the grill. Here are some steps to follow:

1. Clean the fish

Rinse the fish under cold water and remove any scales, fins, and guts. Pat dry with paper towels.

2. Season the fish

Rub the fish with your desired seasoning mix, making sure to coat both sides evenly. This can include a mix of herbs, spices, lemon juice, and oil.

3. Score the fish

Using a sharp knife, make shallow cuts on the skin of the fish to help it cook evenly and prevent it from curling up on the grill.

4. Let the fish sit

Allow the fish to sit for at least 30 minutes after seasoning to allow the flavours to penetrate the flesh.

5. Bring the fish to room temperature

Let the fish sit at room temperature for 10-15 minutes before grilling. This will help it cook more evenly.

By properly preparing the fish, you’ll ensure that it’s flavorful and cooked to perfection on the grill.

What to serve with grilled fish
Grilled fish with french fries

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Ingredients for Grilling Fish

  • 4 medium-sized fish filets (such as tilapia, catfish, barracuda, or mackerel)
  • ¼ cup olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 2 tablespoons honey
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon minced garlic
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ¼ teaspoon black pepper
  • ¼  teaspoon paprika

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Seasoning the fish

When it comes to seasoning fish for grilling in Nigeria, there are many delicious options to choose from. Here are some popular choices for maximum flavour:

1. Pepper soup seasoning

Pepper soup seasoning is a popular choice in Nigeria for adding a spicy flavour to grilled fish. It typically includes a blend of spices like cumin, coriander, chilli peppers, and ginger.

2. Maggi seasoning

Maggi seasoning is a staple in Nigerian cooking and can add a savoury flavour to your grilled fish. Simply sprinkle the seasoning over the fish before grilling.

3. Lemon and herbs

Try seasoning your fish with fresh herbs like thyme, rosemary, parsley, lemon zest, and juice for a lighter flavour.

4. Garlic and ginger

Garlic and ginger are commonly used in Nigerian cuisine and can add a delicious depth of flavour to grilled fish. Mix minced garlic and ginger with some oil and spread it over the fish before grilling.

5. Traditional Nigerian spices

Depending on your region of Nigeria, specific spices or spice blends may be used in fish dishes. For example, suya spice, a blend of peanuts and spices, is often used in northern Nigeria.

Experiment with different seasonings to find your favourite flavour combinations for grilled fish.

Related: How to Make Chicken and Chips

Grilled fish and plantain
Grilled served with plantain and pepper sauce

Preheating and oiling the grate

Preheating the grill and oiling the grate are crucial steps to ensure that your grilled fish cooks evenly and doesn’t stick to the grates. Here’s how to go about it:

1. Preheat the grill

Turn on your grill and let it heat up for at least 10-15 minutes before you start grilling your fish. This allows the grill to reach the desired temperature and ensures that your fish cooks evenly.

2. Clean the grates

Use a grill brush to clean the grates of any leftover food or debris from previous grilling sessions. This will prevent any unwanted flavours from transferring to your fish.

3. Oil the grates

Dip a folded paper towel in vegetable or canola oil, and use tongs to rub the oil onto the grates. This will create a non-stick surface and prevent your fish from sticking to the grates.

4. Adjust the heat

Adjust the heat of your grill to the desired temperature for grilling fish. For most fish, medium-high heat (around 375-400°F) is ideal.

5. Close the lid

Close the lid of your grill and let it heat up for a few more minutes before you start grilling your fish. This will ensure that the grates are evenly heated and ready to cook your fish.

By preheating your grill and oiling the grates, you will be able to achieve a perfectly grilled fish with a crispy exterior and tender, flaky interior.

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How to Grill fish at home

How to Grill Fish at Home

1 Hour

Step 1: Place the fish on the grill

Once the grill is preheated and oiled, place the fish on the grill, skin side down (if the fish has skin). For filets, place them at a 45-degree angle to the grates for a nice grill mark.

Step 2: Do not touch the fish

Resist the urge to move or flip the fish for the first 2-3 minutes of grilling. This will allow the fish to develop a nice sear and release easily from the grates.

Step 3: Flip the fish

After 2-3 minutes, use a spatula to carefully flip the fish to the other side. If the fish has skin, gently remove it from the grates with a spatula.

Step 4: Cook until done

Continue cooking the fish for another 2-3 minutes on the second side until it’s cooked through. The internal temperature should reach 145°F for most types of fish. Use a meat thermometer to check for doneness.

Step 5: Remove from the Grill

Once the fish is done, use a spatula to carefully remove it from the grill and transfer it to a platter.

Step 6: Rest before Serving

Let the fish rest for a few minutes before serving to allow the juices to redistribute and the flavours to meld.

