a year ago – by Lisa Marlin

How to BBQ Fish to Juicy Perfection Every Time

5 min read
BBQ fish is delicious with a soft texture, but you need to know how to cook fish on the BBQ. Check this guide to learn how to barbecue fish to perfection.
  1. Best Marinade and Seasoning for BBQ Fish
  2. How to Cook Fish on the BBQ
  3. Best Types of Fish for BBQing
  4. Top Tips for Cooking Fish on the BBQ
  5. Happy Grilling!

While steak and sausages may be the top barbeque favourites, you shouldn’t ignore fish next time you plan a BBQ. 

BBQ fish that is cooked to perfection is soft, juicy, and melts in your mouth. Fish is also one of the healthiest barbecue options, being packed with minerals and nutrients.

However, many people are scared to barbecue fish, and it’s true that putting fish on the BBQ can go very wrong. If you overcook fish, it can turn out tough and chewy. Cook on a flame that is too high, and you’ll end up with fish that’s charred on the outside and raw on the inside.

Knowing how to barbeque fish is a skill, but it is one you can master – read on to learn how!

Best Marinade and Seasoning for BBQ Fish

Before fish goes on the grill, it needs to be cleaned, gutted, and soaked in a marinade. Marinating the fish before barbecuing not only gives it extra flavour, but it makes it easier to grill and prevents it from drying out during cooking.

Some excellent marinade options you can use are aromatic herbs like coriander and dill, spices such as ginger, pepper, and salts. Contrast your herbs and spices with citrus elements like lemon juice or wine. 

Our Cooking with Fire series contains a range of spices and exotic salts to give your BBQ fish unique flavours.

Let your fish soak in the marinade before you put it on the grill and then drizzle with butter and fresh herbs or use a finishing sauce for enhancing the flavours. If you're using a whole fish, you’ll want to marinate it for at least two hours. If it’s filets, marinate for at least thirty minutes.

How to Cook Fish on the BBQ

Now that you have your fish all marinated and ready, you need to get the grill ready for barbecuing. 

As a rule of thumb, make sure to preheat your grill for at least thirty minutes before starting to cook your fish. The length of time you need to cook the fish depends on how thick it is. For most kinds of fish, you’ll need to BBQ it for 8 to 10 minutes for each inch of thickness.

If you’d like to add some smoky flavour to your fish, wrap soaked wood chips in foil and put them over the coals. Never put the fish too close to the heat source, whether it is a gas or charcoal grill. Make sure there is at least 10 centimetres between the grill and coals, otherwise you risk burning your fish.

Best Types of Fish for BBQing

When it comes to BBQ, not all fish are created equal. Here are some of the best fish to throw on the grill for a tender, tasty result.


Salmon is a tasty, healthy fish that comes up beautifully on the barbeque. For best results when BBQing salmon, grill it on a cedar plank or wrap in foil.


Swordfish is one of the meatiest and firmest barbeque fish. It has a buttery, slightly sweet flavour which is complemented well with a citrus herb marinade. Swordfish is expensive, but it makes a great treat from time to time.

Red Snapper

Snapper cooked whole holds well when cooked on a BBQ. Simply stuff the fish with lemon and herbs and put it on the grill. Just make sure you cook red snapper with the skin on to prevent it from drying out while grilling.


Not just for pizza, sardines are also delicious when barbequed. Requiring almost no prep time, you can whip up sardines as a last-minute BBQ fish. Just wash and pat dry the sardines before grilling. Add a dash of lemon, olive oil, salt, and pepper and serve.


Mahi-mahi is the flakiest fish to barbeque but has enough meat to handle the grill. You can make delectable fish tacos with grilled mahi-mahi paired with lemon butter, herbs, and capers. It’s easy to overcook this fish, so make sure you remove it from the barbeque once it starts to flake.


Fresh tuna steaks are a million miles away from that fish you buy in cans from the supermarket. Packed with healthy fats, tuna is perfect for the BBQ. It has loads of flavour already, so you only need to season it lightly and grill. Being a firm and meaty fish, you don’t have to worry about it falling apart on the BBQ.

Top Tips for Cooking Fish on the BBQ

Don’t Skin your Fish

If baking or grilling your fish in the oven, it’s ok to use skinned fish fillets. However, leaving the skin on is best if you're going to barbeque fish. This helps to keep the fish in one piece and avoids flaking. You can always remove the skin after you have grilled it, but why would you? The skin of barbecued fish is delicious, especially crispy mackerel and trout skin.

Steam Fish on the BBQ

While steaming your steak would be very unusual, steaming fish on the barbeque can be fantastic. You can use this method to cook flaky fish or seafood like prawns, which can easily burn when put directly on the grill. Grab two pieces of foil, make a pocket and use it to wrap your marinated fish, then cook it over a covered grill.

Use Wooden Planks for Grilling

Grilling fish on a soaked wooden plank is much easier than barbecuing it on the grill. Soak the wooden plank for at least two hours before you set it on the grill with the marinated fish. You don't even have to do any flipping: just cover the grill and let the heat and smoke cook the fish, resulting in a unique, smoky flavour.

Happy Grilling!

While most people run in terror at the thought of cooking fish on a BBQ, it doesn’t have to be this way. With the right preparation, supplies, and a bit of know-how, you’ll be grilling delicious, healthy fish in no time.

For more tips, supplies, and inspiration for cooking not only fish but also meat and veggies to perfection on the BBQ, check out Betterly’s Cooking with Fire subscription series.

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