If steaks and burgers seem a little been there, done that, step out of your culinary comfort zone by grilling something your guests won’t necessarily expect—like wild-caught Alaskan halibut!
Halibut is a delicious white-fleshed fish with a firm, meaty texture, which makes it a great alternative to grilling meat or chicken. The tender white meat has a somewhat sweet taste and therefore doesn't need much seasoning. Not to mention, halibut is low in fat and rich in omega-3 fatty acids, making it a healthy choice when looking for a lighter meal.
Prepping Your Halibut
Unlike some grilled meats and other fish, it’s important to prep your halibut before grilling to ensure you get that perfectly crispy, grilled skin. To make sure you don’t end up with a water-logged consistency, getting rid of as much moisture as possible is crucial, since wetness in and on the fish skin will interfere with browning and crisping.
To remove moisture from the skin, let the fish fillets or steaks sit uncovered on a plate, skin side up, for about an hour in the refrigerator before cooking. Next, carefully pat your halibut with a paper or clean dish towel to pull out any remaining moisture.
Now that your halibut is nice and dry, season with just a brush of butter, squeeze of lemon, and touch of salt and pepper.
Getting Your Grill Ready
After your halibut is prepped, you’re ready to get the grill going. Since fish is more likely to stick to grills than chicken or beef, it’s important to ensure your grill is clean, well-oiled and hot. So first , clean your grill grates thoroughly by heating them up and using a grill brush to rid of any debris, and follow up with a rag dipped in olive or vegetable oil to thoroughly coat the grill.
Now that you have a clean and oiled grill, preheat it on high 30 minutes before cooking (a 10-minute preheat works if you have a gas range, although we recommend charcoal). Bringing the grill up to temperature will help in caramelizing the halibut while painting those deliciously, defined grill marks.
When grilling halibut, the choice of charcoal varies by your grilling style and personal preference. If you like a smokier flavor to your fish, adding soaked wood chips to the coals or putting them on a piece of foil set over the heat source will add an extra kick of flavor to your halibut.
Should I Start Flesh or Skin-Side Down?
Though some recipes call for you to remove the skin before grilling halibut, many love a delicious, browned crispy skin. Also, because halibut skin is more dense than its flesh, it firms up and releases more easily from the grate than the flesh will.
So, to prevent your fish from falling apart when you move them, if your fillets/steaks come with skin, grilling your halibut skin down is your best bet. You can also keep your halibut from flaking apart by using a fish basket, so instead of flipping the fish itself, you flip the basket that holds it.
Grilling Halibut to Perfection
Since halibut can dry out easily, the grilling time is pretty short compared to chicken or meat, meaning no breaks for a glass of wine or beer inside because overcooking will ruin everything you worked so hard for.
Generally, an inch-thick halibut steak or fillet will grill to perfection in about 10 minutes over medium-high heat while thinner cuts can cook in as little time as 5-7 minutes.
There are a few ways to know when your fish is ready to take off the grill. Halibut is good to go when the meat is opaque through the middle and flakes easily with a fork. You can also ensure doneness by checking the internal temperature with a meat thermometer and it hits 145 °F.
Easy and Delicious Grilled Halibut Recipes
Though halibut’s delicate flavor can stand on its own, there are endless ways to enjoy this versatile fish when grilling.
Pair your halibut with avocado, cashews and shallot in this easy and savory recipe from The Chew. For a little kick to your fish, this recipe by Epicurious uses Thai chiles and jalapeños to take the fish to new (and spicy!) heights.