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Grill fish like a pro with these tips from a barbecue master

by Megan O. Steintrager /  / Updated  / Source: TODAY

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Grilling and fish are two frightening things for many cooks — add them together and you could have a super-scary culinary experience. But it doesn't have to be that way. With a few tips from grilling expert Rick Browne, you'll be turning out perfect fillets in no time.

Grilled Swordfish
Grilled Swordfish with Asparagus Food, Freshness, Seafood, Horizontal, Indoors, Close-up, Plate, Asparagus, Grilled, Swordfish, Color Image, Ready-To-Eat, Meal, No People, Photography, Healthy EatingGetty Images stock

The best fish for grilling

Many grill experts recommend only cooking thick, sturdy fish fillets, such as tuna, salmon, and halibut, but Browne says you can grill any sort of fish — just cover the grill with aluminum foil, heat the grill, and then oil it well.

Skip the soak

“I don’t marinate fish at all,” says Browne. “If you do, it’s likely to fall apart.” He simply drizzles fillets with olive oil and sometimes a little balsamic vinegar just before grilling. Do make sure the fillets are well oiled, though.

Temperature and timing

Cook the fillets over medium-high heat with the lid down, turning once for thicker cuts. The USDA recommends cooking fish to an internal temperature of 145° and how long this will take depends on the thickness of the fillets. While many people say you can tell fish is done when it flakes with a fork, Browne says to get it off the grill when it starts to flake: “If it flakes all the way through, it’s overcooked.”

Related: How to grill shrimp, lobster, clams and oysters

Full of flavor

Another of Browne’s favorite ways to grill fish is using a cedar plank. He cautions to be sure to buy a plank that’s specifically intended for cooking so you know it hasn’t been treated with chemicals. Soak the plank for three or four hours (“I want it soaking wet”), then brush it with olive oil, put a fillet directly on it, and cook with the lid closed for about 20 minutes, depending on the thickness of the fillet. “Have a squirt bottle handy,” he warns, because occasionally even a soaked plank can catch fire. Discard the plank after one use, he says, since the wood can harbor bacteria.

Related: Make Kathie Lee's favorite grilled salmon recipe

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