Are you planning a summer barbecue? You should not be apprehensive about including fish – it is quick and tasty, and your guests will appreciate it, but make sure it is sustainable.
Some people don’t remember the first time they ate fish. However, most people can recall the first time they had barbecued fish. If not for the smoke, then for the outdoor setting. My favorite food memories are the hot, salty crunch of whole sardines on a makeshift rooftop grill in Portugal and a satisfying forkful of lemon-drenched swordfish steaks served direct from a quayside taverna in Greece.
Meals prepared on a barbecue are always memorable. The only way to cook your fish with a crispy charred coat, smoky flavor, and restaurant-cred grill stripes is over open flame. Grilling fish is different from grilling meat. Barbecuing is best done with fish that is firm and robust. Halibut, monkfish, and swordfish are good candidates. Fish like cod can easily flake and fall through the grill, but most fish can be barbecued with a little preparation and care. We also have compiled a guide that will help you choose the best fish for grilling.
We’ll explain the common pitfalls of cooking fish, like how to avoid it sticking and overcooking, as well as some tasty tips. Furthermore, we will help you choose sustainable fish in your area so you can barbecue with family and friends without depleting the ocean’s fish stocks.
Fresh swordfish is only available for a few months each summer in the US, making it an ideal non-meat alternative to steak for backyard barbecues. The mildly sweet flavor of this summertime favorite is complemented by a meaty texture that holds up well to high-heat cooking.
Barbecuing swordfish requires simplicity. It only needs a brush of olive oil and a generous squeeze of lemon for seasoning. If you marinate it for more than 15 to 30 minutes, you risk breaking down the meat and leaving it mushy. Your goal is to achieve a fish that is seared on the outside and moist on the inside.
Serve with tzatziki, a briny salsa verde, or tomato and sweet pepper salsa. If you prefer, you can skewer swordfish souvlaki with chunks of vegetables from the Mediterranean and bay leaves softened in water to prevent smoky burning.
In the North Atlantic, there are multiple MSC-certified sustainable fisheries that provide sustainable swordfish. Whole Foods Market stores sell harpoon-caught swordfish from an MSC-certified sustainable fishery in Nova Scotia. An age-old fishing technique is used to catch the fish slowly, one by one. By using this method, bycatch is reduced to a minimum and the ocean habitat is preserved.
Grilling meaty steaks over a wood fire is a South African tradition that is both proud and cherished. The MSC certified Cape hake is a fine fish for a braai and allows the chef to swap turf for surf. This deepwater fish is a member of the cod family, but it has a milder taste, a softer texture, and a smaller flake than cod. In order to keep the flame intact, it needs a bit of attention.
The best way to cook it is whole, stuffed with citrus fruits and aromatic herbs, or as fillets wrapped in blanched leek leaves or a foil parcel (en papillote) – this final method retains all the juices and flavors. Try braaied hake parcels with a spicy coconut sauce or grilled hake with a fruity apricot glaze. Spain is a big fan of hake and serves it with chorizo, paprika, and garlic.
The South African Cape hake fishery was the first in the world to obtain MSC certification, which it has held since 2004. Through good practice and certification, the fishery has not only safeguarded fish stocks and protected natural breeding habitats, but also secured 12,000 jobs and increased access to international markets. The fishery is also a success story for its environmental improvements since it has reduced seabird mortality associated with its work by 90 percent.
On the barbecue, these small silver fish with blue-green backs turn into gold. Cooking them is easy – rub them with olive oil, salt, and pepper before laying them on a grill to sear.
Cook them after they have been descaled and gutted. They are done when the flesh is firm and easily separates from the bone, and the skin is golden and crispy, usually after 3 to 4 minutes. The small bones are edible, but the backbone can be removed easily after eating the top-side flesh and discarded.
Toss them in paprika, chilli, lemon juice, garlic, rosemary, and olive oil for a sweet, peppery, rustic taste, or stuff them with pine nuts, raisins, and breadcrumbs for a caramelised finish, as the Portuguese do. To soak up the intense flavors, serve with crusty bread, roasted baby potatoes, and a fresh green leaf and fennel salad.
Despite the sardine’s strong association with Spain and Portugal, there are no MSC-approved fisheries in these nations. Sardines are caught in Cornwall, England, South Australia, and the Gulf of California by MSC-certified fisheries. In the southern hemisphere, the South Australia Sardine Fishery was the first to earn the MSC blue fish tick.
Monkfish or Anglerfish
A brutish monkfish yields a firm, buttery sweet meat similar to lobster or scallops in taste and texture. The robust flesh of this fish works very well on the barbecue, but it isn’t an extremely oily fish so add some oil and be careful not to overcook it. Skinned and filleted monkfish tail is ideal for grilling and cubing nicely to make a tasty kebab.
Serve it simply with mayo or aioli and samphire for garnish; with sweet chilli, spring onion, coriander, and lime butter; or wrap monkfish chunks in olive tapenade then skewer them over hot coals. The increasingly popular monkfish cheeks are cheaper than the tail, but equally satisfying. If you don’t remove the outer membrane, the flesh will become tough when cooked. Enjoy barbecued monkfish cheeks dusted with tikka spices and served with fresh lime.
Iceland Sustainable Fisheries became the first monkfish fishery to receive MSC certification in 2018. Buying fish from sustainable fisheries encourages more retailers to stock sustainably-sourced seafood and more fisheries to become certified.
Halibut, a giant flatfish, has a meaty texture, large flakes, and a delicate, sweet flavor. Grilling halibut steaks is easier than grilling fillets. If you select steaks cut across the grain of the meat, they will hold together better. Also, choose steaks from the middle of the fish rather than the tail, which is full of bones.
Grill and steaks are prone to drying out, so brush with oil and cook over moderately hot coals until just opaque. Serve barbecued miso-glazed halibut or steaks with puttanesca sauce (tomatoes, capers, garlic), homemade chipotle mayo or brown butter.
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MSC certified sustainable halibut can be found in the North Pacific and North Atlantic at fisheries in Canada, the United States, Greenland, Russia (Barents Sea), Norway and the West Bering Sea. If you choose halibut with the blue MSC label, you can enjoy your catch knowing that there will be plenty more tomorrow.