By Elliot Nelson, Michigan Sea Grant Extension educator for the eastern Upper Peninsula
Recently, I set out on a quest to let folks see and taste safe, easy, and quick grilled fish. I had the opportunity to provide a seafood cooking demo at the Hannahville Indian Community’s weekly farmers market, so I decided to grill up fish using one of the easiest and tastiest recipes I know.
The first thing I did was pick out some fresh-caught Lake Superior lake trout at Matson’s Fisheries in Munising, Michigan. I was able to catch a spectacular sunset the night before at the tourist campground, and it seemed fitting to purchase fish that came out of those same waters the next day. This fish was as fresh as they come, and Matson’s makes a point to stock the leanest and tastiest fish they catch in their display case at their market. Lake trout is a healthy option, as it provides omega-3 fatty acids, vitamins, minerals, and high protein content with low fat.
Next came a trip down to the Hannahville Indian Community, a wonderful area with lots to see and do. I kept my fish on ice in a cooler, making sure to keep it below 40 degrees. It’s important when you buy fresh fish to keep it on ice, even when in a refrigerator, to help preserve its quality.
Time to trim the fish. Thankfully, my fish was deboned and basically all fat was already removed. To help reduce contaminants in your fish, it’s a good idea to trim away the white fat that is sometimes on fillets. I also poked holes in the skin of my fish to allow excess fat to drip away on the grill.
Next came the seasoning. You ready for this? Salt. That’s it. Just a bit of salt on top of the fish and it’s ready for the grill.
It’s important to get your grill as hot as you can leading up to grilling the fish. I also rubbed vegetable oil directly on the grill using a brush to prevent sticking. Next I placed the fish on the grill, skin-side down. Lake trout has a nice thick skin that holds the fish together on the grill and comes right off when done.
Shut the grill and wait about five minutes. You can tell the fish is finished cooking when the meat easily flakes apart. If you have a meat thermometer, it should read a minimum of 145 F. No need to flip this fish!
You might be asking yourself at this point, wait, where is the dill? Where is the lemon? The trick for this fish is the finishing touch. Once the fish comes off the grill, you use a brush to add a simple dill butter, which is just melted butter and dill weed. Fresh dill is great, but the dried dill weed you can get in most grocery stores works just fine too.
Finally take a wedge of lemon and squirt it on your fish. As you eat the fish, it should flake right off from the charred skin, which you can leave behind (although some find it tasty).
Now sit back, relax, and enjoy! You can bask in the glory of your easy freshwater feast.
Quick and easy lemon-dill grilled fish
Adapted from simplyrecipes.com
4 6-ounce portions of fresh Great Lakes trout or salmon, preferably skin-on. Leaving the skin on helps hold the fish together on the grill.
2 tablespoons vegetable oil, plus more to wipe down the grill
1/4 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
2 teaspoons chopped fresh dill, or 2/3 teaspoon dried dill
One lemon, cut into wedges, for garnish
- Remove the fish from the refrigerator and sprinkle a little salt over it. Let it sit at room temperature while you preheat your grill for high, direct heat. Note: Never let uncooked fish sit for more then 2 hours.
- While the grill is heating, mix the dill with the butter in a small bowl.
- When the grill is hot, scrape down the grates with a grill brush. Pour a little vegetable oil onto a paper towel, and use tongs to wipe down the grill grates with the paper towel.
- Coat the fish in the remaining 2 tablespoons of oil and place, skin side down, onto the grill grates. Grill over high heat for about 5 minutes (depending on how thick your fish pieces are). No need to flip! The fish is finished when the meat easily flakes apart and a meat thermometer reads a minimum of 145 degrees F.
- Remove the fish from the grill. It’s okay if the skin sticks to the grill grates. You can also remove the skin before serving, if preferred. Brush each piece of fish with about a tablespoon of the dill butter. Squeeze a lemon wedge over the pieces, or serve lemon wedges as a garnish.