I had been toying with the idea of grilling a whole fish for most of the summer but was a bit hesitant because I had never cooked a whole fish before, on the grill or otherwise. However, there were some really lovely-looking whole barramundi at the grocery store yesterday for the right price. I decided I would just have to suck it up and figure it out, especially since it was a gorgeous day for lighting up the grill.
The barramundi is a white-fleshed fish with a sweet, buttery flavor. The flesh of the barramundi is quite firm, making it an ideal fish for grilling whole. The fishmonger at the grocery store had scaled and gutted the fish, but I removed all of the fins prior to stuffing it. They can be quite sharp and I didn’t want to take any chances cutting myself. Furthermore, the fins will burn off faster than the flesh of the fish and I didn’t want them smoking or catching on fire. There are tons of tutorials and videos online for how to clean and gut a whole fish. I had seen my dad do it a bunch of times when I was younger and the fishmonger had taken care of most of my dirty work for me, but they are definitely worth a quick peruse.
We absolutely devoured this. The flesh of the fish was perfectly seasoned – salty and sweet with a hint of herbaceous flavors from the parsley and acidity from the lemon. The charcoal imparted a lovely smokey flavor to the flesh and skin, which was crispy and delicious. The entire fish was moist and perfectly cooked. Keep a close eye on the fish and use touch and sight to judge when the fish is cooked through. Bear in mind that the fish will continue to cook for several minutes after being removed from the grill, so be sure to remove it as soon as the flesh turns opaque on the second side.
Whole Grilled Lemon-Parsley Barramundi
1 .75 lb. whole barramundi, gutted and scaled with fins and gills removed
3 tbs. olive oil
2 tbs. kosher salt
1/2 lemon, thinly sliced
1/2 cup fresh flat leaf parsley, loosely packed
Non-stick cooking spray
Cut about 3 slices per side of fish to but not through the bone. Rub inside and out with olive oil. Season liberally with kosher salt, inside and out of the cavity. Stuff cavity with parsley and some of the lemon slices. Place the fish on a platter and top with a few more lemon slices. Let marinate at least an hour.
Preheat charcoal grill to medium-high.
Make sure your grill grates are very clean and the grill grate gets very hot. Spray the grill grate liberally with non-stick cooking spray just before adding the fish.
Place fish on the grill. Cook fish, without touching, for about 5-6 minutes. Using a spatula and tongs, carefully remove the fish from the grate of the grill. Let cook another 3-4 minutes, for a total of 8-10 minutes. Remove the lemon slices from the top of the fish and set aside. Carefully flip the fish. Replace the lemon slices. Cook another 5-6 minutes before beginning to free the fish from the grate of the grill. Cook another 3-4 minutes. When finished, the flesh of the fish should be opaque and semi-firm to the touch. The skin will be browned and crispy.
Carefully remove to a serving dish when cooked through. Devour like wild animals (if you’re going to do exactly what we did, you can’t skip this step).