Category Archives: Methods of Preparation

Where There’s Smoke, There’s Grilled Seafood

Methods of Preparation

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In ancient times, men and women cooked over an open fire as an alternative to eating raw food. Today, with all our advances and conveniences, we still love to cook outdoors over a flame. And it’s not just burgers and steaks anymore. A meal of fresh seafood, prepared simply outdoors and eaten in the company of friends, is one of life’s real pleasures. Most of our Nutrition Leaders hold fond memories of family and neighbors gathering for oyster roasts by the shore, or fish fresh from the boat and hot off the grill.

In addition to great flavor, grilled seafood is easy, quick and convenient. And it doesn’t heat up the kitchen. It’s also healthful, requiring little, if any, added fat. As in baking or broiling, you may need to use a little oil and baste lean fish for grilling, but not with oiler fish. In general no elaborate seasonings, sauces or marinades are needed.

Selecting seafood to grill

Fish in any market form – drawn, dressed, steaks or fillets – may be cooked over coals. You can grill any fish that you can broil. Shellfish, depending on the recipe, may be grilled in the shell or shucked. Use the freshest fish and shellfish you can find. Lack of quality means lack of good flavor.

Firm fish such as shark or tuna can be cooked directly on the grill. With careful handling, medium-firm fish such as salmon or grouper can be cooked the same way. Steaks and skin-on fillets should be about one inch thick if they are to be cooked directly on the grill. When cooking skin-on fillets, begin grilling with the skin side down.

Small foods such as shucked shellfish, pieces of fish and vegetables grill easily on skewers. Create your own kabobs by alternating a variety of foods such as different seafoods, vegetables and fruit. Try using pineapple and bell pepper chunks on a skewer with sea scallops, for example, or onion wedges and button mushrooms with shrimp.

Choosing grilling accessories

You can use metal or bamboo skewers. Just remember to soak bamboo skewers in water for 30 minutes before using to prevent burning.

You will find that using a hinged metal grill or fish basket will make almost all seafood grilling easier. Long handles make these utensils easy to use, and they adjust to the fish’s thickness. When it’s time to turn the food, simply flip the hinged grill or basket.

You can find inexpensive hinged grills and baskets at discount or hardware stores, or sometimes in supermarkets. Always oil the grill before placing food in it.

Delicate fish such as flounder or trout, thin fillets and shucked shellfish always should be cooked in a hinged grill. This maintains their shape and prevents them from falling into the fire.

While thin fillets do not have to be turned, they will maintain more grilled flavor if they are.

Grilling tips

Do not overcook. Fish should always be moist and tender, never dry and chewy. Cook only until meat flakes easily when tested with a fork or tip of a sharp knife. Crustaceans are low in fat and will dry out quickly. Watch shrimp and crabs carefully and remove from the heat quickly.

You don’t need a recipe for grilling oysters and clams in the shell. Just scrub the shells under cold, running water, then place them on the grill. Place oysters with the deep shell on the bottom. Grill until shells open and the meat is done, about 7 to 12 minutes for oysters, 5 to 8 minutes for clams.

Always use a clean rack. Preheat it, then brush with vegetable oil or spray. Cook seafood about four inches above moderately hot coals. Depending upon size, fillets will cook in 6 to 12 minutes per inch of thickness. Turn once. And always check for doneness before the cooking time is up.

When cooking drawn or dressed fish, score each side. Make three cuts diagonally along each side to ensure cooking.

Use a covered grill if you can. It provides faster cooking and keeps the seafood moist and tender. If you use an open grill, your cooking time will vary due to wind and air temperature.

Seafood tastes great when cooked on a grill, whether charcoal or gas. Gas is more convenient, and the fire will always be about the same temperature as the setting. But gas grills don’t sear or brown as well as charcoal. Charcoal has the advantage of adding smoke and wood flavor, too even though you have to light the fire and keep it going.

For additional smoked flavor, add hardwood chips such as hickory or oak to coals. A smoky flavor enhances fatty fish such as mackerel, but may overwhelm leaner fish such as flounder. Be careful when using mesquite, it may overpower the flavor of the food. When using chips, follow the package directions, then adjust to you preferences.

Me – I’m a purist. I love the delicate flavor that charcoal imparts to food. No chips, no gas grill. You, too should follow your personal tastes.

You can baste seafood with oil or melted butter or margarine when grilling. Some people use a favorite salad dressing or mayonnaise. Remember that oily fish such as salmon and mackerel retain moisture and need little or no basting.

Spicing it up with marinades, rubs and herbs

Many cooks like to marinate seafood before grilling. Always make marinades in a nonreactive container such as glass or stainless steel, never in aluminum or any other metal that can cause chemical action or add an off-flavor to the food. To prevent grill flare-ups, limit the amount of oil used. If a flare-up occurs, cover the grill or use water from a spray bottle to put out the flame. Be careful to avoid scattering ashes onto the food.

