Celebrate summer with teriyaki fish kabobs on the grill

By Dan O’Keefe

This easy meal of pineapple, green pepper, and fish teriyaki comes from Dan O’Keefe, Michigan Sea Grant Extension educator in Southwest Michigan. This piece also appeared on the Michigan State University Extension website. 

Teriyaki fish kebobs
Photo: Dan O’Keefe

Nothing says summer like the smoky aroma of fresh food cooking over an open fire, and kabobs are the perfect all-in-one meal for a lazy summer evening. It is finger food at its best, and so much the better that you don’t even need to get your fingers dirty thanks to the skewer.

Beef and venison kabobs are fantastic, but I am always looking for ways to use the fish I catch as substitutes in traditional recipes that call for red meat, pork, or shrimp. Using fresh fish from nearby lakes and rivers is a great way to eat local, and with a bit of experimentation I’ve learned a bit about how to bring out the best in different species of fish that usually get overlooked.

Take these fish kabobs, for instance. Most white-fleshed fish are simply too delicate to hold up well on the skewer. Walleye, bass, and whitefish will flake apart easily and usually fall off the skewer as soon as they are done. Salmon cubes hold up better, but my personal favorite is freshwater drum. It turns out that the lowly “sheephead” has very firm flesh that tends to stay on the skewer.

When marinated in teriyaki sauce and grilled, strips of drum meat have a texture that is more similar to shrimp than other fish. The flavor is usually mild and pleasant, although (like many fish species) drum from certain waters can develop a strong or muddy flavor that may be related to diet or time of year.

Before you dig into the recipe below, check out this demonstration video:

Teriyaki Fish Kebobs

Serves 4
Prep time: 25 minutes
Cook time: 6-12 minutes

Ingredients
2 pounds of freshwater drum or other firm fish
1 cup teriyaki sauce
1 pineapple
2 green peppers
2 tablespoons olive oil
16 bamboo skewers

Preparation

  1. Soak skewers in water to prevent burning on the grill.
  2. Remove pin bones from fish fillets and cut into shrimp-sized chunks (for freshwater drum) or inch-and-a-half cubes (for salmon, tuna, or swordfish). Marinate fish in your favorite store-bought teriyaki sauce for 15 minutes. Thick sauces work best.
  3. Cut pineapple and green pepper into bite-sized pieces. Red or Vidalia onions also make a nice addition.
  4. Drizzle olive oil over pineapple and vegetables to prevent them from sticking to the grill.
  5. Prepare skewers, alternating green pepper, pineapple, and fish chunks.
  6. Cook directly over hot coals, keeping the bare portion of each skewer off of the grill to prevent burning.
  7. Flip once halfway through cooking. Thicker cubes of salmon will take longer to cook than thin chunks of drum. Fish is done when it is opaque in the center. Depending on heat, distance from heat, and thickness of fish this may take anywhere from 6 to 12 minutes.

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