Summer Tips for Seafood Grilling

Summer is the perfect time to introduce more fish and seafood into your outdoor grilling lineup.  As barbecues are primed and ready, you should be too.

Morsel for morsel, each bite of seafood offers tender, succulent flavours that satisfy your hunger as well as your nutritional needs. Not only do you gain the dietary benefits from noshing on fish and seafood, you also achieve the bonus of eating tasty proteins that go easy on the waistline.

Generally, meatier fish and seafood is best on an outdoor grill as you don’t want flakes of fish falling onto your coals. Think shrimp, lobster, tuna, salmon and meatier white fish varieties such as cod, halibut or swordfish.  

Look for fish that has its skin intact as that makes the grilling process easier and reduces the odds of the fish falling apart. Also, says Dave Rihbany of Dave’s Fish Market in Burlington, don’t forget to oil the grill before laying down your fish as that will prevent it from sticking. If the grill feels too intimidating, place the fish on foil and then on the barbecue. That will save it from falling in.

What makes summertime the key time to expand your protein repertoire is the simple matter of availability. Certain types of fish and seafood are only available now so if you want maximum freshness and flavour, summer is the time to try it. “Getting stuff in season like fresh halibut and fresh salmon is good now because it’s not always available all year round,” says Shane R., a fishmonger at Whole Foods in Oakville.

The Mermaid and the Oyster in Kerr Village is a long-time favourite for its daily selection of fresh seafood, as well as a mouth-watering menu of seafood dishes for dine-in or takeout. And, if you want to bring an east coast-inspired oyster bar to your backyard BBQ get together, this is the place. 

When seasoning your fish and seafood, the experts often prefer simplicity. Shane suggests salt and pepper, fresh lemon juice and perhaps a dash of Cajun or blackening rub. “When it comes to white fish, you can use whatever seasoning you like as the fish is so mild it will take on the flavour profiles of what you use.”

To widen your fish and seafood experience, Rihbany recommends trying multiple cooking methods in one go. “I like a mixed grill,” says Rihbany, who’s been a fishmonger for 40 years. “Pick a piece with sauce and try a piece with nothing on it. I like to make kebobs with tuna, swordfish and shrimp.”

When it comes to selecting fish and seafood, stay away from discoloured flesh, dried or dehydrated skin or meat. Disregard product that has black spots because that means it has aged before it was frozen. “You don’t want it sitting out in the open air all day,” says Rihbany. “And I don’t recommend discounted fish.”  

Fish is a quick-cooking protein so engaging in a 15-minute chat with a neighbour while cooking may not be a good idea. Depending on your taste, fish does not need to be fully cooked and some people actually prefer it when it’s a little translucent in the centre. But Shane cautions against serving fish, especially wild fish, that is too underdone. “With wild varieties there’s a risk of parasites and bacteria if you eat it too raw. Any raw fish would run that risk, but typically wild varieties are more prone to it.”

One of the big draws of seafood is its perceived health benefits. It’s low in fat, high in protein and a great source of Omega-3 DHA essential fatty acids. Other health benefits in seafood are derived from vitamins A and D, which are found in fish liver oils, as well as high levels of the B complex vitamins, particularly niacin, B-12 and B-6.  It’s also a perfect protein for gluten-free diners and those following reduced gluten diets.

So fire up the grill, give the traditional burgers and hot dogs a pass, and experiment with seafood this summer.  You won’t be disappointed.

By Kelly Putter

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