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Grilled Whole Fish

Photo: Iain Bagwell Styling: Lindsey Ellis Beatty 

Active time 20 mins
Total time 1 hr, 10 mins

Serves: 4

Ask your fishmonger to scale and gut the fish.


  • 1 (2 1/2-pound) whole fish, such as red snapper, scaled, gutted, and trimmed
  • 1 large shallot, coarsely chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, roughly chopped
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh tarragon
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh mint
  • 1 tablespoon lemon zest
  • 1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons salt
  • 4 tablespoons olive oil, divided

How to Make It

  1. Make 3 to 4 parallel cuts (1 1/2 inches apart) into fish, slicing into the flesh at a 45-degree angle, down to the bone. Combine shallot, garlic, herbs, lemon zest and juice, salt, and 2 tablespoons olive oil in a blender. Process until combined. (Marinade should still have a chunky texture.) Place fish in a shallow dish; pour marinade over fish, turning to coat both sides and pressing into cuts. Cover and refrigerate 30 minutes.

  2. Meanwhile, light one side of grill, heating to medium-high heat (350° to 400°) heat; leave other side unlit.

  3. Wipe excess marinade from fish; brush fish with remaining 2 tablespoons olive oil. Place fish on well-oiled grates directly over heat; grill 5 to 7 minutes. Carefully turn fish using 2 oiled metal spatulas, and place on unlit side; grill, covered with grill lid, 15 to 20 minutes or until fish flakes easily when tested with a knife.

  4. How to Spot a Fresh Fish: Look for scales that are firmly attached and glistening with moisture. The eyes should be bright and clear; the gills should be vibrant and show no sign of drying out. Does the fish smell like fish? If so, then it's a no-go. Good, pristine-quality seafood smells only of the sea, violets, and scents of melon and cucumber.

Cook's Notes

What to Drink White Wine Wisdom. Sauvignon blanc is the ideal complement to grilled fresh fish. Here are my top three picks: Sanford Sauvignon Blanc, $26; Duckhorn Vineyards Napa Valley Sauvignon Blanc, $29; Groth 2014 Sauvignon Blanc, Napa Valley, $20;