An Expert Reveals the 8 Best Fish to Grill

an expert reveals the 8 best fish to grill

Sardines are easy to prep and healthy. Lingxiao Xie/Getty Images

Sure, weekends usually mean cooking burgers, steaks and barbecued chicken, but why not some fish? There’s truly nothing like grilled fish to cap off your day, not to mention how much healthier it is than pretty much every other meat out there. Not only that, but cooking fish isn’t as hard as it may seem. In fact, it cooks way faster than other meats, and fish is much easier to create unique and delicious meals with. Grilling seafood is an excellent way to mix up your menu, but some fish are much better to grill than others.

Best Seafood Delivery Services of 2023: See at Cnet

So with all this upside to grilling fish, we must ask: Redfish? Bluefish? Snapper or tuna fish? There are so many types of fish — so which are the best fish to grill? We turned to an expert for some help in selecting the best seafood to top your grill grates this season. Chef Akira Back owns several seafood-centric restaurants, including Yellowtail in Las Vegas, and is certainly no stranger to grilling fish and other seafood. He gave us the skinny on which fish to grill along with helpful tips for nailing your summer seafood spread.

How to grill fish: Some tips

Back suggests grilling your fresh fillet skin-side down (if your fish has skin) and cooking it until the skin appears crispy. Next, flip it once on the grates to finish cooking the fish through or to your desired doneness.

an expert reveals the 8 best fish to grill

To get rid of any overly fishy smell or taste, Back advises briefly soaking the fish in cold, salt-vinegar water with lots of ice before grilling. Dry it off well before putting it over the hot flames.

For seasoning grilled fish, a citrus marinade, blackened seasoning or simple salt and pepper with a squeeze of lemon is generally plenty for a nice, fresh fillet. If you want to add some firepower, Back loves marinating his fish in a spicy Korean bulgogi sauce before grilling.

As far as tools for grilling a fish you’ll need, well, a grill. Less obvious gear includes these handy grill mats that make grilling and cleanup easier, especially when working with flakier fish such as salmon. I also love using a basket like this grill basket from BBQ Guys which will allow the flames to kiss the fish’s skin and flesh without the risk of losing it through the grates.

Man Crates makes a fish-grilling kit, complete with a grilling basket to secure your fish, a 7-inch filet knife, and cedar and alder grilling planks to impart some extra flavor, plus a spice mix and lemon-based marinade.

The best fish to grill

When selecting the best fish to grill, Back stresses firm and meaty fish first and foremost. Some of his favorites include tuna, salmon, snapper, sardines and yellowtail amberjack since they all have skin that will crisp up while the meat stays moist and tender. Finding good grilling fish can be tricky especially if you’re landlocked, but we previously vetted a few of the best places to order seafood online to help bring some fresh catch to you.

To get your seafood on point, here are a few of chef Back’s top picks for the best fish to grill.


an expert reveals the 8 best fish to grill

A fresh fillet of fatty tuna is one of the best fish to grill. Chowhound

You know it. You love it. Tuna comes in many forms but a fresh fillet of fatty tuna is one of the best fish to grill. Tuna has tons of rich flavor, so a squeeze of lemon, dollop of wasabi or sprinkling of salt and pepper are all it really needs to sing. The worst tuna crime you can commit, however, is overcooking it, so do be careful. No more than two minutes on each side, and cooking time will vary given the thickness of your filet.


an expert reveals the 8 best fish to grill

Salmon is healthy and versatile, making it a popular option. Chowhound

Salmon, while not quite as meaty as swordfish and tuna, does very well on the grill. Some still prefer to wrap salmon fillets in foil or grill the fillets over cedar planks just to be safe. Grilling salmon really brings out the sweet taste, and it takes well to a number of flavor companions, including peanut sauce, lemon pepper, paprika rub or chile and lime. Arctic char is another one in the same fish family that cooks and eats much like regular salmon. It’ll also work wonderfully on the grill.


an expert reveals the 8 best fish to grill

Swordfish is a great option for people who like meatier fish. Chowhound

Swordfish is as meaty as it gets and has a mild, clean yet buttery flavor. Blackened grilled swordfish served with citrus tartar sauce is true bliss. Swordfish also takes well to an herb marinade, or you can slice grilled swordfish and serve it in tacos with avocado and crema. Swordfish can be expensive, so look for it to go on sale at your local fish market or one of these great online seafood purveyors.

Yellowtail amberjack

an expert reveals the 8 best fish to grill

Yellowtail isn’t just great for sushi. It’s tasty on its own, too. Getty Images

You might know this fish best from its award-winning role on sushi menus, but it also makes for great fish to grill straight up. It’ll likely be harder to find in fish markets than some of the others on the list, but if you do nab some it’ll hold form nicely on the grill with a texture similar to mahi-mahi and flavor akin to tuna, but milder.

Red snapper

an expert reveals the 8 best fish to grill

Red snapper is one of the best fish for grilling. Chowhound

This meaty white fish makes a particularly good fish for grilling, especially when cooked whole. It may sound daunting, but you can stuff the cavity with lemon wheels and cook it on the grill over low heat (I’d suggest a grilling basket if it’s your first time). The skin will do a great job of keeping the fish meat from drying out.


an expert reveals the 8 best fish to grill

Sardines are easy to prep and healthy. Lingxiao Xie/Getty Images

These salty little fish aren’t for everyone but they do quite nicely when cooked on the grill. The best part is you barely need to prep them. Just wash your sardines and pat dry to be grilled skin-side down over the grill flames. Then serve with olive oil, lemon, salt and pepper for a perfect (and healthy) snack or main dish.


an expert reveals the 8 best fish to grill

Mahi-mahi is delicious by itself or dressed up with all the fixings on a taco. Chowhound

This plump white fish is probably the flakiest of the lot but still has plenty of meatiness to handle the scorching grill grates. Mahi-mahi pairs well with lemon butter and capers, fresh herbs or done up as fish tacos with diced pineapple, mango, fresh lime and some Mexican spice. You might also consider a marinade for this fish, too, and make sure to get those sexy char marks for bonus points and likes on Instagram.


an expert reveals the 8 best fish to grill

Mako is not the easiest fish to find, but it’s meaty and delicious when you are able to find it. Fulton Fish Market

Mako shark also makes a fine candidate for your next grilled seafood feast. Though it’s not as easy to find as some of the others on the list, many good fish markets do carry mako and it can also be ordered online. Mako has a sweet taste and firm meaty texture similar to swordfish that’ll handle a Cajun crust especially well (one of my personal favorite preparations). You can always do it up simply with salt and pepper and some fresh citrus or fruit salsa.

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