Grilled Mahi Mahi: It’s What’s for Dinner
Anyone interested in eating sustainable seafood is likely acquainted with the Monterey Bay Aquarium Seafood Watch, a nonprofit organization located in Monterey Bay, California.
Whenever seafood appears on the menu of one of his shows, whether Project Fire or Project Smoke, we check the Watch to make sure the fish is on the Aquarium’s “Best Choice” list. That means the population of a certain species is well managed and caught or farmed in ways that cause little harm to habitats or other wildlife. You can even download an app to your iPhone or iPad, one you can easily consult when you’re at your local seafood or sushi counter.
One species we’ve been enjoying on the grill this summer is mahi mahi (also called dorado, pompano, or dolphinfish). It is one of the Aquarium’s “Best Choice” picks. Firm, meaty, and mild-tasting, the fish is a natural on the grill, especially when cooked over a wood or wood-enhanced fire. (One common misconception is that mahi mahi, Hawaiian for “very strong,” is a dolphin like the beloved “Flipper.” It is not. In fact, it is not even a mammal.)
Mahi mahi is usually sold as fillets or steaks an inch or more thick. They can replace swordfish, shark, salmon, tuna, grouper, or other firm-fleshed fish in recipes. Generally speaking, they will take 4 to 6 minutes per side over high heat. It can be cubed to make kebabs or tacos, and is compatible with a variety of seasonings and sauces, everything from Ember-Roasted Salsa to Chimichurri to compound butters. It takes well to marinades, too. Or can be cooked in banana leaves with a seasoning paste.
How to Grill Mahi Mahi
Here’s how to grill the perfect mahi mahi (or other fish steaks).
1. Start with the freshest possible fish.
Start with the freshest possible fish—sushi-quality, if you can find it—just off the day boat, if that’s an option. If you like it rare in the center, look for fish that are 1 to 2 inches thick. If you like it cooked through (we prefer mahi mahi this way), you want fish steaks that are 1/2 to 3/4 inch thick. Remove any blood lines or dark spots.
2. Set up the grill for direct grilling.
Set up the grill for direct grilling and preheat to high.
3. Brush the fish steaks on both sides with olive oil or melted butter.
When ready to cook, brush the fish steaks on both sides with olive oil or melted butter (preferably clarified butter) and season them with salt and pepper. If you’ve marinated the fish in a mixture rich with oil, butter, or coconut milk, it is unnecessary to blot the fish dry. Oil the grill grate well to prevent sticking. (Fish is notorious for sticking to the grill grate.)
4. Arrange the fish steaks on the hot grate and grill on one side.
Arrange the fish steaks on the hot grate, all facing the same direction. Grill on one side for about 2 minutes if they are 1/2 inch thick; three to 6 minutes for steaks 1 to 2 inches thick. If desired, after 2 minutes of grilling, use a long spatula, rotate the steaks 90 degrees to create an attractive crosshatch of grill marks.
5. Use a fish spatula to turn the fish steaks over.
Carefully turn the fish steaks over using the spatula and cook the second side the same way, rotating the fish steaks 90 degrees after 2 minutes of grilling.
6. Test for doneness.
To test fish steaks for doneness, gently pierce the steaks in the center with a knife; it should look done to taste. When properly cooked through, if you press the fish with a fork, the fish should break into firm flakes.
Grilled Fish Steak Recipes to Make Right Now
Substitute mahi mahi for the fish called for in these recipes.