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Summer barbecue guide: The best fish to grill

Summer dining is all about the barbecue. But don't be afraid to include fish - it's quick, healthy and totally delicious. Here's a guide to the best fish for the grill, thanks to Williams and Bunkell Fishmongers in Claygate.

Williams and Bunkell Fishmonger, Claygate, Surrey, Grilled salmon
Salmon barbecued on a cedar plank. Photo credit: Tania Clift, Williams and Bunkell Fishmongers

As an Australian, it’s practically law that when the sun shines we barbecue. And no, most Aussies don’t throw another shrimp on the barbie – for a start, they’re called prawns! We have Paul Hogan and the Eighties to thank for that.

So now we’ve cleared that up, let’s talk about what we do throw on the barbie. Steaks, sausages (aka snags) and lamb chops are popular – as well as fish and seafood. The meatier options are fairly straightforward – marinade or dry rub, throw them on a hot grill and be careful not to overcook (or undercook in the case of the snags).

Barbecuing fish is a little trickier. Some fish is better suited to the grill than others, and some of the more delicate types just aren’t suited for the BBQ at all.

Matthew Clift who runs Williams and Bunkell Fishmongers in Claygate knows a thing or two about fish and seafood, and has this brilliant advice to help you choose.

Williams and Bunkell Fishmonger, Claygate, Surrey
Barbecued prawns. Photo credit: Tania Clift, Williams and Bunkell Fishmongers

Tuna steak

Great for grilling. It’s a firm fish so will hold together well and can handle strong flavours. Sear it both sides and serve medium rare. Or, if you fancy fish kebabs, cut it up and skewer it.

Swordfish

Similar to tuna, swordfish is a firm and meaty fish so it holds up well to the heat of the barbecue. It has a mild, sweet flavour, so keep it simple – a brush of olive oil, seasoning and a generous squeeze of lemon juice. Sizzle and sear. Perfecto!

Jumbo prawns

Prawns are gorgeous when they’re grilled – either straight on as they are, or butterflied. They don’t take long to cook – just a couple of minutes each side. Serve with a garlic butter for dipping.

Salmon

Salmon is super versatile on the barbecue. You can cook it whole, or as a whole side – great for wow-factor and larger gatherings, or go for individual fillets or steaks. It’s great when marinaded too. A favourite of the Williams and Bunkell team is to cook salmon on a cedar plank. Simple soak a cedar plank in any alcohol (Matt usually uses white wine but has also used beer, or saki) while preparing the salmon. Sprinkle finely grate lemon zest and chopped dill onto the salmon, then place it onto the soaked cedar plank before putting it directly onto your BBQ. Yum!

Sea bream

If you’ve never tasted grilled sea bream you don’t know what you’re missing. Seriously! It’s a white fish with a light texture and best suited to grilling whole, ideally on a charcoal barbecue. Simply smother in oil, season and pop it onto the barbie.

Snapper

Another excellent fish to grill whole, snapper has a firm texture that’s sweet and a little nutty if flavour. It’s a versatile fish too, which combines well with many flavours from spicy chilli to more subtle herbs. Simple coat in oil and grill.

Scallops

These delightfully sweet little morsels make a great addition any barbecue feast. They can be cooked individually on a hot barbecue plate, or threaded onto a skewer (don’t forget to soak wood or bamboo skewers for an hour or so first to prevent them catching alight). Then simply toss in garlic, olive oil and lemon… and grill. Delicious.

Williams and Bunkell Fishmonger, Claygate, Surrey
Grilled swordfish. Photo credit: Tania Clift, Williams and Bunkell Fishmongers

HOW TO BARBECUE FISH

Prevent fish sticking to barbecue plate or grate by patting dry with paper and brushing with oil. This is also the time to add seasoning.

Make sure the barbecue is at a medium – high heat. If you’re using a charcoal barbecue, wait until the flames have died down and the coals are covered in white ash. It’s easier to control the heat on a gas barbecue.

Avoid turning your fish more than once. This helps to keep it moist and succulent, and also means there’s less chance of it sticking to the grill.

ADD FLAVOUR

Garlic, lemon and olive are perfect fish partners, as is tartare sauce. And ifyou can’t be bothered with the faff of creating your own marinades and sauces, check out RoniB’s Kitchen, a Surrey-based producer creating ready-made artisan sauces and marinades using the flavours of the Philippines. They’re available to buy at Williams and Bunkell Fishmongers.


Williams and Bunkell Fishmongers offer up a fantastic range of ethically sourced fresh fish and shellfish from their traditional fishmongers in the lovely village of Claygate. Where possible all the fish and shellfish has been ethically sourced and line-caught from small independent fishing boats from around Britain. williamsandbunkell.com

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