I tried having a visbraai this weekend and was a little bit dissapointed by the result. The skin of the fish sticked to the grill and the flesh stuck and crumbled on the grill. I suspect the weber was too hot. Any advice on barbequing a whole-piece of fish so that it does not crumble and the skin does stick on the grill?

up vote 9 down vote accepted

I BBQ whole fish or fish filets with or without skin quite regularly. You suspect the BBQ was too hot, but usually BBQs are not hot enough (unless you were REALLY hot and over like 800F?). Make sure grill is clean and apply oil to the grill and to the fish. Put fish skin side down on the BBQ until crispy and flip fish until cook to your desired temp. It might stick a bit, but it should not stick so much that it causes problems.

Common problems might be:

  • Sticky grill because it is dirty and not oiled
  • Grill is not hot enough
  • Fish is flipped too soon and did not get a chance to cook enough to separate itself from the grill
  • Fish is flipped more than once
  • Fish surface is not oiled (I suggest also oiling the flesh side)
  • Using a thick spatula (thin metal is better)
  • Pushing spatula hard to get under the fish. You don't need to do this. Just slide the spatula slowly under the fish if you find it is a bit sticky and more progressively.
  • A dirty BBQ or applying to much oil could perhaps cause a flare up. You can usually listen for the flames and if you hear fire or see it then use a spray bottle with water to disrupt the flame.
  • Ok oil to the fish and grill, are you not going to make flames if you add oil to the fish / grill? – Neil Meyer Sep 11 at 14:53
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    @NeilMeyer don't drench it... put oil on a paper towel and wipe down the grill. Pour oil on your fish and then rub it around with your hand, pick it up and let the excess run off, and then put it onto a hot grill. – SnakeDoc Sep 11 at 20:27

Grill on slices of lime, lemon, and onion. Can also use tin foil. Can oil the grill and fish.

EASY :)

You scale and gut it and wrap in 2 layers of aluminum foil with chopped tomato and onion in the cavity and juice of small lemon all over so that it steams in those juices. DELICIOUS!

Important Tip: Make sure no lemon seeds get in as they will severely reduce the deliciousness factor.

Experience will give you the cooking times, it varies by size but while a small 10 inch long bream might only needs 3-5 mins on one side and 2-3 on the other on a medium-hot BBQ plate, even a big fat 20 inch fish will only need 7-12 min on one side and 5-7min on the other to be done.

Experiment by starting with small fish and find a set routine for double wrapping that it can be easily repeatable.

You will soon figure out how to keep the juices in and how to keep the opening on only one side so it's easy to open. It doesn't even need to really be turned for small fish once you learn to get the wrapping right and will find that a medium heat nicely enclosed will cook nicely via steam.

If you want to go gourmet add any combination of seasoning, think chili cumin garlic dill basil pepper etc but in all honesty if it is cooked the right amount it's delicious with just onion tomato and some lemon and freshly caught ocean fish is an experience all on it's own just like this!

Scale this idea up at home in the oven by wrapping your bigger fish in and extra layer or two of foil (depending on your oven heat, more if it's hotter) and placing in a shallow baking tray surrounded by your favorite roasting veggies but focus on the fish don't over cook to accommodate the veges, 20-30 min max for med to large 30 to 40 inch long fish in hot domestic kitchen oven.

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