Grilled Fish (Perfect Filets!)
on May 16, 2022, Updated Mar 29, 2023
This post may contain affiliate links. Please read our disclosure policy.
Ever wonder how to get perfectly flaky grilled fish fillets on the grill? This recipe is the simplest and best way to grill just about any firm white fish!
What I love too, is that you can literally pair this flaky fish with just about anything that you have on hand and want to use. I like recipes like this because then I can hit up the farmer’s market or my garden, pick gorgeous fruits and vegetables and use them for the sides to this really simple but delicious main dish grilled fish recipe. It’s simple, it’s classic, and it’s always a hit in this house.
- Fish fillets: select a mild, firm white fish (such as Louisiana Drum, cod, pollock, tilapia, etc.) Grilling fish works best with thin, flat fillets.
- Olive oil: can be substituted with other light oils such as canola, vegetable, or avocado. It’s best to use an oil with a high smoke point (400°F or above) to prevent the oil from breaking down and producing undesirable flavors at high temperatures.
- Lemon: a little lemon goes a long way to brighten the flavor.
- Parsley: optional as a garnish.
- Salt and pepper – I prefer to use a nice Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
How to Make Perfect Grilled Fish
Grilling fish is a delicious and healthy way to enjoy fresh seafood, but it can be a bit intimidating for beginners – but no worries! These step-by-step directions will help you master the art of grilling fish, from selecting the best fish to perfecting your grilling techniques. Get ready to impress your friends and family with your newfound skills.
- Turn your grill on to high heat and allow it to heat for 5-10 minutes until the grill is very hot. (If using a charcoal grill, heat up your grill for around 10-15 minutes with the lid on. If your charcoal barbecue is not hot enough: make sure your lid vents are open fully.) While your grill heats complete the following steps:
- Rinse the fish fillets and pat the fish dry using paper towels and transfer them to a wire rack set over a baking sheet to catch any drips or spills.
- Season one side of the fish with salt and pepper, and then drizzle olive oil over it. Use a pastry brush or your fingers to evenly spread the oil over the seasoned side.
- Flip the fish on the rack and repeat the seasoning and oiling process with the remaining salt, pepper, and oil. Let the fish rest and marinate while the grill heats up.
- Clean the grill grates with a brush, and then lower the grill temperature to low. If using a charcoal grill, reduce the temperature by closing the air dampers to 1/4 open.
- Place the fish on the grill, close the lid, and cook without turning for 7-10 minutes (check at 7 minutes, as thinner fillets may cook faster). The fish should be white and flakes easily when tested with a paring knife – it should reach an internal temperature of 150°F.
- The trick for perfect grilled fish is to cook in a pre-heated grill at low heat, with the lid closed (essentially baking the top side of the fish), without turning (prevents the fish from falling apart), until cooked. Thicker fillets may require turning.
- Use a metal spatula to remove the fish from the grill.
- Before serving, sprinkle additional kosher salt (to taste) and squeeze lemon juice over the fish. Serve with extra lemon slices and chopped parsley, allowing guests to customize according to their preferences. The initial squeeze of lemon is essential for enhancing the flavor, but additional lemon and parsley can be adjusted to individual tastes. Enjoy this delicious dish as it is or with the extra garnishes.
Tips for Buying Fish
Just because you don’t live near water doesn’t mean you can’t find delicious, fresh fish. Here are some tips when deciding what fish to buy.
Fish that is sold as “fresh” can range from 1 day to two weeks out of the water. Fishing boats often stay at sea for a couple of weeks and put their catch on ice before they dock again. When you are looking for the highest quality of fish, search for FAS or Frozen at Sea or Individually Quick-Frozen (IQF). FAS means that once the fish was caught, it was filleted and flash froze on board the ship within minutes of being caught. When it is thawed it tastes the closest to fresh caught fish.
Individually Quick-Frozen (IQF) is another good option when shopping for fish because this method of flash freezing occurs within hours of the fish being caught. Each fillet is individually packaged and inspected for quality. Check for freezer burn or ice crystals in the packaging of IQF labeled fish because that could affect the flavor.
If the fish is packaged, you will want to look for clean and dry packaging. When buying fish I like to find wild caught fish and I prefer when they are individually sealed if frozen. That way I can take just the few I need out of the freezer while the rest stay frozen. I have great luck buying high quality fish at Costco.
If you are buying fresh fish there are a few things to look for. First of all, trust your nose! If there is a really strong fishy smell-that could by a sign that the fish is old and starting to deteriorate. Another aspect to look for is the skin of the fish. You want to the skin to be shiny with some slime on the surface. That is a mark of quality and freshness. Fresh fish should also have clear and bright eyes. If you encounter a fish with cloudy or red eyes-steer clear.
