How to Cook Seafood on the BBQ

Grilling seafood can be a delightful way to enjoy fresh flavours, especially during the warmer months. Whether you're a novice or a seasoned grill master, these tips and recipes will help you master the art of grilling seafood, ensuring delicious results every time.

Why is Seafood Better on the BBQ?

Grilling seafood isn't just a method of cooking; it's a way to enhance and transform the inherent flavours of the sea. When seafood meets the grill, magic happens. Here’s why:

  1. Enhanced Flavours: Grilling intensifies the natural sweetness of seafood, while the high heat creates a caramelised exterior through the Maillard reaction, offering a richer taste than most other cooking methods. The smoky depth added by the grill is especially complementary to the delicate flavors of fish and shellfish, imbuing each bite with a unique smokiness that cannot be replicated in an oven or on a stove.
  2. Healthier Eating: Grilling seafood is a superb way to cook healthily. It requires minimal added fats, unlike frying or sautéing. By grilling, you avoid submerging your food in oil, which not only lowers the overall calorie count but also reduces unhealthy fat intake. Additionally, grilling helps retain more of the vitamins and minerals found in fish, such as omega-3 fatty acids, which are essential for heart and brain health.
  3. Preservation of Texture and Moisture: Proper grilling techniques can help preserve the moisture and texture of seafood, preventing it from drying out, which is often a risk with baking or frying. The quick cooking time on a hot grill seals in the juices and keeps the flesh tender and flaky, providing an appealing contrast to the crispy exterior.
  4. Simplicity and Convenience: Grilling is straightforward and can be less time-consuming than other cooking methods. It often involves simple preparations and marinations that let the natural flavors of the seafood shine. Furthermore, grilling can be a more sociable cooking method, perfect for gathering friends and family outdoors.
  5. Versatility: Almost every type of seafood can be grilled. From whole fish like snapper or sea bream to fillets of salmon or tuna and even shellfish like shrimp and scallops, each lends itself beautifully to the grill. This versatility means that there’s always something new to try, and a variety of seafood can be adapted to different cuisines and flavour profiles.
  6. Aromatic Variations: Experimenting with different woods in your grill can add subtle flavour variations that enhance the seafood. For instance, cedar, applewood, and cherry wood each impart a distinct smoky note that can make a simple dish feel gourmet.

By grilling seafood, you not only enjoy a meal that is both delicious and healthy but also engage in an age-old cooking tradition that emphasises freshness and flavour. Whether you’re a seasoned chef or a weekend griller, the grill is your tool to unlock the vibrant tastes of the ocean.

Choosing the Right Seafood

The key to perfect grilled seafood starts with the selection. Opt for fresh, high-quality seafood. Here’s what to look for:

  • Fish: Choose firm-fleshed fish like salmon, tuna, and swordfish. These types stand up well to the heat of the grill.
  • Shellfish: Prawns and scallops are grill-friendly and cook quickly.
  • Whole fish: Grilling whole fish like snapper or sea bream makes for a dramatic presentation and juicy meat.

Preparation Tips

  • Preheat your grill: Ensure your grill is hot before adding your seafood to prevent sticking.
  • Oil well: Lightly oil both the grill and the seafood to enhance flavor and prevent it from sticking.
  • Skin on: When grilling fish fillets, leave the skin on to help keep the fish together.
  • Marinate: Infuse flavor with a simple marinade or seasoning. However, avoid marinating for too long as acidic ingredients can start to cook delicate seafood.

Grilling Techniques

  • Direct vs. indirect heat: Use direct heat for searing fish and indirect heat for larger or whole fish to cook evenly without burning.
  • Timing is crucial: Seafood cooks quickly. Shrimp and scallops need just a few minutes per side, while a whole fish might take 10-15 minutes per side depending on its size.
  • Use a fish basket: A fish basket can be a handy tool to easily flip fish without it falling apart.

