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Feb. 24, 2021

Cook Your Catch: Grilled Panfish

Grilling panfish is as easy as chopping up some veggies and making a disposable foil pan.

When it comes to cooking panfish, most people fall into two camps: frying or baking, with the former serving as the go-to method. In this Mercury Cook Your Catch video, we’ll show you an easy, alternative way to cook panfish on the grill, and it may well end up with a permanent spot in your rotation. 

Jeremy Smith of Lindner’s Angling Edge is a noted outdoor writer, video producer and angler, and in the video he demonstrates his fast and easy way to grill a panfish and vegetable dish that will boost your gourmet credentials and give you a change of pace from the traditional fish fry. And if you’re concerned about the fish sticking to the grate or falling through, don’t worry. Smith’s method ensures you won’t lose a bite of your hard-earned catch, and it makes for the easiest grill cleanup you’ve ever had.

The equipment and ingredients are all either already in your kitchen or readily available at your local grocery store, so if you already have some panfish fillets you’re well on your way to a delectable meal as soon as tonight.

Start to finish: 30 minutes

  • Olive oil
  • 1 large, sweet Vidalia onion
  • 1 sweet bell pepper
  • 2 to 3 large celery stalks
  • Panfish fillets (2 to 4 per person, depending on size of fillets)
  • 1 lemon
  • 1 stick of salted butter (cold)
  • Salt
  • Seasoning salt
  • Black pepper
  • Dill

Heat your gas or charcoal grill to medium-high.

Tear off two pieces of heavy-duty aluminum foil. Each should be the full width of the roll and about a foot long. Layer them together, flush on all sides, and then roll and bend the edges as shown in the video to make your disposable grilling pan. Note: Using lightweight foil or a single layer can result in a tear that will spill your fish and vegetables directly onto the grill grate and create a mess.

Pour a bit of olive oil all over the inside of your pan to prevent sticking and add flavor.

Thinly slice the onion, bell pepper and celery, and divide each into two equal portions. Celery takes longer than most vegetables to cook, so chop the celery into very thin pieces to help speed it along.

Spread half of the sliced onion out evenly in the pan, followed by half of the peppers and half of the celery.

Season the base vegetables with liberal dashes of salt, seasoning salt and black pepper.

Spread thawed fillets on top of the vegetables in a single layer and close together. The fish should be resting on the vegetables whenever possible rather than directly touching the foil. Depending on how much fish you want to cook, you can make your pan smaller if needed with some additional folds in the foil.

Season the fish with salt, seasoning salt, black pepper and dill.

Spread the rest of the onions, peppers and celery over the top of the fillets.

Thinly slice about half the lemon and spread the slices out over the top of the vegetables.

Slice half to two-thirds of the stick of butter into thin pats and spread the pats out evenly over the top of everything.

Dust the top of the dish with just a bit more salt, seasoning salt and pepper.

Carefully place your foil pan on the grill, cover and let the dish cook for 15 to 20 minutes, rotating the pan every few minutes to ensure even cooking. Fish should be cooked to an internal temperature of 145 F (63 C).

Take care removing the pan from the grill as it will be flexible and holding a good bit of liquid. If you can slide it or carefully lift it directly from the grill to a cookie sheet you can minimize the chance of a tear in the foil or spilling.

Choose Your Favorite Sides

As with any dish, you can experiment with some of your family’s favorite spices and vegetables to cook along with fish. Suggested sides include rice and grilled asparagus, but mashed potatoes and steamed broccoli also pair well. If you go with rice, spoon some of the buttery pan drippings on top. And when you’re ready to clean up, give your foil pan a quick rinse in the sink, and then toss it in the recycling bin.

Cook Your Catch: Grilled Panfish
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