Grilling vs Smoking Saltwater Fish

Grilling and Smoking Fish are two cooking methods that create wonderful flavors and delicious meals. But they are distinct and unique from one another. Knowing the differences will enhance your cooking skills and delight your families and friends.

Lightly smoking your fish will require no more time than a few minutes to achieve at a low temperature of 200F- 225F for no more than 5-10 minutes. Smoke with alder or apple wood placed on top of white coals. Even less time is needed when you poach or braise your fish beforehand in a Court Bouillon followed by a few minutes of smoking. Alas, there is no set recipe to follow. The flavor you are after will depend upon the time your fish is in your covered smoker, they type of fruitwood used, and the variations you experiment with in your bouillon.

imagesGrilling or steaming your fish are more familiar techniques than smoking for many cooks since grilling and steaming take less time than cooking at a lower temperature. And that may be why salt water fish, lIke burgers and beef steaks, are normally grilled.

Several facts about cooking fish are essential to enhancing our seafood cooking prowess. For example, only selecting fresh fish that have firm flesh and a moist appearance are certainly most important. Avoid fish that smells like fish. Fresh fish should smell briny like salt water.

Several saltwater fish are ideal for grilling including Halibut, Salmon, Stripped Bass, Swordfish and Tuna among others. Derrick Riches, the grilling and BBQ consultant recommends oiling your cooking grate to avoid sticking before you start grilling especially when cooking fillets. Fish steaks hold together better and make grilling much easier. Using a grilling or fish basket is easier with fillets. Seasoning seafood is not really necessary. I enjoy adding very few spices or herbs since the fish alone is so delicious. A pat of butter and a squeeze of lemon are usually sufficient.

The length of time you grill your fish varies by taste but 10 minutes per inch is a good guideline. You can also tell the fish is done by using a fork to flake the fish apart. Another way is to use a thermometer to reach 145 F.

Here’s a recipe that children and adults enjoyed at a recent family reunion in Florida. I fed 17 cousins— all healthy eaters— a version of Paella that was simple to cook when using Southern Grouper. In more Northern waters you can achieve a similar outcome with no less delicious a fish than Halibut, Striper, Swordfish or Cod, among others. If you experiment with other kinds of fish please advise. I will post it on my blog!

Paella with Saltwater Flat Fish
Serves 6-8

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2 cups Arborio also called Risotto Rice
1 medium sweet onion and 1 large carrot, diced
2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil and 3 oz unsalted butter
9 cups water for 8 cups vegetarian broth with chopped carrots, celery & Onions, bay leaf, salt and pepper.
2 pinches of Saffron, dissolved
1.5 lb flat fish, cut into 3 x 2 inch slices

1- Make 8 cups vegetarian broth at a simmer for 45 minutes
2- Add the olive oil and 2 tbsp butter to the diced onion and carrot and saffron until the rice is slightly crispy.
3- Add the heated broth to the rice a ladle at a time until the rice is al dente
4- Submerge the slices of fish into the rice with the remaining butter—6-8 minutes- until done. Enjoy!

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