How to barbecue fish: five simple recipes from top chefs

When it comes to fish, you want to do two things. Source the best seasonal British fish where possible and adopt the KISS principle – Keep It Simple Stupid. Five chefs share their simplest recipes for how to barbecue fish.

So, you’ve got your barbecue sorted. What’s next?

“It’s all about being calm and patient, let the fish and the coals do the work,” advises head chef Peter Weeden, from London’s first organic pub the Duke of Cambridge.

“My Spanish chef friends Paco and Patricia always bring carabineros which are like nothing else I have ever tried, with extreme prawn viscerality. The head is the tastiest bit.”

How to barbecue crustacea

How to prep: Sprinkle with salt

How to cook: Gently grill over oak coals

Serve with: Nothing. You’ll need a good hand and face wash after – this is no finger bowl matter.

Peter Weeden, Duke of Cambridge

How to barbecue scallops

How to prep: Thread scallops onto skewers

How to cook: Rub the skewers in olive oil and a pinch of salt and pepper. Add to a hot barbecue. Cook for 5-6 mins, turning once or twice until tender and juicy in the middle and lightly charred on the outside.

Serve with: A salsa verde made with lots of chopped parsley, basil and mint, stirred into finely crushed anchovies, capers, garlic, mustard and loosened with lemon juice and olive oil.

Sam Richards, recipe writer, Abel & Cole

How to barbecue mackerel

How to prep: Rub the fish with plenty of sea salt on the inside and out an hour-or-so before cooking

How to cook: Over a gentle heat with some decent smoke from good quality seasoned oak, beech or apple wood. Don’t try to rush things; let the flames die back then play with the smouldering wood and embers to cook and smoke evenly.

Serve with: Summer salads; chunky cucumber with mint, red onion and coriander, perhaps with a dollop of yoghurt. Or, a good white cabbage, carrot and onion slaw – no mayo – lots of ginger, garlic, chilli, salt, sugar and a splash of fish sauce. Asparagus with peas and broad beans, a splash of olive oil and marjoram, also will do the trick.

Peter Weeden, Duke of Cambridge

“Monkfish is a bit more expensive, but has a firm texture that holds up to the fire well. It benefits from a marinade and light charring.”

How to barbecue monkfish

How to prep: Ask your fishmonger to provide the whole tail, bone-in, which you barbecue-roast whole. Or request cleaned fillets to your specified weight, that you can then cut into smaller kebab size pieces to skewer.

How to marinade: Mix some lemon zest, olive oil, garlic, chilli flakes and some fresh herbs. Leave the monkfish to marinade for 4-6 hours or overnight. Add a squeeze of lemon just prior to cooking.

How to cook: There are two main ways to barbecue monkfish. The first, and by far the most straightforward, is to grill your portioned or skewered monkfish fillets high and fast directly over the coals. You want a high heat that sears the fish quickly, 2-3 minutes on each side. The fish should be served tender – or just blushing as the experts like to say –  as opposed to over-cooked, which will cause it to be tough and leathery. 

The second option, if you keep it whole, is to slow-roast over the coals from a distance, lacquering the fish with a glaze on marinade as it cooks. This is more technical and complicated, but yields amazing results. 

Serve with: A good-quality crusty baguette, flavoured mayonnaise or aioli of sorts, and a nice fresh and zingy salad to cut through it all. A perfect meal for a summer night.

Josh Katz, Berber & Q

How to barbecue arctic charr

How to prep: Bone four fillets of char (each around 180g) and place in a tray and salt both sides. Keep at room temperature for two hours. Dry the fish and place skin side up on a heat-resistant tray.

How to marinade: Seasoning for the above two teaspoon salt, one teaspoon sugar, one teaspoon toasted fennel seeds

How to cook: Cover with hay (around 5-6” high) and set on fire. Repeat one or two times until the skin can be removed by pulling it off with your fingers from one side.

Serve with: New potato cooked with dill stems, aioli and sugar snaps.

Niklas Ekstedt from Ekstedt

Originally published in June 2022.

About the author

Lizzie Rivera

Lizzie Rivera

Lizzie Rivera is the founder and chief purpose officer at Live Frankly. She has been writing for mainstream publications for 10 years, specialising in sustainability and ethics since 2014.


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