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GRILLED HALIBUT Filets--marinate?

I had these at a dinner party recently and was wowed.; the combination of the charred skin and the delicate white flesh was superb!

(Somehow I had always thought that halibut on the grill was problematic--that it would dry out easily). The ones I enjoyed were marinated, but I do not know the details except for thef act that lemon juice and garlic were included.

Should I plan to marinate? Will this extra step provide a markedly different result?

Does anyone have an easy marinade recipe that they would like to share? I will be cooking the fish on a gas grill.

If I do not find halibut on the desired day, I plan to grill swordfish with this NY Times Bittman recipe:


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  1. That Bittman recipe is very nice. When I'm feeling very lazy a quick marinade I use is a simple vinaigrette. EVOO, a good white wine vinegar, minced garlic, S & P and a hit of lemon juice. Don't keep the fish in the marinade too long because the acids will cook it.

    1 Reply
    1. re: Gio

      Thanks, everyone. I used Gio's marinade and the fish turned out surprisingly well except for the fact that the fish monger had, unfortunately, removed the skin from all the halibut and so we missed the delectable charred skin which had contrasted so well with the snowy delicate flesh.

    2. Marinade, but not more 30 or 40 minutes; otherwise you might end up with ceviche-like halibut.

      I actually prefer a dry rub with some homemade seasonings, but if you prefer a wet marinade try something simple like the following.

      Take some lemon juice, a couple of crushed gloves of garlic and some slices of ginger. Put all of them in a Ziploc bag, and then put your halibut fillets in there and toss to coat, and refrigerate for about 30 minutes.

      Right before grilling, brush the fillets with some olive oil and generously salt and pepper.

      Good luck.

      1. I have enjoyed great, succulent, flaky success many times grilling halibut with this marinade - fresh lemon or lime juice, white worchestershire sauce, generous shakes of green tabasco, dried cumin, dried thyme, fresh grated or minced garlic, and good olive oil. Marinaded in the fridge in a plastic bag or immersed, at least 20 minutes and up to a day has not caused trouble.

        1. I saw a TV chef do something so simple with Halibut that I though, "NO WAY"!! Sprinkle with a little salt and pepper, then brush some Dijon mustard on it. You can broil inside as well as put on the grill. It is so basic and simple and doesn't overpower the fish at all. Delicious.

          1. I like to mix a little mayo with some dijon mustard (usually a flavored one like garlic or shallot mustard) and a tiny bit of jalapeno & dill. the mayo seems to keep it moist.

            1. I plan to make this grilled halibut again this weekend and will use all the tips I got here last year.


              1. I will be cooking for 7 people. Should I have the fish monger portion the filets, or cook it all in one piece? (I will buy about 3+ pounds)

              2. I plan to buy the fish with the skin on. Should I grill it skin side down only, or turn it once? Seems like turning will use precious time if I have it pre-cut since it will take time to turn each filet, no?

              Any and all tips are welcome! If I cannot find halibut I will try the swordfish recipe I linked in the original post.

              10 Replies
              1. re: erica

                It's easier to cook all in one piece, but may be harder to get the desired uniform cooked results that way, but you're probably fine.

                I marinate without acid on fish *& shellfish, or just a touch of lemon juice, it will really start to cook the fish if you leave it longer than 30 minutes, or have too much acid in the marinade.

                You won't need to turn the fish, keep it skin down the whole time since you are looking for that charred skin taste. Otherwise, the skin-free side will not be as pretty if you flip it and it starts to fall apart.

                Swordfish is a bit more meaty than halibut and can take a stronger flavored marinade if you're so inclined.

                1. re: erica

                  Have the fish monger portion it.

                  Skin side down first, then when the fish lifts off the pan with slightest of nudge, turn it.

                  Why so concerned about saving time?

                  1. re: ipsedixit

                    Not concerned with savingn time, but worried that if I have to pry each piece off the grill to turn it, I will lose precious minutes and will not be able to get them all perfectly cooked at the right time. I have little grilling experience and almost none on charcoal.

                    So which is it--portion the fish, or cook it is one large piece?

                    o you think swordfish will be any easier to grill since it will be steaks? Other choice might be Chilean sea bass but I am aware of the issues with that fish and rarely cook it. But it would be a good grill fish, I bet.

                    I am in NYC area and have been getting good halibut at my local market (Pisacane in Manhattan) recently.

                    Will marinate only a short time, and not at all if I get the swordfish for the Bitttman pimenton recipe.

                    1. re: erica

                      Another question, which would apply to all grilled fish:

                      How long in advance of grilling should the fish be taken out of the frig? Above all, I want to prevent the fish from becoming overcooked...

                      1. re: erica

                        Depends on the size and cut. I take a whole trout or 1.5lb snapper out one hour before, usually using that time for some seasoning approaches. A filet, even a hefty salmon chunk, is probably good at 30 minutes.

                        And in any case, proper heat management and experience can make darn near anything work.

                      2. re: erica

                        I've grilled both Halibut and Swordfish many times. Swordfish is easier, tends to stay together easier. And doesn't seem to have as much of a tendancy to stick as Halibut. Used a citrus bearnaise sauce on the swordfish. One word of caution if you try Swordfish. Lately our markets have been getting this in sliced about 1/4 inch thick. This is too thin!! If you see that the steaks are that thin, don't bother. They will over cook and you will not get the meaty enjoyment that is swordfish.

                        Halibut I like to cedar plank. Little EVOO, S & P on it, or a light coating of mayo to keep it moist. But cedar planking is a great way to go. And of course for a party scenario, it always gains ohhhhss and ahhhhhs.

                        1. re: erica

                          So which is it--portion the fish, or cook it is one large piece?

                          Portion it before cooking. It is much harder to portion a fish after it's been cooked.

                          1. re: ipsedixit

                            I am having trouble understanding why it is difficult to cut slices of a cooked filet. I am worried that the smaller pieces will fall through the grill bars.

                            Will the skin get crispy on a cedar plank? That would address both the sticking issue and the issue of the possible falling through the grates.

                            1. re: erica

                              Cooked fish tends to flake and fall apart on you.

                              If you portion into, for example 6 ounce portions and grill them perpendicular to the grill, then they should not fall through the grill bars.

                              1. re: ipsedixit

                                Just want to add that I ended up making swordfish with the Bittman recipe linked in the original post; it was wonderful in every respect. Served with the pimenton alioli. Recommended.

                                Thanks to everyone who was so generous with help here.

                    2. Okay, everybody, time to give up your location. I didn't particularly like halibut until I visited an old roommate in Alaska. We caught a halibut and some salmon and it bore no resemblance to that which I'd had before, but again, this was in the mid 1970s. I live in Arizona, and now you can get pretty good anything, but back then not so much.

                      1. we bought some halibut steaks for our first venture with halibut and although we grilled the steaks perfectly however, we thought the fish was flavorless and the texture a little too buttery. We were not fans- would buying fillets make a difference or do we not like halibut?

                        1 Reply
                        1. re: cocoagirl

                          Halibut tends to be very neutral in taste -- which is why it is sometimes used in stews, as well as fish n chips.

                        2. If you like Thai flavors, try this one. I used it as a marinade/sauce for a baked fish but it can definitely be used as a marinade as well for fillets, grilled or baked.

                          1/3 cup canola oil

                          3 tablespoons unsweetened coconut milk

                          2 limes (1 zested and juiced, 1 cut in half)

                          1/2 teaspoon chili flakes

                          1/2 tablespoon ground coriander

                          1 garlic clove, sliced