Grilled whole red snapper

Grilled whole Red Snapper

I love meatOne theme you will start to become fairly familiar with in my posts is I love to grill.   I’m convinced you can make anything taste better by grilling it.  One of my favorite things to grill is fish.  Moist and flaky, grilled fish is an awesome way to eat healthy and satiate those carnivorous desires.

On a recent trip to the market I came across some great looking red snapper.  I’m not going to lie, I saw some cheaper fillets laying there as well and all I could tell myself was “but think of how cool pictures of a whole fish will look!”  I saw the fishmonger out of the corner of my eye walking over and my brain started to frantically flip back and forth between price and cool factor.  “How can I help you? He asked.  I blurted out “I’ll take a whole snapper!”  Cool factor won out. 

Whole red snapper

If you have a decent fishmonger at your market they will likely ask you how you want it prepared.  If you really want to get your hands dirty by all means take it home and clean it yourself.  It didn’t cost any extra so I had him, gut, scale, and trim the fins off.  This makes for a great presentation and minimal preparation on my/your part.


Now I would be willing to bet there are three types of people reading this post right now.  The first is saying, “I don’t know about a whole fish. That seems difficult.”  The second is saying “OMG, MY FOOD IS GOING TO STARE AT ME!”  The third is looking for the phone number for their family/friends they want to invite over and impress with their grilling prowess.  Count me in the third group.   For those in the first group, don’t worry this recipe may look daunting but it’s actually really very simple.  Second groupers, well I have to say the reality is if you want to eat meat you have to eventually come to the realization that your food doesn’t come from the cellophane and Styrofoam tray farm.  Your food does in fact have a face, a tasty tasty face. I’m serious; wait till you try the cheeks from this snapper!

whole red snapper

First things first, let’s get that fire started. There is nothing worse than waiting around for a grill to heat up.  If you are using a gas grill this may not be as big of a problem but if you are using charcoal briquettes or lump this is an essential step.  Let’s get our temperature up to a medium-high heat. 350-375.

We want to start with a fish that’s been cleaned and scaled.  You can have your fishmonger do this for you.  It’s a good idea because it will save you time and there will be less mess to clean up.  Rinse the fish under cold water.  Dry with a clean paper towel.  This will help keep the skin from sticking to the cooking grate.  With a sharp knife, score 3 or 4 deep vertical cuts in the side of the fish.  Be sure and go down to the bone.  This will allow the fish to cook more evenly.  Naturally there is a thick and thin part of the filet and this helps them both cook at the same pace.

Next take your aromatics and lemon and stuff them into the cavity of the fish created by your fishmonger.  I’m using 3-4 sprigs each of fresh thyme and rosemary.  Next I’ll add 2-3 lemon slices.  Brush each side of the fish with a bit of olive oil and you are ready for the grill.  It’s that easy.

If you have a fish basket I would highly recommend you use it.  The skin on the fish is very thin.  While it’s thick enough to protect the delicate meat inside from drying out, it does have a tendency to tear apart when moving it around on the grill. If you have a steady hand, some good size spatulas, and a generally fearless approach to cooking by all means skip the basket.  Worst case, the fish tears a bit more than you want and the presentation isn’t as nice.  It will still taste AMAZING.

Using a paper towel and some tongs brush the grill grates with olive oil.  Once on the grill, cook 7-8 minutes per side, turning once. The fish is done when the meat is flaky and can easily be pulled apart with a fork. Carefully remove the fillets by running a knife down the length of the fish and plate with the help of a fork.  Enjoy.


Grilled whole red snapper
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Serves: 2-3
Moist and flaky, this whole grilled snapper is sure to impress
  • 1 3-4lb whole red snapper (cleaned and scaled)
  • 1 lemon cut into ¼ inch slices
  • 3-4 sprigs of fresh thyme
  • 3-4 springs of fresh rosemary
  • ¼ cup of olive oil
  1. Heat grill to medium high heat (350-375)
  2. Rinse fish under cold water.
  3. With a clean paper towel dry off both side of the fish. This will help keep the skin from sticking to the cooking grates.
  4. Stuff the cavity of the fish with thyme, rosemary, and lemon slices
  5. Brush each side of the fish with olive oil
  6. Using a paper towel and tongs brush the grill grates with olive oil
  7. Place fish on grill and cook each side for 7-8 minutes turning once, until meat is flaky and can easily be pulled apart with a fork.
  8. Remove from grill and separate the filets with a knife and fork.
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Grilled whole red snapper
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1 Comment

  1. Julie   •  

    Omg!!! The best recipe. Thank you.

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