It’s estimated that roughly 40% of Americans live near an ocean or the Gulf of Mexico. Another 30-million people live in and around the great lakes region or another inland source of freshwater. When you also consider the massive growth in aquaponics and fish farming, it means that today there are more Americans with access to fresh seafood than perhaps any other time in US history.
So, it’s no wonder that grill manufacturers have started to produce grills that can handle some of the unique cooking characteristics of seafood that go beyond the blazing high heat used for grilling a steak or hamburger patty.
Today swordfish, mahi-mahi, snapper, salmon, trout, and tuna represent the most popular types of fish you are likely to find on a grill. When it comes to shellfish, lobster, shrimp of all sizes, oysters, and even crab are all taking to the grill like never before.
Each of these seafood items has its own particular way that it likes to be grilled or smoked. Even minor differences like skin-on, farm-raised or wild-caught can influence the way a fish fillet needs to be grilled. For instance, farm-raised salmon fillets with the skin removed will simply fall apart through the rungs of a grill grate on direct heat. Yet they turn out perfectly tender and smoky when gently rested on a wet cedar plank.
With seafood things like shell-on or shell off will also influence their cooking time as well as how much exposure they need to flame. Shelled shrimp, for example, will burn or overcook into little balls of rubber after more than a few minutes on direct heat.
What this all translates to in grill features is the need to control the heat. This might also extend to whether or not you can use that grill to add a little bit of a smoky component. Though there is a distinct difference between seafood that is smoked for preservation and seafood that is hot-smoked for immediate consumption.
The Best Grills For Fish
Skin-on fish fillets tend to be the most forgiving of direct heat and even par-frying. Though you still don’t want to put them over direct flame for too long. If you have a fillet where the skin has been removed, you might want to place it on a cedar plank that’s been soaked in water, or trap it inside a flat grill basket that’s specifically made for grilling things like fish and sausage.
Yet even a charcoal grill with a long barrel-style firebox could allow you to control how much heat the fillet is exposed to. A similar thing is posed by gas grills with multiple independently controlled burners. If things are getting too hot, you can simply pinch the tail of the fillet and slide the fish from high heat to low.
One thing to note about gas grills is that they can be divided into two distinct categories ones that run on liquid propane, and ones that run on natural gas. If you have a natural gas line plumbed to your deck, you might want to give preference to natural gas grills. They tend to burn much cleaner than propane which can sometimes impart a slightly artificial flavor on low heat.
Best Charcoal And Gas Grills For Fish
In recent years electric grills have really started to take off. Advancements in resistor technology and alloy metals, as well as improvements in the durability of non-stick surfaces has really help elevate them into quality cooking appliances. At the same time, many of them are CDA rated for safety or approved for use in apartments and condos. Though you might want to double-check with your apartment manager to see if you can use a particular unit indoors, or if you are only allowed to grill on the deck or patio.
Best Electric Grills For Seafood
Best Grills For Shellfish
Shellfish are invertebrates, with the vast majority of them being classified as arthropods. This changes how they handle heat and just how much heat they need to cook through. Things like clams, oysters on the half shell, and split lobsters also need to be cooked on only one side. Typically you wait until you see the juices starting to weep out over medium heat before carefully sliding them to a low heat side of the grill.
With these, charcoal tends to be more traditional as it imparts a smoky flavor to the meat. Though there are certainly gas grills with a wood chip box that can do pretty much the same thing. The goal is not to overcook them, or the protein structure of the meat turns rubbery. That means you want to prioritize a grill that has a relatively tall warming rack or that is large enough to develop two distinct heat zones.
Best Grills For Shell Fish
Grills For Shore Lunch
Many people adore fresh-caught fish, and there’s no fish fresher than one you caught yourself. This prompts many anglers to bring grills and camp stoves with them on the boat for a day of fishing. With a few morning fish in the live well, the anglers then pull ashore or return momentarily to camp to make a classic “Shore Lunch.”
While battered and fried fish is common, there are a great many people who like to grill their shore lunch fish fillets with the skin on. With these grills, gas tends to be the preferred fuel source, as you can quickly fire up the grill and cool it down to get back on the water.
Though there are certainly some charcoal grills that are easy to suffocate, or simply pour the embers into a bucket of water. Just keep in mind that if you are going to use water to put out a charcoal grill, that you want to pour the coals into a bucket of water. If you pour water into the firebox of the grill it could cause rusting and corrosion.