Summer Entertaining with Grilled Whole Fish

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grilled red snapper Are you intimidated by the thought of grilling a whole fish? Don’t be, the entire process is actually very simple! The most important thing you can do is to buy your fish from a reputable source and become friends with your fish monger. I trust the guys at my Whole Foods, in fact I told them that I wanted to grill a whole fish and they gave me a couple of suggestions, on the day I was there it was either sea bass or red snapper, to which they highly recommended the snapper, so that’s what I went with.

Your fish monger is your friend, he will do all the dirty work for you, he’ll scale, gut and remove the gills and all you have to do is take it home, stuff it, and stick it on the grill! I told you it was easy!

When you get it home make three or four diagonal cuts on the top of both sides straight down to the back bone, not only will it ensure even cooking but you’ll be able to tuck  lemon slices and shaved garlic inside the slits like I did. Open up the cavity and drizzle good olive oil inside, salt and pepper then stuff it with your favorite herbs, more lemon and a few tomato slices, finish by rubbing the whole fish with olive oil, both sides. It’s that easy, no measuring, just go for it!


grilled red snapper Place your fish on a hot oiled grill on low direct heat, flipping only once and cooking until completely opaque, about ten or so minutes per side. (my 2 lb. fish took about 25 minutes). Some of the skin might stick to the grill and peel off when you flip it over but for the most part it will stay intact and the skin will hold everything together and protect the meat from the flame.

grilled red snapper The end result is so delicious, a slightly smoky, moist but yet firm, sweet subtle flavor infused with herbs, lemon, tomato and garlic. So good!

Feel free to drizzle more olive oil on top to finish it off. Oh and if the eye creeps you out like it did me, cover it with a basil leaf!

red, white and blue potato salad Keep your side dishes simple because the fish is really the show stopper. Since it’s 4th of July weekend how about my Red, White and Blue Potato Salad? (recipe below).

red, white and blue potato salad This would go really nice with the fish. Roasted small red, white and blue potatoes along with roasted red pepper chunks, onions, parsley and lots of lemon zest all tossed while it’s warm in an olive oil and lemon dressing.

quinoa tabbouleh with kale Or how about a colorful healthy Quinoa Tabbouleh with Kale and Grilled Vegetables this would be a wonderful side as well plus can make it the day before, and that’s a good thing!

Cook 1 cup of rinsed quinoa with 2 cups of water, cool it down, then add any grilled veggies you want, I used red and yellow pepper, zucchini, yellow squash, eggplant, then to that I added red onion, 1/2 can of chick peas rinsed, sliced grape tomatoes, lots of curly kale and parsley, all tossed in a lemon and olive oil dressing.  Sorry, no exact amounts, just add in as much as you want, you’ll know when to stop.


tomato, avocado and mozzarella salad Or you just might want to keep it real simple by making a layered Tomato, Avocado and Fresh Mozzarella Salad, just be sure to top it off with some good quality olive oil and fresh chopped fragrant basil, a summer staple for sure!

Have a Happy, Healthy 4th!

Red, White and Blue Potato Salad
  • 2 lbs. assorted small red, white and blue potatoes cut in half
  • 1 large red bell pepper cut into 1 inch dice
  • ½ red onion sliced thin
  • 4 scallion, sliced
  • handfull each of chopped parsley and chives
  • zest of 2 lemons
  • lemon and olive oil dressing
  1. Coat potatoes with olive oil, salt and pepper and roast at 425 F. until fork tender.
  2. Roast the chopped red pepper at same temp in a separate pan while potatoes are roasting, until tender.
  3. When potatoes and peppers are done, toss into a bowl and add the rest of the ingredients, parsley, chives, scallions, red onion and zest, toss well and season with salt and pepper.
  4. Drizzle on desired amount of lemon and olive oil dressing.
  6. Start with fresh squeezed lemon juice, about 3 tablespoons, a small smashed garlic clove, whisk in good olive oil, salt and pepper. Taste it as you go along checking for the right balance of juice vs olive oil, you’ll know when you get it just right!


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  1. I grilled fresh caught whole trout recently–it was delicious but I admit I disliked all the tiny pin bones in the meat. I need to find a more boneless fish to grill–I will try snapper next!

  2. Very colorful and so healthy! I wanna try this too, its perfect for Sunday!

  3. Yes, I am intimidated by cooking a whole fish. Mainly because I wasn’t sure about cleaning it – although I am married to someone who would camp and fish in Canada for weeks eating nothing but fresh lake fish – so he clearly knows how to clean fish! Love the presentation and I am pretty sure I made your potato salad last year…. cook a lot from your delicious offerings.

  4. There’s nothing so delightful as a grilled fish in the summer. It’s a summer standby around our house–we even had it for the 4th…!
    One issue I’ve often had, though, is the fish skin sticking to the grill. Any tips to avoid that?

  5. Marie – I’m all in with whole fish, but I rarely grill it, usually cooking it on the stovetop or in the oven. You really get the most use out of your grill and now so will I. Those side dishes look scrumptious too. By the way, my niece’s son, who is about eight years old, always grabs the fish eyes for himself when we’re having whole fish together. But then again, his grandmother is Chinese, and they love eating fish eyes – it’s an honor to be given the eyes.

  6. Ciao Marie! I love basilico and it can cover a multitude of things — and a fish eye would be right up there. I’ve grilled a lot of fish — made quite a few recipes with it but I’ve never cooked it whole on the grill. I’ll have to give it some thought. I take it your fishmonger scaled the fish and gutted it?? Buona giornata.

  7. I love the eye covered with a basil leaf! You always make entertaining so pretty and easy!
    Happy 4th.


  8. It all looks so delicious. What a good cook you are.


  1. […] We believe a great Labor Day cookout deserves more than one side. Plus, we think this red, blue, and white potato salad by Marie of Proud Italian Cook is just too good to leave out of our list. Marie’s creation is made from red, white, and blue potatoes (no food color required), and includes red bell peppers, onions, scallions, chopped parsley and chives, and a light olive oil dressing. Get the complete instructions and a bonus recipe for a whole grilled snapper from Proud Italian Cook. […]

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