Unless you’re a skilled fisherman, cleaning and gutting a fish can be a mission, so start by buying a scaled and gutted fish. Before cooking, score the fish at about 2–3 cm intervals, cutting at an angle. This ensures the heat penetrates evenly into the fish and allows everything to cook at the same time. Without these slits, you’d run the risk of the thicker parts of flesh being raw while the thinner tail end would be overcooked. When you’re ready to braai, get the fire to a nice steady, medium heat and ensure the grill is clean.
Brush the fish with a little olive oil (and do the same to the grill too) and lay the fish down on the hot grill with the tail end facing away from the hottest part of the fire. Depending on the size of your fish, cook it anywhere between 7 and 12 minutes per side. This is where the uncertainty usually comes in – how do you know when it’s ready to be flipped, let alone when it’s cooked? Use the knowledge you have when you’re cooking any kind of meat on the braai – if it sticks when you try to turn it over, leave it for another couple of minutes. Use something slim like a fish spatula or two large regular ones to flip the fish to keep it from falling apart. When you think it’s almost done, use the back of a spoon to lightly press down on the flesh. If it flakes slightly and is hot all the way through, you should be good to go. Remove it from the heat and allow it to rest for a few minutes before serving.
The fun stuff
Once you’ve overcome the fear of cooking a whole fish on the braai, the possibilities of what to do with it are endless. Stuff the cavity with all manners of citrus, such as lemon, limes, oranges and grapefruit, as well aromatics like sliced red onion and fennel, and herbs. If you want a bit of heat, rub it in a paste made using curry paste and coconut milk and baste it with this throughout the cooking process. We all know to glaze snoek with apricot jam but you can also use this on yellowtail or any other firm white fish. Ramp up the jam a bit with garlic, chilli and herbs to make it even more flavoursome.
Ready to tackle fish on the braai? These are our favourite recipes.