Frequently Asked Questions
You want to enjoy a flaky and delicious grilled filet so I suggest applying oil liberally on each side of the fish. You can use a pastry brush to evenly distribute the oil on the fish. This will help to seal in all of the natural flavors too. Also don’t over cook it.
The best grilled fish fillet is lightly seasoned the fish with salt, pepper, oil and lemon juice. I also love to serve the filet with additional lemon slices and chopped parsley. YUM! A classic lemon pepper seasoning goes well with fish too. Garlic powder and paprika are also common seasonings.
Once your grill has heated for 5-10 minutes and is nice and hot, place the fish on the grill and close the lid. It will only take 7-10 minutes to grill. Check the fish right at 7 minutes and it will likely be done. If it is a thicker filet it will take a bit longer-but not much.
You will want a firm-fleshed fish that can withstand the heat of the grill when grilling. Something like halibut, tilapia, catfish, pollock or cod.
A couple key points will help your fish not stick to the grill. 1. Pat all sides of the fish dry with a paper towel. 2. Don’t skimp on the oil. Apply an ample amount of oil on all sides to prevent the fish from sticking to the grill. I also like to use an oiled paper towel to wipe down the grill while it’s hot, just before I put the fish on.
What to serve with fish:
- The BEST Crispy Homemade Sweet Potato Fries
- Easy Stovetop Asparagus
- Classic Potato Salad Recipe
- Mediterranean Cucumber Salad
- Green Beans with Butter and Bacon
- Battered Fried Fish (if you need another fish recipe!)
If you’ve tried my grilled fish recipe or any other recipe on Bless this Mess, then don’t forget to rate the recipe and leave me a comment below! I would love to hear about your experience making it. And if you snapped some pictures of it, share it with me on Instagram so I can repost on my stories AND add your photo to your comment so that other can see your creation.
Perfect and Simple Grilled Fish Fillets
- 1 to 1-1/2 lbs fish fillets from a firm white fish (4-6 fillets), such as Louisiana Drum, cod, pollock, tilapia, etc.
- 1 ½ teaspoon Kosher salt
- 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 1/2 cup olive oil
- 1 or 2 lemons, cut into wedges
- ½ cup chopped parsley, optional
- Turn your grill on to high heat and allow it to heat for 5-10 minutes until the grill is very hot. (If using a charcoal grill, heat up your grill for around 10-15 minutes with the lid on. If your charcoal barbecue is not hot enough: make sure your lid vents are open fully.)
- Rinse the fish and lay it onto paper towels. Use the paper towels to pat the fish dry and place the fillets on a wire rack (a baking or cooling rack placed inside of a baking sheet works great to catch any drips and spills).
- Sprinkle half the salt and half the pepper over the fish. Carefully drizzle half of the olive oil over the seasoned fish. Using a pastry brush or your fingers, evenly distribute the oil all over that side of the fish.
- Flip the fish over on the rack and repeat with remaining salt, pepper, and oil. Let the fish rest and marinade until your grill is hot.
- Use a brush to scrape the grill grate clean and then lower the grill temperature to low. If using a charcoal grill, reduce the temperature by closing the air dampers to 1/4 open.
- Place the fish on the grill, close the lid, and leave the fish to cook with the lid closed, without turning for 7 to 10 minutes (chances are really good your fish will be done right at 7 minutes unless it is very thick, check it at 7 minutes!).**The trick for perfect grilled fish is to cook in a pre-heated grill at low heat, with the lid closed (essentially baking the top side of the fish), without turning (prevents the fish from falling apart), until cooked. Thicker fillets may require turning.**
- The fish should be white and flaky when tested with a paring knife and reach an internal temperature of 150°F. Using a metal spatula remove the fish fillets from the grill.
- Sprinkle with additional kosher salt (to taste) and lemon juice before serving and then serve with additional lemon slices and chopped parsley to suit individual tastes (the first squeeze of lemon isn’t optional, it makes it amazing, but additional lemon and parsley are up to you or your guests. I didn’t feel like this tasty dish needed anything extra because it was excellent as it was).
- You can use this cooking method for just about any firm white fish such as catfish, tilapia, pollock, and cod.
Health Benefits of Fish
A diet that includes fish has a myriad of health benefits. Eating fish can reduce the risk of heart disease. It is high in healthy omega 3 fatty acids which helps to reduce inflammation, protect your heart and help your hair grow. Fish is not only good for your heart but your brain as well. Studies have shown that eating seafood can lower the risk of Alzheimer’s disease and reduces brain shrinkage as people age. Another health benefit of fish is that it is high in vitamin D This is an essential nutrient that can keep your bones strong. Eating fish is a great way to incorporate lean protein in your diet as well.
I can’t wait to hear how this simple grilling method for fish turns out for you. Long live the simple and fool-proof yet crazy delicious recipes!