How to Cook Fluke on the Grill

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Steaks and burgers might be the iconic foods of grilling season, but fish can be grill-friendly as well. The usual suspects -- salmon, halibut, swordfish, tuna -- are all thick and firm-textured, making them good candidates for the grill's intense heat. That doesn't mean delicate fish such as fluke can't be grilled, it just means you need to take their characteristics into consideration.

Upside, Downside

Fluke is part of the flounder family -- it's often called "summer flounder" -- and like most other flatfish, it's mild, white and lean. Unfortunately for grilling enthusiasts, its flesh is delicate and flaky, which means even thick fillets from large fish have a tendency to fall apart when handled. There are ways to cope with this, though, and fluke is tasty enough to be worth the effort.

Go the Whole Way

Small fluke of up to 2 pounds or so -- roughly the size of a large skillet -- can be grilled whole. The skin and the intact skeleton help hold it together, making it sturdy enough to grill successfully.

Step 1

Clean the grill diligently before you start, scraping away any surface soil, and then oil the grate liberally. Oil the fish's skin as well, to help minimize the risk of sticking.

Step 2

Heat the grill to a medium-high setting, or approximately 375 F.

Step 3

Position the fluke over the heat, with its dark side facing down. Grill the first side for 6 to 8 minutes, until the skin is browned and puffy. The fish should separate freely from the grate, if you reach under it with a carving fork and lift.

Step 4

Slide two wide spatulas under the fluke and lift it quickly onto a plate. Place a second plate over the first, and flip them over.

Step 5

Slip the fluke back onto the grill, and cook the other side for a few minutes longer. Cooking time should total roughly 10 minutes per inch of thickness.

Serve the fluke hot and fresh from the grill, separating it from its flat, uncomplicated skeleton into four fillets and then -- if necessary -- into smaller portions.

Tip

  • Purchase a pan-dressed whole fluke for this technique. Your fishmonger will clean the fish, remove its head, and trim away the thin, easily burnt tail and fins.

A Grilling Basket

If you're intimidated by the thought of grilling a whole fluke, purchase the thickest fillets you can find and cook them in a grill basket. Skin-on fillets are sturdiest, but you can use skin-off if necessary. Season and oil the fillets, and oil the fish-grilling basket as well. Cook the fillets over direct heat, again observing the 10 minutes per inch rule. You can also use a fish basket to grill whole fluke, which eliminates the need for the clumsy two-plates flipping technique.

Grilling in Foil

As an alternative, you can also grill fluke with the support of heavy-gauge aluminum foil. There are two distinctly different approaches to this technique, with slightly different outcomes. One method calls for fluke portions to be completely enclosed in an aluminum pouch, along with fresh herbs or other flavorings. Although the fish cooks alongside the rest of your grilled foods, it's essentially baked inside the foil.

A second technique calls for the fish to be cooked on an open platform of oiled foil, with the grill's lid lowered. This traps smoke -- especially if you add a few pieces of hardwood to the fire -- and imparts a bit of grilled flavor to the fish.

That's a Wrap

A variant of the wrapped-in-foil technique calls for wrapping the fish in something flavorful, instead. This makes the fluke tastier, while still protecting it from sticking and falling apart on the grill. Wrap individual portions in grape leaves, for example, or whole fillets in banana leaves, and then grill them over a hot fire. The leaves impart their distinctive flavors to the fish, while insulating it from the grill's heat.

Alternatively, wrap the fluke in a generous bundle of dill or fennel fronds. The effect is the same, though the flavor is different.

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