best grill accessories for fish
best grill accessories for fish

How to Keep Fish from Sticking to the Grill

May 23rd, 2022

Proper Grill Prep and All the Grill Accessories You Need

When grilling fish, there are a couple unique challenges you'll want to consider — namely, how to keep fish from sticking to the grill or falling through the grates.

No matter what you’re grilling or what your skill level, good grill prep and the right set of accessories can help make cooking al fresco a foolproof and fun experience. Here's what you need to know before you fire up the grill:

Before You Put Your Fish on the Grill

Good pre-grilling preparation is essential, especially for a delicate protein like fish. Taking a little extra time to do things the right way before putting fish onto the grill will make it easier to flip and manage while its on the grates.  

Start with hot, clean grates. 

Hot, clean grill grates are absolutely crucial when cooking a delicate protein like seafood. Any residual bits that are stuck to the grates will turn into sticking points that make it hard to get the fish off the grill and back onto your plate. 

grill brush

To properly prep your grill :

  1. Get the grill very hot to help loosen and burn off any food from your last outdoor cooking session. Use a grill brush to scrub the grates clean. 

  2. When ready to grill, use a cloth or paper towel to lightly grease the grates with a high-heat cooking oil to help prevent sticking. The grill should still be at a high cooking temperature when the fish hits the grates. 

Note: If you’re using a grill grid or cast-iron grill pan, those will also need to be hot, clean, and oiled before using them to grill seafood.

Dry your fish well. 

Pat the fish dry with a clean kitchen towel or paper towel to remove excess moisture or marinade from the surface of the fish. Too much surface moisture will encourage steaming and sticking to the grill. Moisture also inhibits crisp grill marks on the fish. Pro tip: Unless you’re using a marinade, wait until just before cooking to salt the fish, as salt will pull moisture to the surface of the fillet and inhibit a good sear on the grates. 


Grill Accessories for Foolproof Grilling

Keep in mind that heartier varieties of fish like wild sockeye salmon and Pacific halibut are easy to grill directly on properly prepped grates. In contrast, delicate species like Pacific cod or rockfish benefit greatly from the help of grilling accessories. . 

Grill Grids

stainless steel grill grid

Unlike sturdier food items, the delicate and flaky nature of a perfectly cooked fillet puts it at risk of falling through the grates. If you don’t want to take any chances with your meal, it’s well worth investing in a stainless steel grill grid. And if your grill grates are seriously baked on, you might be better off using a clean grill grid to reduce the risk of sticking. 

A grill grid is typically designed as a stainless steel pan with holes punched out that are large enough to let heat and smoke through, but small enough that you’ll never lose a chunk of fish to the fire. A grill grid also comes in handy when you’re cooking smaller vegetables on the grill alongside your seafood. 

Flexible Grill Baskets

grill basket

Instead of flipping your seafood on the grill, you can load it into a flexible, flippable grill basket. That way, the fish never even has to touch the grates.

These grill baskets, usually made from very thin stainless steel wire, are designed to secure food more or less in place so that everything in the basket can be moved and flipped effortlessly. This can be really helpful when grilling especially delicate types of seafood, such as Pacific rockfish fillets, or small vegetables. 

Though nothing in the basket comes into direct contact with the grill grates, everything in the basket does come into direct contact with the wire in the basket, so make sure your grill basket is clean and well-oiled before placing any seafood inside of it. 

Cast-Iron Grill Pans

cast-iron grill pan

Though the idea of using a grill pan on a grill might seem a little redundant, it’s a good tool to have when you want the ease of cooking outdoors without the risk of losing fish between the grates. And unlike seafood cooked on a grill grid, seafood cooked in a cast-iron grill pan will have those gorgeous grill marks that you dream about when planning cookouts.  

Since a cast-iron grill pan is solid, without any holes or spaces for air/heat circulation, the smoky flavor of the grilled seafood won’t be quite as pronounced as with tools that have more open designs, like a grid or basket. 

Cedar Planks 

cedar plank salmon

Food-safe cedar planks are an aromatic and visually appealing addition to your grilling toolkit. But beyond aesthetics, there are three benefits of cedar plank cooking: more flavor, more moisture, and no flipping required. 

Cedar planks need a slightly different grill setup, since high heat will burn the wood. To prevent burning, the planks are soaked prior to being put on the grill, where the intense heat draws out the fragrant flavors and moisture within the cedar — a perfect setup for flavorful, moist fillets. Pro tip: Thicker cuts of fish are ideal for cooking on cedar planks, as they’ll have more time to soak up the aromas of the wood. 

Another benefit of using cedar planks to grill fish is that you won’t need to flip the fish as it cooks — it will steam to perfection without any poking or prodding along the way, and can be served directly off the plank. Hop over to our blog post on how to cook with cedar planks for a more detailed explanation of how to grill fish on cedar planks.


Grilled Fish Recipes to Try

To get you started at the grill, a great one for beginner's is our Simple Summer Salad with Grilled Salmon and Mango. Or if you've picked out your favorite accessory for delicate fish, try making our recipe for Grilled Pacific Rockfish with Herby Zhug Sauce.

Wild Alaskan Company delivers wild-caught, sustainable seafood directly to your door. Get Started.