I have a packet of fresh tilapia filets from the grocer, and I'm planning to broil them with BBQ sauce. How long should they stay under the heat and how far should they be from the heating elements?

My broiler is the "under-the-oven" kind which re-uses the gas flame that pre-heats the main oven.

Edit: Are there any additional preparation steps I should be aware of? I'm a novice when it comes to cooking fish.

  • How thick is "normal thickness"? Jul 26, 2010 at 23:11
  • Normal meaning what you'd find in a grocery pack. Eyeballing the filets I have here, I'd say about quarter to half an inch thick, perhaps 2 inches wide and 4-5 inches long. Jul 26, 2010 at 23:24

3 Answers 3


Broiling fish is extremely easy, although I would recommend saucing the fish after it is cooked as your BBQ sauce will most likely burn under the heat from the broiler. Your food should be about 8 to 12 inches away form the heat source, but most under oven broilers have a fixed height away from the flame. You need to make sure that your fish is fully scaled before cooking and you should season it with salt and pepper as well. Lay the fish on a pan, making sure that you lay it skin side down and that there is room on each side of each piece. Turn on your flame and slide the fish under the broiler, remove when the fish is flaky, white and lightly browned on top. If you are unsure if it is done, take a fork and twist it in the flesh of the fish and it should flake away fully white, it's done.

Then add your sauce and serve.

Additionally, BBQ sauce will mostly overpower the flavor of your tilapia, you might find that whipping up a butter sauce or a white wine sauce will suit you better. Also, alot of fish does well with just a little salt, pepper, and lemon juice.

  • In my oven, about 4-5 minutes per side seemed to do it. I did put the BBQ sauce on before cooking (I started before reading your post). I've still 3 fillets left, so I'll try your approach with the butter sauce next time. Thanks! Jul 26, 2010 at 23:35
  • no problem. Fish also great using a pan sear if you start to look for a new method. Jul 26, 2010 at 23:37

The common rule of thumb I've heard for cooking fish is 10 minutes per inch of thickness.


You really don't want to overcook fish. 130-135 degrees is usually just right. It's easier to test fish than meat without a thermometer, because you can just flake off a piece. In fact, once you can flake off a piece, it's done. Anything else is going to dry it out.

If the fish is drying out before getting browned, your broiler is not hot enough or the fish is not close enough. If the fish is getting too brown, the broiler is too hot or the fish is too close.

I'd prefer to cook in the over at 350 and then finish in the broiler as close as possible for the last minute or so.

Also, a good dose of olive oil, lemon juice, salt and pepper make the fish I cook consistently taste good and not dry out too easily.


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