A couple of weeks ago I talked about my passion for cooking fish.
I love to cook and eat fish (and wild game, too) that is properly handled and prepared.
Of course, it’s important to note that I do practice catch-and-release when bass fishing, but I will keep a bass that has been deeply hooked and dies. But when it comes to other fish, such as some saltwater species, trout and salmon, walleye, perch and bluegill, I will keep a few for table fare.
Regardless of whether you are planning to fry or grill fish, it’s important to keep them fresh and on ice. When I know I’m going to be keeping fish, such as on a saltwater trip, Great Lakes salmon fishing, or on a walleye or panfish trip, I carry a Yeti full of ice specifically for that purpose. Keeping fish in a livewell is fine, but icing them down as soon as possible is best. Also, fillet the fish as soon as you come off the water and keep those fillets iced down as well.
That makes a big difference in how they will taste; it’s a good way to avoid that strong “fishy” taste that can occur when fish aren’t handled properly.
When grilling fish, I leave the skin and scales on; it helps protect them and keep the fillets intact while on the grill. I also prefer to grill fish on cedar planks that I buy at Bass Pro Shops or specialty food stores. I soak the plank in water so it doesn’t catch on fire.
My preference is to grill on a Traeger pellet grill that allows me to set the temperature at 350 degrees. The grill has a blower so it adds smoke from the wood and provides uniform heat on both sides of the fillet so I don’t have to flip them.
When grilling thick fillets, especially red fish or salmon, don’t let the temperature get too hot. I use a lot of seasoning, and my favorite is Tony Chachere’s Creole. I sprinkle on the seasoning then put a couple of pads of real butter on top to add some moisture and then squeeze lemon juice across the fish. That’s a great way to cook walleye or red fish.
For salmon and trout, I do the same but instead of using Tony’s I make a glaze of brown sugar, butter and lemon and warm it until it has the consistency of maple syrup.
I cook the salmon for about 5 to 7 minutes then baste it with the warm syrup. If you put the glaze on too soon it will get too hot and caramelize. That glaze system also works on walleye and redfish but is my favorite for salmon and trout. I will make extra glaze syrup so that I’ll have some leftover to pour a spoonful or more over each fillet after it leaves the grill and placed on the platter.
Time on the grill depends upon the thickness of the fillet. The best way to tell if the fish is done is to take a fork and “flake it.” If the meat flakes completely, it’s done. Again, don’t overcook it. When people ruin trout and salmon, it’s usually because they overcooked it.
Nothing is more enjoyable after a day on the water than sitting down to a plate full of fresh fish that have been cooked properly.
Perhaps these tips will help you enjoy cooking and dining on fish as much I do.
Remember, it’s all about the attitude!
Kevin VanDam