Marinating seafood 15 to 30 minutes usually proves sufficient. Marinating for longer periods in high-acid mixtures (wine, vinegar, citrus juices) causes fish and shellfish to turn opaque and firm with a cooked appearance. This will make them dry and tough.

If you plan to use the marinade for basting, reserve some before placing the seafood in it. Never baste cooked fish or shellfish with marinade that has been used on raw seafood. The food can become contaminated with harmful bacteria.

Tasty rubs provide another alternative for spicing up grilled seafood. A rub is a concentrated blend of herbs and spices. You can create your own flavors, such as Mexican, Creole or herb. Commercial marinades, rubs and sauces are easy to use and are often sold at seafood markets or your grocery store. Simply rub or sprinkle the mixture over the surface of the seafood before cooking.

No time for a recipe? Then keep it simple and quick. Try brushing a fillet with melted margarine, butter or oil, sprinkle with salt and pepper, and place it on the grill for a few minutes. Or spread mayonnaise or a garlic or herb butter over the fish. In a flash, it’s ready and tastes wonderful.

For subtle flavors, try tossing herbs such as bay, basil, thyme, tarragon or rosemary on the hot coals. The herbs should be soaked for 30 minutes before using.

To complement your meal, try grilling your vegetables, too. Corn-in-the-husk, garlic, mushrooms, tomatoes, squash, eggplant, potatoes and other vegetables cook up great on the grill.

Spicy Flounder with Garlic Mayonnaise

  • 1 1/2 pounds flounder fillets
  • 1/2 tablespoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/2 tablespoon freshly ground white pepper
  • 3/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1 tablespoon dried thyme
  • 1 tablespoon dried oregano
  • 1 tablespoon garlic powder
  • 1 tablespoon onion powder
  • 1 tablespoon chili powder
  • 3/4 teaspoon ground cumin

Prepare Garlic Mayonnaise (recipe below) and refrigerate.

Combine black pepper, white pepper, cayenne, thyme, oregano, garlic powder, onion powder, chili powder and cumin. Pour onto plate. Dredge fillets in mixture. Place in greased, hinged wire grill.

Grill, skin side down, about 4 inches from coals until one side is done, about 5 to 6 minutes. Turn and repeat on other side until fish flakes easily, about 5 to 6 minutes. Spread with Garlic Mayonnaise. Cut into serving-size pieces. Serves 4 to 6.

Garlic Mayonnaise:

  • 1 ½ cups mayonnaise
  • ½ teaspoon pressed garlic
  • ½ tablespoon fresh lemon juice
  • ½ tablespoon Dijon mustard
  • ¼ teaspoon dried tarragon

In small bowl, combine mayonnaise, garlic, lemon juice, mustard and tarragon. Refrigerate until ready to use. Spread over cooked fillets.

From: Mariner’s Menu: 30 Years of Fresh Seafood Ideas.

Contributed by Joyce Taylor

Sometimes It’s O.K. to Fry Seafood


“Frying” has almost become a dirty word in recent years, and much of the criticism is deserved. We know that grease-laden foods add fat and calories we do not need. But remember that our bodies need some fat. The problem is that we eat too much of it.

Obviously, frying adds some fat and calories. But many of these calories and much of the fat added to fried seafood result from improper cooking. Cooked quickly and with very little oil, fried fish and shellfish can be surprisingly light and tasteful.

The keys to good frying are proper temperature and fast cooking. The ideal temperature for frying fish is 375 F. With cooler oil, the food absorbs too much fat and the fish becomes soggy. If the oil is too hot, the fish may brown too quickly and burn. Also, most oils begin to smoke when they reach 400 F.

Oil, a combination of oil and margarine (or butter), or clarified butter can be used for frying. Most vegetable oils work fine. We almost always use oil and butter combined. If you try it, you’ll notice a significant increase in flavor.

Seafood Frying Tips:

Oil should reach 375 F before adding fish. If using a deep-fryer, check the thermostat for accuracy with a cooking thermometer. Or drop a one-inch cube of bread into the oil. It should brown in 30 to 45 seconds.

Fry only a small amount of fish at a time so that the temperature remains constant. If it drops, allow it to return to 375 F before adding the next batch.

The high temperature will quickly form a crust that will seal in the juices and prevent the food from soaking up oil.

Seafood is done when golden brown. Remove from the oil immediately and drain on paper towels. Be careful not to overcook or the food will dry out. A minute can make a difference. It’s like that steak on the grill—give it just a few more seconds and it’s overdone.

Lean, firm fish such as flounder are more suitable for frying than fatty ones. Oily fish such as salmon are too rich in flavor to fry; they will probably taste too strong.

