how to grill a whole fish

How to Grill a Whole Fish

The perfect way to show off your freshest fish is to serve it whole, fresh off the grill, with crispy skin and moist flesh. The skin protects the delicate flesh, the bones keep it juicy, and you can stuff the cavity with flavorful citrus and herbs. Still, grilling a whole fish can be tricky, so here we share with you Bon Appétit’s secret to grilling one so it’s juicy, smoky, and beautifully intact. It’s a cinch.

Score It: Score the fish deeply before grilling— slice at an angle all the way to the bone, repeating every 1 ½”. Use an extra-sharp knife—you want sashimi cuts, not mangled flesh. The cuts help distribute heat so the fish cooks evenly.

Stuff It: Sprinkle the fish with salt and pepper on each side, plus another pinch of each in the cavity. Place lemon slices inside, or you can use tangerine segments instead for a sweeter, milder taste. Add several sprigs of a fresh herb, such as marjoram.

Oil It: Coat fish with about 1 Tbsp. olive oil. The crucial step is what you do after you place the fish on the hot grill: you wait. Fight the impulse to mess with the fish and move it around—you’ll rip the skin, lose some flesh, and throw off the cooking. Instead, stand there for 3-4 minutes. The fish is ready to be flipped when the skin no longer sticks to the grill. Then slide a spatula (brushed with oil on both sides) underneath, gently turn the fish over, and cook another 3-4 minutes.