How to Grill Tilapia

Three Methods:Getting the Tilapia Ready for GrillingGrilling the TilapiaStoring Grilled Tilapia

Of any fish in the sea, tilapia might be today's prom queen. It is a mild-flavored, tender, white fish that has become an increasingly popular choice for grilling among fish lovers. Tilapia can be grilled easily as it is firm enough not to flake or fall apart while on the grill. Follow these simple steps to grill up some delicious fish.

Method 1
Getting the Tilapia Ready for Grilling

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    Select the tilapia from your local butcher or grocery store. For optimal grilling, each filet should be at least 1 inch (2.54 cm) thick. Look for fillets that have brightly colored skin, clear eyes, clean gills, and very little "fishy" odor. If you are purchasing filet, make sure there is no excess water in the packaging. Press against the flesh of the filet--it should be firm and spring back quickly.[1]
    • When selecting tilapia filets, the easiest indicator of freshness is the smell. Most seafood has a scent that should remind you of the sea. There is a difference between the sea smell that is fresh and fishy, and the bad fish smell that is musky and overly-fishy. Avoid the latter.
    • If fresh tilapia is unavailable in your area, frozen filets will work fine. Frozen tilapia should also be odorless and packaged in a moisture-proof container. If the filets show any white or dark spotting, they were not packaged properly and should be avoided. The same is true for dry or icy spots.
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    Refrigerate the fish in a tightly wrapped package immediately after purchase. Only refrigerate your tilapia if you are using them in the next one to two days. If you must wait longer, the filets should be frozen at a temperature of 0 degrees Fahrenheit (-18 degrees Celsius).
    • If you choose to freeze your tilapia, or buy pre-frozen fish, make sure to thaw your tilapia filets in a refrigerator for a minimum of 24 hours before grilling. Doing this will promote a fresher taste and texture.
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    Unwrap and thoroughly clean the tilapia. Wash the fish in in cold water. Using warm or hot water could promote bacterial growth and make you sick. Pat the fish dry with a clean paper towel before seasoning.
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    Oil and season your fish. Apply a light amount of olive oil on both sides of each filet just before cooking. Season the filets according to the recipe of your choice. For a fresh, healthy way to eat tilapia, apply olive oil and then sprinkle the fish with salt and pepper. Other common seasoning combinations for tilapia include:
    • Lemon and garlic: Mix lemon juice with melted butter or olive oil. Add fresh or powdered garlic to the mixture, along with salt and pepper (season to taste.) Apply the mixture to both sides of the fish.
    • Soy sauce and Chinese five-spice powder: Dust both sides of the fish with the five-spice powder. In a separate bowl, combine equal amounts of soy sauce and brown sugar. Marinate the fish in the mixture.
    • Cumin, garlic, and lime: Blend cumin, garlic, and lime in a bowl. If you want to add a zing to your fish, add some chili powder.

Method 2
Grilling the Tilapia

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    Spray the grill cooking surface with nonstick cooking spray. Doing this will prevent the fish from sticking and crumbling during the cooking process.
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    Preheat your grill to medium heat before cooking. If you are unsure of how to reach medium heat on your specific grill, err on the side of less heat than more, since you do not want to char the fish.
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    Place the filets on the grill. Cook the first side of the fish for approximately 3 to 5 minutes. For grilling, medium or conservative heat is the best option throughout the grilling process. You never want flames from the grill to actually touch the fish filets, as this will burn the tender meat.[2]
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    Use your meat spatula to turn over the filet. Slide the spatula underneath the fish gently, as to not tear the flesh, lift it up and set it back down on the other side. Cook the fish for another 3 to 5 minutes.
    • During the grilling process, flipping the tilapia frequently will cause the tender meat to fall apart. To properly cook the filet, turn it over just once.
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    Check the filets to make sure they are cooked thoroughly. You will know they are done when the meat turns opaque and white. Its juices should run clear.[3]
    • To check to see if it is cooked all the way through without leaving a big cut in your fish, slide a butter knife into the thickest part of the fish. The meat should be opaque.
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Method 3
Storing Grilled Tilapia

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    Wrap your cooked tilapia. You can either use heavy-duty aluminium foil, plastic wrap, or freezer wrap. Do not use plastic wrap if you are planning on freezing your fish.
    • You can also store your tilapia in a covered, airtight container.
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    Place your wrapped tilapia in a sealable plastic bag. Try to squeeze as much air out of the bag as possible. If you are planning on freezing your fish, use a sealable freezer bag.
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    Store your tilapia. If you are storing your fish the the fridge, you should only leave it in there for three to four days. If you are storing your fish in the freezer, you can keep it frozen for two to three months without losing quality.[4]


  • Cook your fish so that it is light and the meat flakes off in soft strips.

Things You'll Need

  • Tilapia filets
  • Tap water
  • Paper towels
  • Grill
  • Non-stick cooking spray
  • Olive oil
  • Tilapia recipe (optional)
  • Meat spatula
  • Seasonings and sauces
  • Serving platter

Article Info

Categories: Fish and Seafood