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Grilling Seafood

Paulo O via Flickr (Creative Commons BY 2.0)

Maryland is certainly known for its seafood, but I wonder if we get enough of it onto the summer grill. Grilling seafood does take a little finesse, but with a bit of instruction it's very doable. Chef Jerry Pellegrino who is a dab hand at all manner of grilling has some advice on how to handle seafood.

Jerry points out that because of the structure of seafood meat, particularly fish, it is in fact a more delicate product to handle on the grill. It does take a little finesse and the proper tools.

Here are some tips.

First, make sure your grill is super clean. Clean it cold first, then heat it up at work it over again, getting rid of all the burned on bits from previous cook-outs.

With fish, the idea is to cook quickly over high heat. The big sin is to overcook the fish, which will definitely dry it out. Cooking over high heat gives you a good seared crust, and allows the fish to keep on cooking after you remove it from the grill.

Keep the skin on, it will help prevent your fish from falling apart.

You can also go with an indirect method. Put your fish into a piece of tinfoil along with aromatic herbs, a dot of butter and some sliced vegetables. Place the packages in a cooler part of the grill, and then pull down the cover. Everything will cook in the packets and produce a delicious sauce to boot.

There are purpose-built seafood "grill baskets" that hold the fish and make turning it a breeze. If you don't have one of these baskets, at least work with two wide thin spatulas to gently turn the fish.

Brush a light coat of oil on the fist to keep it from sticking to the grate. If it does stick, don't fight it. When it is sufficiently seared it will release and you can flip it then. To avoid over-cooking you might want to work on a slightly cooler spot on the grill. Grilling time for a filet will be about 10 minutes per inch of thickness.

When grilling a filet with skin, I grill the flesh side first for 70% of the total cooking time, and then flip it to the skin side for the remainder of the time.

If you want to marinate your fish, it is best done quickly. Because the flesh can easily be broken down by acid, you will not do the overnight routine. One hour is the max. And please, no olive oil in the marinade.

Here are some great marinade ideas.

Garlic Lemon Marinade for Shrimp or Fish

Ingredients - will marinate up to 2 lbs. of shrimp or fish

2 lemons, juice & zest

4 cloves garlic, minced

½ cup fresh Parsley, finely chopped

¼ cup fresh Cilantro, finely chopped

1 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes, or to taste

Mix all of the ingredients together in a bowl and marinate the shrimp or fish for 30 minutes in the refrigerator before roasting or grilling. 

Asian Salmon Marinade

Ingredients – makes enough to marinate one large side of salmon or 4 lbs of salmon fillets. 

2 tablespoons toasted sesame oil

¼ cup soy sauce

2 tablespoons rice wine vinegar

½ cup brown sugar

4 cloves garlic, minced

1 small knob ginger, finely grated

4 green onions, green and white parts cut into ¼ inch disks

2 tablespoons Sambal, or other garlic chili pasta

Mix all of the ingredients together in a bowl and marinate the salmon for up to one hour in the refrigerator before roasting or grilling. 


Al Spoler, well known to WYPR listeners as the wine-loving co-host of "Cellar Notes" has had a long-standing parallel interest in cooking as well. Al has said, the moment he started getting serious about Sunday night dinners was the same moment he started getting serious about wine. Over the years, he has benefited greatly from being a member of the Cork and Fork Society of Baltimore, a gentlemen's dining club that serves black tie meals cooked by the members themselves who are some of Baltimore's most accomplished amateur cooks.
Executive Chef Jerry Pellegrino of Corks restaurant is fascinated by food and wine, and the way they work in harmony on the palate. His understanding of the two goes all the way to the molecular level, drawing on his advanced education in molecular biology. His cuisine is simple and surprising, pairing unexpected ingredients together to work with Corks' extensive wine offerings.