A fresh, whole fish stuffed with herbs and citrus slices makes a dramatic presentation for an outdoor gathering. Whether you’re cooking the day’s catch by the lake or entertaining a crowd at home, there’s almost no greater culinary pleasure than grilling a whole fish. Read on for our best tips and a step-by-step guide to pull it off.
Whole fish should look almost alive, with clear eyes; bright, intact scales and skin; and red, moist gills. Many types of round fish (fish with a rounded body, such as trout and striped bass) can be grilled whole after being cleaned, scaled and gutted.
Cook round fish over direct or indirect heat. You can add wood chips, grapevine cuttings or other aromatic ingredients to lend deep flavor. Use a fish basket when grilling one large fish or several small fish to make turning easier and ensure even cooking. Alternatively, if you don’t use a fish basket, keep a nice long spatula handy, and avoid sticking by brushing each side of the fish with olive oil or mayonnaise.
Serve trout and other small fish on individual plates with a tangy vinaigrette or fresh salsa. Large whole fish look beautiful when arranged alongside fresh vegetables and presented on a decorative platter.