When fresh fish comes in season, whether you catch it yourself or find your perfect catch at the seafood market or store, there is no better way to release the flavor than on the charcoal grill. I found some splendid snapper fillets that I plan to marinate, wrap in a corn husk, and cook on the coals of my charcoal grill. Let’s get started!

The Perfect Marinade

Fish does not require a lot of marination time so know in the time it takes the fish to absorb the marinade’s great flavors, you can set up the charcoal grill. I like to lite the chimney starters while I make the marinade. For that, you’ll need:

  • 6 white fish fillets (tilapia, branzino, snapper)
  • ½ cup finely chopped scallion
  • 10 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 cup oil
  • ¼ cup lime juice
  • 1 teaspoon paprika
  • 1 teaspoon curry powder
  • Salt — 1 teaspoon
  • ½ teaspoon black pepper
  • 12 pieces of soaked corn husks

Mix together the scallion, minced garlic, oil, lime juice, paprika, curry powder, salt and black pepper. Place the fish in a baking dish or in a sealable storage bag and top with the marinade mixture. Marinate the fish in the refrigerator for a minimum of 1 hour.

Wrapping the Snapper

It’s time to take our marinated fish and encase it in the corn husk. If you have fish fillets that will fit in a single corn husk, then one will do. However, if you are doing larger pieces of fish, usually over a few ounces in weight, you will need to place 2 corn husks on a work surface overlapping the husks. Place one piece of fish on a pre-soaked corn husk wrapping the husk around the fish. Tie the ends of the husk with meat twine noting that most of the fish is enclosed in the corn husk. Repeat with the remaining pieces of fish. You’ll see that what has been made is a steam packet for the fish. The corn husk is strong enough to allow the extra marinade to stay within the husk and simply tenderize the fish.

Grill Setup

I’m using a kettle grill with a wire mesh placed in the charcoal area to retain more of my hot coals. Since I started the chimney starters while preparing the marinade, I pour these into the charcoal area that also holds some unlit charcoal. On top of the hot coals, I place a couple of wood chunks which will add great flavor. I’ve also included a foil-covered brick to act as a heat conductor and retention device. This is a two-zone setup. I’ll keep the hot coals and wood going on one side of the brick and place my corn husked fish on the other side of the brick. In less than 20 minutes, these will be ready to go, fully cooked, and full of moisture.

Coal Fired to Perfection

Know that when you coal or ember cook foods, the temperature even from these small embers is high. The grill will average between 300–350° F for the cooking. There is no need to turn the corn husks, just simply monitor to ensure they don’t catch fire. A spray bottle of water on hand is helpful at this stage. In the end, the char flavor will penetrate the husk and produce the most fantastic flavor to the fish. Simply cut the ties from the corn husk ends and enjoy the fish with your favorite sides. There is nothing like natural fire cooking for fish.

By Donna J. Grant, M.S., Lead Wood Specialist, Member- American and Canadian Culinary Federations, at SMOKINLICIOUS® GOURMET WOOD PRODUCTS. For additional information regarding this article or other wood cooking questions, please contact her at 1–800–941–5054 or at info@smokinlicious.com. Follow us on Quora for our content contributions.

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This publication offers tips and culinary insight on any foods cooked or smoked with wood.

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