Grilling season is synonymous with summer, but really, in most climates you can grill outside all year, even if there’s a little snow on the ground. Many of us tend to focus on burgers, brats, and kebabs when cooking alfresco, but the brave and daring may go for fish and seafood. Marine proteins have a reputation as being especially tough to get right on the grill, easily falling apart and turning bone dry, so it’s understandable why so many people categorically shy away from cooking them that way. But with a little know how and practice, fish and seafood can also be among the most rewarding grill items to make.
Just make sure you start off with a clean, well-oiled grate, a thin, nimble spatula for easy flipping, and high heat so that it will cook quickly before losing its natural juices. It also helps not to prod and poke it too much: stay calm and just let it do its thing.
We’ve got a number of seafood recipes for the grill that will show you how it’s done (and a whole guide dedicated to shellfish in particular). Whether you’re fancying salmon or a whole wriggling octopus, these 15 recipes are sure to break you out of any burgers ‘n brats rut.
If you’re a little apprehensive about throwing fish directly onto the grates. a grill basket will ease you into the process. The tool makes them a cinch to flip, keeping everything intact in this stuffed trout recipe. Get our Campfire Trout with Herbs and Bacon recipe.
You can also wrap your fish into neat little packages, which allow them to steam in their own juices. Here, corn husks form boats around these halibut pieces, which also make it possible to load them up with toppings like chunky salsa. Get our Corn-Husk-Wrapped Grilled Halibut with Charred Corn Salsa recipe.
If you don’t have corn husks, try the same basic technique with aluminum foil packs. Sea bass and other fish comes out perfectly moist every time, and clean up is a breeze. It’s a great option for camping, but perfect for easy weeknight dinners too. Get the Foil Pouch Sea Bass recipe.
Kebabs don’t have to be full of steak or chicken—try a meaty fish like salmon, with a simple sweet-salty glaze. And speaking of kebabs, don’t risk hurting yourself when you’re skewering your ingredients; just give this easy onion trick a shot. CNET’s Executive Editor, Sharon Profis, shares J. Kenji López-Alt‘s ingenious solution for skewering kebabs, which helps prevent stabbing your hand while threading ingredients onto the skewer. Get our Salmon Asparagus Kebabs recipe.
Hardy salmon really is one of your best bets for the grill, holding itself together on skewers, or in pieces, while its skin gets crackly crisp if you leave it on. All it needs is a simple sauce to go with it, like the lemon compound butter in this recipe. Get our Grilled Salmon with Lemon-Pepper Compound Butter recipe.
Packing in tons of spice and smoke, blackening can turn even the mildest of fish into something with chutzpah. Here, paprika and cayenne give this grilled catfish lots of soulful zest. Get our Grilled Blackened Catfish with Creole Mustard Butter recipe.
This one’s about as summery as it gets: see those perfectly criss-crossed grill marks and the cubes of diced cucumber and melon? You can practically feel the sunny warmth emanating out of this one. Get our Grilled Swordfish with Cucumber-Melon Salsa recipe.
Tacos are perhaps the most forgiving vehicle for fish prepared on the grill. If you’re still getting the hang of flipping your fillets just so, not to worry. These puppies are designed to hold all the flaky bits and pieces. And don’t forget the slaw for a perfect crunchy contrast. Get our Easy Fish Tacos recipe.
Although it may look intimidating, whole fish is actually easier to grill than individual fillets. Just let it hold itself together while it cooks and leave the carving for the tableside. Get our Whole Grilled Bass with Olives, Onion, and Artichoke recipe.
Firm-fleshed mackerel is a pro at handling flaming heat. It also loves meeting up with other flavor-forward ingredients, getting along swimmingly with fennel, tomato, and caper in this recipe. Get our Grilled Mackerel with Tomato, Fennel, and Capers recipe.
Tuna is the prime beef of the fish world: meaty and tender, a quick sear on the grill will give you all of the qualities of a good, rare steak. The accompanying Vietnamese style salad in this recipe, dressed in fiery bird’s eye chili, lime, and fish sauce, isn’t too shy, either. Get our Grilled Tuna with Cucumber Salad recipe.
Shrimp cocktail gets a smoky makeover here, going through a pimenton rub before it hits the coals. The brandy-spiked dipping sauce provides a sweet and creamy counterpoint to all that fire. Get our Smoky Grilled Shrimp with Marie Rose Sauce recipe.
The char on grilled shrimp also is a match for deep spices like cumin and chipotle powder. Served in tacos, the accompanying lime-drenched salsa adds a tangy, acidic lift to it all. Get our Grilled Shrimp Tacos with Avocado-Corn Salsa recipe.
14. Grilled Paella
Paella on the grill? That’s right, you can put the whole shebang over the flames and let it simmer away while it picks up the scent of smoke. Loaded with shrimp, mussels, and clams (plus some chicken and chorizo to fill it out), this one packs in all the flavors of the Mediterranean. Get our Grilled Paella recipe.
15. Grilled Octopus
When done right, tender and chewy grilled octopus is a delight to sink one’s teeth into. We let it go for a slow braise to soften it up, then give it a final sear to add a crust to all those cups and crevices. Get our Grilled Octopus recipe.