News & Politics

Have More Fun: Grill a Perfect Fish

What's the secret to beautifully grilled fish?

What’s the secret to beautifully grilled fish? We asked Jeff Tunks—the chef known for artfully presented seafood at DC Coast, Ceiba, TenPenh, and Acadiana—how he makes it on his Weber at home.

• Look for a two-pound fish—it’s easy to handle and feeds two people. Tunks’s favorite catches for grilling this year include black sea bass and rockfish from North Carolina or Virginia, beeliner (a Gulf Coast cousin of red snapper), and pompano, a fish rich in oil and omega-3s.

• Make sure the eyes are clear, not cloudy. It should have a clean, briny smell, and its gills should be vibrantly red or pink. The flesh should be firm, not spongy. Ask the fishmonger to gut and scale the fish.

• Using a boning knife, make three vertical incisions, an equal distance apart, through the fish’s skin down to its skeleton.

• In a bowl, mix ¾ cup extra-virgin olive oil, the juice of one lemon, and a cup of chopped fresh herbs such as thyme, oregano, and parsley. Add a few dashes of freshly ground black pepper and salt. Tunks favors English Malden salt for its shardlike texture, but kosher salt works, too.

• Make sure the grill is clean—rub it down with a grill brush or ball of foil set in tongs. Oil the grate with Pam grilling spray. Set half of the grill to high (500 degrees), the other half to medium.

• Just before grilling, slather the fish inside and out with half of the olive-oil-and-herb mixture. Set the fish on the hotter side of the grill and let it cook for four minutes; rotate it once so it doesn’t stick. Using tongs, grasp the fish’s tail. Slide a metal spatula under its head and carefully flip it over, keeping it on the hotter side. Let it cook another four minutes, rotating it once.

• Flip the fish onto a piece of Pam-sprayed foil and set it on the medium-hot side of the grill. Let it cook another 12 to 16 minutes, until it’s firm but still gives a bit and you can see the white protein coagulating on its surface. Remove the fish from the grill.

• Add a few more squeezes of lemon, a dash of salt and pepper, and a few spoonfuls of capers or chopped black olives to the remaining olive-oil mixture. Drizzle it over the fish just before serving.

Ann Limpert
Executive Food Editor/Critic

Ann Limpert joined Washingtonian in late 2003. She was previously an editorial assistant at Entertainment Weekly and a cook in New York restaurant kitchens, and she is a graduate of the Institute of Culinary Education. She lives in Petworth.