Grilling fish is a delicate process requiring attention to detail to ensure it cooks evenly and stays moist. Here’s how to grill fish for the best results:

1. Place the fish on the grill

Once the grill is preheated and oiled, place the fish on the grill, skin side down (if the fish has skin). For filets, place them at a 45-degree angle to the grates for a nice grill mark.

2. Do not touch the fish

Resist the urge to move or flip the fish for the first 2-3 minutes of grilling. This will allow the fish to develop a nice sear and release easily from the grates.

3. Flip the fish

After 2-3 minutes, use a spatula to carefully flip the fish to the other side. If the fish has skin, gently remove it from the grates with a spatula.

4. Cook until done

Continue cooking the fish for another 2-3 minutes on the second side until it’s cooked through. The internal temperature should reach 145°F for most types of fish. Use a meat thermometer to check for doneness.

5. Remove from the grill

Once the fish is done, use a spatula to carefully remove it from the grill and transfer it to a platter.

6. Rest before serving

Let the fish rest for a few minutes before serving to allow the juices to redistribute and the flavours to meld.

Grilled fish with yam and plantain
Grilled fish paired with different serving suggestions

Grilled Fish Serving Suggestions

  • Served with roasted plantains and spicy salsa on the side.
  • Pair it on top of Jollof and a side of grilled vegetables for a complete and satisfying meal.
  • Served with a side of fried yam or sweet potato chips.
  • Add some freshness with a side salad of mixed greens, cucumber, tomato salad, or coleslaw.
  • Garnish with a sprinkle of fresh herbs, such as parsley or cilantro, for an extra pop of flavour and colour.
  • Accompanied by garri (cassava flakes).
  • Served with a side of grilled corn on the cob and spicy pepper sauce.
  • Accompanied by boiled or fried ripe plantains and tomato sauce.
  • Served with a side of yam pottage and steamed vegetables.
  • Accompanied by beans porridge (Ewa Agoyin) and fried plantain (Dodo).
  • Accompanied by traditional Nigerian stews such as egusi, Ogbono, or Ewedu.
Peppered grilled fish
Peppered grilled fish with a variety of sides

Grilled Fish Variations

Here are some variations on grilled fish recipes in Nigeria:

  • Herb-Grilled Fish: Add fresh herbs like thyme, rosemary or parsley to the seasoning mix for a fragrant and flavorful twist.
  • Coconut-Grilled Fish: Brush the fish with coconut milk before grilling to give it a creamy and tropical taste.
  • Suya Grilled Fish: Rub the fish with a mixture of peanut butter, spices, and oil to create a tasty suya-inspired grilled fish.
  • Pepper Soup Grilled Fish: Marinate the fish in pepper soup spices and lemon juice for a tangy and spicy flavour.
  • Garlic and Ginger Grilled Fish: Add minced garlic and ginger to the seasoning mix for a flavorful and aromatic grilled fish.
  • Sweet Potato Grilled Fish: Add slices of fresh potatoes to the grill while cooking the fish for a smooth sweet taste.

Related: How to make pepper soup

Conclusion 

In conclusion, grilling fish in Nigeria is a delicious and healthy way to enjoy this protein-packed food. Whether you choose to use salmon, tilapia, or any other type of fish, there are countless ways to prepare and season it for the grill. 

By following the steps outlined in this article, you can create a perfectly grilled fish every time. With a little practice and experimentation, you can even develop your own variations on these recipes to suit your taste. So go ahead and fire up the grill – your taste buds will thank you for it.

Related: How to cook catfish pepper soup

FAQs on How to Grill a Fish

Should you BBQ fish in foil?

Grilling fish in foil is the best solution. It keeps the fish intact, locks in moisture, and helps the heat distribute evenly. It also allows you to add herbs and aromatics to perfectly season your grilled fish filets

Which fish is best for barbecue?

Firm, robust fish stand up best to barbecuing. Halibut, monkfish, and swordfish are all good candidates. More delicate types of fish, such as cod, can easily flake and fall through the grill, although with a little prep and care when cooking, most fish can be barbecued.

How long should fish stay on the grill in foil?

Heat half of the grill (on one side) on high heat with the cover closed. When the grill is hot, place the foil packets on the side of the grill with the burners off (indirect heat) and close the grill. Depending on the thickness of your fish, cook for 10 to 15 minutes or until the fish is opaque and cooked through.

How do you barbeque fish without sticking?

Oil both the fish and the grill. Brush the fish with olive oil or marinade and wipe the grill with an oil-soaked paper towel. There are also special non-stick cooking sprays for grills, but honestly, the paper towel works just as well. Build the fire that’s right for what you’re cooking.

Is it safe to BBQ on aluminium foil?

This is a major NO-NO. Laying the foil on the grates can restrict the intended airflow inside the grill, which could lead to damage to the internal components, not to mention create a dangerous situation.

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