Jim Coleman | How to get grilling with tilapia

Posted: June 21, 2007

Q: My boyfriend loves grilled food and likes to be the King of the Grill.

The problem is that the only time he really has to cook out is on the weekend when he's not working, and that's if he isn't called in because someone else called out.

I will still leave the steaks and large pieces of meat to him, but I would like to grill more myself, since I prepare our dinner most of the time and grilling is a great way to cook in hot weather.

I see tilapia in the store all the time and would like to have a good recipe for grilling it.

I'd also like to know if you should peel shrimp before you grill them.

Additionally, could you provide some simple marinade recipes?

Thanks - I will keep reading and cooking.

- Rita D.

A: Somehow I feel like I'm going behind the King of the Grill's back by helping you with your grilling aspirations. I hope he doesn't feel like he is no longer the master of his domain.

But as any husband or boyfriend should know, the idea that we're kings or masters of anything around the house (other than the remote control) is a myth.

So let him keep grilling the steaks and fooling himself, and you and I will stage your backyard coup.

The reason tilapia is readily available is because it is a fish that can be farm-raised very successfully. Tilapia is believed to have originated in Africa, but now it is farmed all over the world.

It's considered a small fish, averaging about two pounds, and it's become popular because of its mild flavor and because its texture adapts to a variety of cooking methods.

The first key to grilling tilapia or other small, flaky fish is to cook it over direct heat, which will keep it moist. You also want to make sure it doesn't stick by oiling your grill grates well.

Most important (and this is when most cooks get nervous) is knowing when it is done and not overcooking it.

A rule of thumb for grilling fish over medium-high heat is to cook it eight to 10 minutes for every inch of thickness.

For tilapia, you are looking at roughly three minutes per side. Put it on the well-oiled grates and leave it alone until it's ready to flip.

After you turn it over, don't touch it again until you are ready to take it off the grill.

Don't try to get fancy and put "diamond" grill marks on this fish, because it will probably fall apart.

Now on to the shrimp. To peel or leave unpeeled - that is the question. People weigh in on both sides of the fire on this one, but if we're talking about marinating the shrimp before grilling, I prefer to leave the shells on.

Again, the most important thing is not to overcook them, or they will become tough and dry.

After marinating them, skewer the shrimp and place over a medium hot to hot grill for about 90 seconds to two minutes on each side, depending on size.

When they start to turn pink, flip them over and cook just until they lose their grey color.

Here are some recipes for you.

And by the way, seafood shouldn't be marinated too long, or you will overwhelm its natural flavor.

Serve your boyfriend a few of these dishes, and then let the king have his grill back so he can cook up some big, juicy steaks.

It's good to be king - or at least to think you are. *

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