AgCenter nutritionist: Seafood great grilled

Summer is cookout time, and perfectly grilled Louisiana seafood is moist and flavorful.

Seafood is also fast and easy to grill because it has smaller percentages of skeletal and connective tissues than equal portions of red meats or poultry, says LSU AgCenter nutritionist Beth Reames.

“Louisiana seafood is safe, nutritious and tastes great,” Reames says. “It’s an excellent source of protein, low in fat and saturated fat, and contains heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acids.”

Reames’ tips for perfectly grilled seafood include:

—Preheat an outdoor gas or electric grill for at least 10 minutes. If you use a charcoal grill, start the fire about 30 minutes before cooking, let it burn until the coals are white-hot, and then spread the coals out in a single layer.

“A moderately hot fire of 375 to 425 degrees F is best for cooking seafood,” Reames says.

—Make sure that the grill grates are clean and then lightly brush them with vegetable oil to prevent the delicate skin of the fish from sticking.

—Place the oiled grate on the grill and adjust the grill height to 4 to 6 inches above the heat.

“Prepare seafood for grilling by very lightly spraying both sides of it with olive oil or vegetable oil (away from direct flames) and then sprinkle it with desired seasonings,” Reames says. “Avoid brushing or rubbing the seafood with your hands to prevent cross-contaminating other foods.”

Marinating fish an hour before grilling also helps keep it moist. Remove excess marinade before grilling to avoid flare-ups. If you are going to use the marinade as an extra sauce on top of the cooked fish or seafood, boil the marinade at a rolling boil for 5 minutes to prevent foodborne illness.

—Finfish and large shrimp may be placed directly on the grate. Put smaller varieties in an oiled fish basket, on a small-mesh seafood-grilling screen or on perforated aluminum foil for easier handling and to prevent sticking.

—Cook small whole or butterflied fish, fish steaks, fillets, kabobs, crabs, shrimp and shellfish directly over the heat source.

To estimate cooking time, measure the seafood at its thickest part, Reames says. Grill for 10 minutes at approximately 400 degrees F for each inch of thickness. Fish is done, but still moist, when it turns opaque and just starts to flake when tested with a fork.

“Most seafood needs to be turned halfway through cooking,” she says. “Fish fillets less than 1 inch thick don’t need to be turned. Avoid turning fish more than once because this will break the fish apart.”

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