Using a Grill or Fish Basket

While grilling seafood directly on the grates can yield delicious results, using a grill or fish basket can simplify the process and elevate your grilling game. Here’s why you might consider using one:

  1. Ease of Handling: Fish baskets are designed to securely hold seafood, especially delicate pieces that might otherwise fall apart or stick to the grill grates. With a fish basket, you can easily flip fish without the fear of breaking it, ensuring even cooking and perfect presentation every time.
  2. Versatility: Grill baskets are not limited to fish alone; they're also ideal for grilling smaller items such as shrimp, scallops, and even vegetables. This tool allows you to cook smaller pieces that might otherwise slip through the grill grates, expanding your grilling options.
  3. Uniform Cooking: The design of a fish basket promotes uniform heat distribution, helping to cook seafood evenly. This is particularly beneficial when grilling whole fish or larger fillets that need consistent heat to cook through properly.
  4. Enhanced Flavor: Using a fish basket also means you can add marinades and seasonings directly to the seafood before grilling. As the basket holds the seafood and its juices, it allows for more flavor absorption during the grilling process, enhancing the overall taste.
  5. Convenience and Clean-Up: A grill basket not only makes the cooking process easier but also simplifies clean-up. It prevents pieces of food from sticking to the grill grates, reducing the need for intense scrubbing post-BBQ.

How to Use a Fish Basket:

  1. Preheat the Grill: Heat your grill before placing the basket on it. A hot grill helps to prevent sticking and ensures a good sear.
  2. Prepare the Basket: Lightly oil the inside of the basket to prevent sticking. Place your seafood inside, ensuring it's not overcrowded to allow for even cooking.
  3. Grill: Place the basket on the grill. Cooking time will depend on the type of seafood and its thickness. Generally, it takes less time than cooking directly on the grates because the basket can be flipped easily, facilitating even exposure to the heat.
  4. Serving: Once cooked, carefully remove the basket from the grill. Open it and gently transfer the seafood to a serving plate.

Incorporating a grill or fish basket into your BBQ toolkit can make grilling seafood a more enjoyable and successful endeavor, ensuring that every piece comes out perfectly cooked and ready to impress.

BBQ Seafood Recipes

Grilled Salmon with Lemon Herb Butter

Experience the rich, velvety texture of salmon as it perfectly pairs with the zesty and aromatic lemon herb butter. This recipe transforms simple ingredients into a luxurious dish that highlights the natural flavours of salmon, enhanced by a hint of garlic and a medley of fresh herbs. Ideal for a sophisticated yet easy-to-prepare meal, it’s perfect for both casual family dinners and special occasions.


  • 4 salmon fillets
  • Salt and pepper
  • Olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • Zest and juice of 1 lemon
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh herbs (parsley, dill, or chives)


  1. Preheat bbq/grill to medium-high.
  2. Season salmon with salt and pepper, and brush lightly with olive oil.
  3. Grill for 4-5 minutes on each side.
  4. Mix butter with garlic, lemon zest, lemon juice, and herbs. Spoon over cooked salmon before serving.

Grilled Prawn Skewers

These grilled prawn skewers are a celebration of simplicity and flavour. Marinated in a blend of olive oil, paprika, and fresh seasonings, each shrimp becomes a juicy, flavourful bite that’s slightly smoky and utterly irresistible. Quick to prepare and fun to eat, these skewers make for a perfect appetiser or a light main course, especially when served with fresh lemon wedges that add a burst of brightness.


  • 500g large prawns, peeled and deveined
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon paprika
  • Salt and pepper
  • Lemon wedges, for serving


  1. Preheat bbq/grill to high.
  2. Toss prawns with olive oil, paprika, salt, and pepper.
  3. Thread prawns onto skewers.
  4. Grill for 2-3 minutes on each side or until opaque.
  5. Serve with lemon wedges.

Grilled Whole Sea Bream

Grilling a whole sea bream not only makes for a stunning presentation but also ensures that every bite is infused with the natural flavours of the fish, complemented by the subtle herbs and citrus stuffed within. This method of cooking locks in moisture, resulting in a tender, flaky texture that effortlessly falls off the bone. It’s a fantastic way to enjoy a whole fish, bringing a touch of gourmet to your grill with minimal effort.


  • 1 whole sea bream, gutted and scaled
  • Salt and pepper
  • Olive oil
  • Slices of lemon and fresh herbs (rosemary, thyme)


  1. Season the fish inside and out with salt and pepper.
  2. Stuff the cavity with lemon slices and herbs.
  3. Brush the fish with olive oil.
  4. Grill over indirect heat for 10-15 minutes on each side.

Serving Suggestions

Serve your grilled seafood with fresh salads, grilled vegetables, or a light pasta dish to keep the meal refreshing and balanced.

Grilling seafood can transform your dining experience, bringing the taste of the sea right to your backyard. With these tips and recipes, you’re ready to impress at your next BBQ with the flavours and aromas of perfectly grilled seafood.