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Grilled Whole Fish

Shopping Tip: Buying Whole Fish The key to cooking a whole fish on the grill is buying a whole fish that is unquestionably fresh. At the market, look for fish that smell clean and like the ocean, not fishy. Also, the eyes should be clear, not cloudy. We’ve found that fish larger than 2 pounds are hard to maneuver on the grill and are not good candidates for grilling. If the fish are a little larger than what we have called for (between 1 1/2 and 2 pounds), simply grill them a minute or two longer on each side. If the fish are smaller than 1 pound (whole trout, for example), use four whole fish (to serve four) and cut the cooking time down by 5 minutes or so.

Note: Snapper, bass, trout, mackerel, pompano, and bluefish all work well here. For added flavor, brush extra-virgin olive oil on the fish in place of the vegetable oil and fill the cavity of the fish with fresh herbs and lemon slices. You could also season the fish inside and out with a dry rub or a wet rub. To clean and oil the grill just before cooking the fish, dip a large wad of paper towels in vegetable oil, grab it with tongs, and wipe the grate thoroughly to lubricate and prevent sticking. This will also clean off any remaining residue from previous grilling.

Grilled Whole Fish

From The America's Test Kitchen Family Cookbook (3rd Edition)

Grilled Whole Fish


  1. Vegetable oil
    2 whole fish (about 1 1/2 pounds each), scaled and gutted
    Salt and pepper
    Lemon wedges (for serving)


  1. For a charcoal grill: Build a medium-hot single-level fire; arrange all of the lit charcoal in an even layer across the bottom of the grill. Clean and oil the grill. For a gas grill: Turn all the burners to high, close the lid, and heat the grill until very hot, about 15 minutes. Clean and oil the grill. Leave all the burners on high.
  2. Meanwhile, slash the skin of the fish using a knife. Pat the fish dry with paper towels, then rub each with 1 1/2 tablespoons oil and season with salt and pepper inside and out.
  3. Grill the fish (covered if using gas grill; uncovered if using charcoal grill) until the flesh is no longer translucent and the skin is browned and crisp on both sides, 12 to 18 minutes, flipping the fish over halfway through.
  4. Transfer the fish to a platter using two spatulas, tent with foil, and let rest for 5 to 10 minutes, before cutting.
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