How To Grill Fish

11/02/2011 12:10 pm ET | Updated Aug 31, 2012

With a little bit of olive oil, seasoning, and the right spatula, grilling a piece of fish is a snap. Chef David Kamen of The Culinary Institute of America demonstrates the process on a piece of salmon, grilling it with the 10-2-4-8 method to create perfect hatch marks. When the salmon flakes easily upon being probed with the spatula and has just a blush of pink in its middle, you're ready for dinner.

For 60 years, The Culinary Institute of America has been setting the standard for excellence in professional culinary education. In this video series, experienced chefs and educators show you how to tackle essential cooking techniques.

Video Transcript

Hi, I'm Chef Dave Kamen from the Culinary Institute of America, and I'm going to show you this kitchen basic: how to grill fish.

I have a really nice piece of salmon filet here. Salmon is a good fish for grilling because it's sturdy and fairly thick, and responds well to the strong flavors of the grill. To set up our salmon we'll just drizzle a a little olive oil over the top of the fish, then take a pair of tongs and slide the filet around on the plate in the olive oil: get it all lubricated. Then we'll add just a tiny bit of kosher salt and a little bit of black pepper. If you wanted to, you could add a little bit of lemon juice to this, or even a drop of balsamic vinegar if you liked; some people also enjoy a little bit of tabasco sauce.

So we have our fish all seasoned up and ready to go. Our grill has been preheating for the last twenty or thirty minutes, so it should be ready to go also. First, though, we want to carefully brush down the rods; brush off any carbon deposits in there, and food residue from the things we've been cooking all day today. Then we have our oil cloth and we'll use it to wipe down the rods. We want to lubricate our rods really well, because we don't want our salmon to stick. With fish it's especially important because fish is typically so high in protein and so low in fat, it's more prone to sticking on the grill. Salmon being an oily fish, and given that we put a little olive oil on there and that we cleaned and wiped down that grill real well, there should be no problem.

We take our salmon over to the grill and lay it right down there pointing to about ten o'clock. We can use the ten-two-four-eight method on this one, which means we'll sear it at ten o'clock first, wait a few moments and rotate it to two o'clock to make a nice crosshatch mark, then we'll flip it over to four o'clock, and then we'll rotate it again back to eight o'clock to have some nice marks. We're cooking our fish today over direct heat, which means the flame is right underneath the fish. With a thin delicate piece of salmon like this, it should cook fairly quickly over direct heat.

Fish in general is a lot more delicate than meat; instead of using a pair of tongs today, we'll use a fish spatula, which is thin and a little bit curved, which will help us get underneath the fish easily and give it a nice turn without damaging the flesh. So now it's been on a little while, and you can see it's getting pinkish and opaque around the edges. We'll carefully slide our spatula underneath the fish, pick it up, and just give it a rotate around so we're pointing at two o'clock. We'll come back in a few moments and give it a flip - and we'll see those nice grill marks on the other side.

If you take a look at our salmon now, you see it's getting nice and pink and opaque around the edges. We're just about ready to flip it over. We take our fish spatula, slide right underneath there, and flip that down over, so now we're pointing at four o'clock -and you can see the nice crosshatch marks on our fish. We're ready for one more rotation. We'll just slide right under here, give it one more rotation down to eight o'clock, and we're just about ready to go.

Here's an easy way to tell the doneness on fish. You just stick your spatula in between one of the flakes right there and just peel it back; the fish should flake very easily, and that'll indicate it's done. We'll let this finish with the grill cover closed just for the last few moments, just to speed it up a little bit faster, and then we'll be able to take it off.

Our salmon should be ready about now. Take a look at it: oh, that looks really nice - nice and brown, nice and flaky. We're going to pick up our fish, slide it onto a small plate.... and that's a really nice piece of grilled salmon. You can see the doneness here, it's nice and flaky, it basically pulls apart; you see a little blush of pink right in the middle, which is what we want to see in a grilled salmon. That's going to be absolutely delicious.

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