Do you avoid cooking expensive salmon or shrimp on the grill for fear they'll stick and the grill will end up eating half of your dinner? It's not an unwarranted concern. Without properly preparing your grill or your seafood, it could happen. But with these tips, you'll gain some confidence next time you grill salmon or shrimp.
There are three important things you'll need to keep your salmon from sticking to the grill: heat, oil and patience. With only these things, you'll be able to place your salmon (and other flaky fish) directly on the grill without needing anything between them like a cedar plank, aluminum foil or even a fish basket. Here's what to do.
- Start with a clean grill and get it nice and hot. You want the grates to be very hot to help prevent sticking. Let a gas grill heat up to medium-hot for at least 15 minutes. If you're using a charcoal grill with a chimney to light the coals, after placing the grate over the coals, put the lid on and give it a good 10 to 15 minutes to get the grate very hot.
- Grease the hot grate generously. Use a silicone brush dipped in an oil that can withstand high heat, such as canola oil, and coat each grate. Or, you can use a paper towel dipped in oil and held with tongs, as Cooking Light recommends. In fact, they suggest coating the grill at least five times, until it's glossy, leaving about 15 seconds between coatings to let the oil make layers that "form plastic-like polymers that help minimize contact between the fish and metal." This will season your grill much like you season a cast-iron pan.
- Put fat on both sides of the salmon. This could be the same oil you used to coat the grate or olive oil, some seasoned oil, butter or seasoned butter (like lemon and garlic). Huffington Post says you can even use mayonnaise in a pinch, but make sure you want a mayo flavor on the fish before doing that.
- Place the fish on the hot grill (skin side down if it has skin) diagonally across the grates. This is where patience comes in. You don't want to walk away and ignore the salmon. It will be ready to turn in 2 to 4 minutes, when the skin side is crispy brown on the bottom. Start at the two-minute mark to slowly lift up the salmon. If it sticks, let it continue to cook on that side, checking periodically, until it no longer sticks. You can use a regular metal spatula, but an angled fish spatula, is the best tool to use.
- Turn the fish over, and continue to grill until a meat thermometer reads 145 degrees F (63 degrees C), which is the U.S. Department of Agriculture-recommended temperature for salmon.
Preparing the grill for shrimp is the same as preparing the grill for salmon. But there are some specifics steps for shrimp you'll need to take to be successful. Here's what to do.
- Make sure your grill is clean and hot. Having the grates very hot will help prevent sticking. If you're using a gas grill, heat it up to medium-hot for at least 15 minutes. With a charcoal grill, after you've placed the grate over the hot goals, put the lid on and wait at least 10 to 15 minutes to make sure the grate is hot.
- Now it's time to grease the grate. Grab a silicone brush and dip it in an oil, like canola, that can withstand high heat and coat the entire grate. You can also dip a paper towel in oil and coat the grate using tongs, Cooking Light suggests. They recommend coating the grill at least five times, with only about 15 seconds between coatings. This seasons the grill much like you season a cast-iron pan.
- Dry the shrimp. It can be shrimp that still has its shell or has been deshelled. You can do this by blotting thoroughly with a paper towel, but to get them very dry on the outside, Serious Eats recommends placing them uncovered in the refrigerator for about an hour to let them air dry. (Drying the shrimp will help them brown more quickly, and your chances of overcooking them are lower.)
- Skewers are not necessary, but they can help in two ways. They'll stop small shrimp from falling through the grates, and if you push the shrimp snug against each other (alternating head to tail), they'll become more like one larger piece of seafood and you can leave them on the grill a little longer without overcooking, another Serious Eats trick.
- Whether you skewer or not, coat the shrimp with oil or butter on both sides before placing on the grill.
- Place the shrimp on the hot grill diagonally across the grates. Like with salmon, this is where patience comes in. They will be ready to turn in 2 to 4 minutes. Start at the two-minute mark to slowly lift them up. If they stick, continue to cook on that side, checking periodically, until they no longer stick. Turn individual shrimp with tongs, or lift by a skewer edge and flip.
- Continue to cook until the shrimp are pinky-white and opaque.