Thin fillets and dressed fish no more than three-fourths of an inch fry better than large or thick pieces.

The term “frying” includes pan-frying, deep-frying, sautéing and stir-frying. The methods are different for each.

Almost all seafood can be fried. If you enjoy fried seafood—and most of us do—it can be part of a healthy diet. By regularly limiting the amount of fat and calories in our diet, we can occasionally select and enjoy fried fish and shellfish. As with many other things in life, moderation is the key.

From: Mariner’s Menu: 30 Years of Fresh Seafood Ideas.

Contributed by Joyce Taylor


How Long Should I Cook Fish and How Do I Know When It’s Done?

Methods of Preparation

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When cooking fillets, steaks or gutted whole fish, measure the fish at its thickest point. Cook 10 minutes per inch based on the thickest point. Adjust cooking time accordingly if fish is thicker or thinner.

Add up to 5 minutes cooking time when fish is cooked in a sauce or wrapped in foil or parchment.

Always check for doneness before the end of the suggested cooking time. It’s better to check and then cook another minute or so than to wait until the time is up, only to find the fish overcooked. Keep in mind that fish cooked just a bit too long will be dry and tough.

To test for doneness, insert a fork or the tip of a sharp knife into the flesh at the thickest part. If the flesh is opaque and flakes easily, it is done.

Contributed by Joyce Taylor

Butter or Sauce Up Your Seafood

Methods of Preparation

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An easy way to enhance simply prepared seafood is to use a sauce or butter. Delicious fish can be made even better by adding a basic, simple-to-prepare dressing. Butters and sauces add eye appeal, particularly to steamed or poached fish. Remember that you want to bring out the natural flavors, not disguise them. Avoid heavy sauces that cover up the true taste of seafood.

Delicate flavors such as snapper and flounder need butter or light cream sauces that will not overpower the fish. Oilier, more flavorful fish such as mackerel or bluefish can take a stronger lemon, vinegar or tomato-based sauce. butter

Cold fish are best complemented by mayonnaise-based sauces. Fried fish are often served with a mayonnaise-based sauce such as tartar sauce. And herb butters or sauces bring out the flavor of sautéed, poached or steamed fish.

Creating a sauce can be as simple as adding margarine or herbs to natural cooking juices. Use your imagination. Make a simple butter sauce and add slivered, toasted almonds for amandine. Or add fresh lemon juice or curry.

Flavored mayonnaise can be easily prepared. Just add ingredients such as fresh dill, garlic and Dijon mustard to your favorite mayonnaise. Or for a curry mayonnaise, add fresh lemon juice, curry powder, fresh garlic and freshly ground black pepper.

Herb butters are easy to make. Simply chop your favorite herbs and add to softened butter or margarine, along with fresh garlic or lemon juice.

Butters sometimes classify as sauces since they melt on the food. In our recipes, we use the term “butter” loosely, since margarine can also be used.

Most of our butters will add just a few calories and little fat to your fish.

From: Mariner’s Menu: 30 Years of Fresh Seafood Ideas.

Contributed by Joyce Taylor

Straight from the Oven – Baked Fresh Fish and Shellfish

Methods of Preparation

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One of the best and easiest ways to cook fish or shellfish is just to slide it in the oven and bake it. straightfromtheovenFillets, steaks, dressed fish and shellfish can all be baked. Baking uses dry heat and may require some basting. Lean fish like tuna and mahi-mahi need to be basted once or twice. Fatty fish like catfish and bluefish need less, if any basting.

You don’t even have to use a recipe. Just brush fillets with melted margarine or butter, or use olive or vegetable oil. Top the fish lightly with your favorite seasonings, and bake. For added flavor, place the fish on a bed of vegetables such as thinly sliced celery with carrots and onions.

Baked fish can be simple or fancy. A golden-browned, baked fish is notable for its simplicity. It can also be dressed up with a topping of sauce or vegetables. Fillets also can be rolled up, stuffed and baked. Or you can put stuffing on the flesh side, and then place another fillet on top, flesh side down. This creates boneless stuffed fish.

There is no need to turn fish when baking since it is surrounded by heat. You can marinate your fish before baking. Or you can use rubs made with herbs and spices. For those who prefer a more flavorful taste, try baking fish with the head on; it is always more flavorful.

Bake the fish at 450 F or higher. Cooking at lower temperatures for a longer time dries seafood. Small, thin pieces should be cooked at higher temperatures, 425 to 450 F, so that they will not dry out. Larger pieces should be cooked more slowly at a lower temperature so that the exterior will not be done before the inside is cooked. Fish should reach an internal temperature of 145 F for 15 seconds.

From: Mariner’s Menu: 30 Years of Fresh Seafood Ideas.

Contributed by David Green.