Best Types of Fish to Make on the Grill

A lot of people associate the American pastime of grilling with big hunks of red meat. Piles of burger patties, hot dogs, bratwursts, steaks, and chops. Though when you look at regional cuisines near coastal waters and international cuisine, there are a lot of sumptuous pieces of seafood being grilled in tons of flavorful ways.

If you’re the sort of person who doesn’t want to miss out on a great bite to eat, or you’re just looking to expand your backyard grilling horizons, you might want to try one of the following fish on your grill.


Farm-Raised Salmon

Farm-raised salmon is one of aquatic agriculture’s success stories, when it comes to providing a steady supply of this tasty pink meat fish. It has a mild flavor, and you can even get freshwater varieties. Though most of the farm-raised salmon being sold in grocery stores and meat markets is saltwater.

Most of the farm-raised salmon that you find has the skin removed. If you try to place it directly on the grill grates, the meat will overcook on the bottom, and as it gets flaky, you’ll likely lose some through the grill grates.

The easiest way to deal with this is to simply wrap your farm-raised salmon fillets in heavy-duty aluminum foil with some slices of lemon on top and a little olive oil on the bottom. You could also lay the salmon on cedar planks that have been soaking in water for at least an hour. This will infuse a pleasant cedar aroma into the salmon meat, while also protecting it from burning on the grill.

Wild-Caught Salmon

Wild-caught salmon tends to be seasonal, and you’ll often find fresh fillets available in grocery stores in early to mid-summer. Out-of-season wild-caught salmon is still available frozen in vacuum-sealed bags, but the price per pound tends to be higher.

Wild-caught salmon tends to be a deeper shade of pink and this also translates to a more complex flavor. It also tends to come skin-on, which both boosts the flavor, while also allowing you to set it directly on the grill grates.

While you can grill wild-caught salmon over direct heat, it’s better to smoke it or grill it over indirect heat. Giving it a light, flavorful spice rub the night before grilling will help draw out some of the water-soluble proteins in the salmon flesh. This will intensify the seafood flavor when you bring it to the grill.

You can then grill it to medium or medium well, just like you would a steak. Though if you see white specks bubbling out of the meat, it’s a sign that the salmon is cooking too fast, and you need to back off on the heat.

Tuna Steaks

Tuna steaks can be hard to come by fresh and at a reasonable price per pound in the interior of the United States. Though it’s much easier to find in coastal communities and cities that have high-volume fish markets.

With tuna, it helps to think “Steak” and not fish. These are red meat fillets that are usually thick cut, with a rich flavor and just a hint of ocean brine. You can truly salt them and sear them over direct heat to medium rare, just like you would a New York strip steak.


Snapper is one of the most commonly grilled fish in the world. It’s best grilled whole after being descaled, which isn’t always in everyone’s culinary wheelhouse. Though even if you’ve never had grilled fish this way, it’s worth trying, and sapper is probably the best fish to try it with.

One of the advantages of grilling a whole fish like snapper is that you can stuff the interior body cavity with things like lemons, onions, and perhaps even spicy peppers. This will help infuse the grilled snapper with extra flavor. Depending on what you choose, you could even reuse them as side dishes or ingredients to mix with a seafood fried rice side dish.

The thickness of the average snapper can make it challenging to grill all the meat to the same degree of doneness. To get around this, a lot of experienced snapper grill masters will score the sides of the fillet three or four times. If it’s particularly thick, you could also wrap the whole fish in heavy-duty aluminum foil.

Whole Trout

Whole trout and wild-caught salmon have a lot in common when it comes to flavor and texture on the grill. Though with a whole trout, you’re getting a smaller, more manageable piece of fish, which might be preferable if you have a smaller grill.

You also tend to cook it head-on, with the body cavity emptied. So, like whole snapper, you can stuff the belly with lemons, onions, and other flavor-enhancing ingredients. You can then grill it, flipping sides as needed to get it perfectly cooked through. It’s a great way to reimagine a classic “Shore Lunch” in your backyard.

There are different types of trout to consider. Especially if you’re catching them yourself. If you’re getting them through a fishmonger or seafood retailer, then you’ll likely only be able to get your hands on brown trout.

Though in the Great Lakes Region, there are lake trout available during the summer and fall seasons. Some of these are much larger, and you might be able to treat them like a wild-caught salmon fillet, rather than a stuffed whole fish.


Swordfish is a mild-tasting type of fish with a firm texture. It plays well with all kinds of different flavor combinations and regional cuisines. So, it’s a great sort of “Blank Canvas” for times when you want to get creative at the grill side.

You can add Caribbean flare, spice it up with heat, or just a simple squeeze of lemon, while it grills over jumbo lump charcoal.

The fact that swordfish is so readily available, even in in-land grocery stores helps lower the price per pound. Compared to some more exotic types of fish, you can play with swordfish, and if you get something wrong, or you simply don’t like how your recipe turned out, you don’t feel like you blew a ton of money.



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