WebMD Expert Column
There’s something about summertime that encourages many of us to enjoy more sizzling seafood recipes. Maybe it’s the time spent at the ocean or a lake. Maybe it’s the hot grill out back, and those kabob spears that have been sitting in the kitchen drawer all winter. No matter what the reason, eating more seafood is something to celebrate!
The American Heart Association (AHA) recommends eating fish fillets (particularly fatty fish) at least two times a week. Omega-3 fatty acids have been linked to a lower risk of death from heart disease. And fattier fish, like salmon and sardines, herring and albacore tuna, are high in two kinds of omega-3 fatty acids — DHA and EPA. The AHA also notes that fish is a good source of protein, and it doesn’t have the high levels of saturated fat that fatty meats do.
People not known to have heart disease should eat a variety of types of fish fillets at least twice a week, says AHA communications manager Julie Del Barto.
And people who have been diagnosed with coronary heart disease should eat about 1 gram of fish omega-3s per day, preferably from fatty fish. While fish contain varying levels of omega-3s, that might work out to around 3 ounces of salmon or tuna, or 6 ounces of pollock, flounder, or sole, according to the AHA web site.
Young children, along with women who are pregnant, planning to become pregnant, or nursing, should avoid fish with higher levels of mercury, like shark, swordfish, tilefish and king mackerel, according to the FDA. Everyone else can eat up to 7 ounces of high-mercury fish per week.
7 Seafood Grilling Tips
Grilling is a fun, healthy, and tasty way to cook seafood. But it can be a little tricky if you’re used to flipping burgers or slapping steaks on the grate. (if you had to but the grill away try broiling) Here are seven tips to get you grilling:
1. Give an Inch. If your fish fillets are an inch thick or less, you can grill them right over the charcoal. If they’re more than an inch thick (like a whole fish), consider cooking them off to the side of the charcoal. This way, the center of the fillet is more likely to cook completely before the outside of the fish is overdone.(if broiling the trick is to start out cooking on the center rack away from broiler. This bakes the fish fillets then move the fish fillets closer to broiler to crisp up the fillets.)
2. Skin Side Down. Grill fish fillets with the skin side down, and don’t worry about turning them. The skin holds the delicate package together and protects the flesh from the flame. If you want to scorch the flesh side of your fish fillet, just let it grill flesh side down for one minute right at the beginning, then flip to finish cooking with the skin side down. You can remove the fish from the grill by sliding a spatula between the skin and the flesh — the charred skin is left behind on the grate. (when broiling cook the skin down)
3. Direct or Indirect? Indirect grilling is when the heat is on either side of the food, not right beneath it. This technique is generally used for foods that require 25 minutes or more of grill time — which generally is not the case for seafood. But indirect grilling is also used for items that are delicate in texture, like fish fillets. If using indirect heat, try not to peek while the fish is cooking. Every time you lift the lid, heat escapes and this can prolong the cooking time.
4. Is It Opaque? White-fleshed fish fillets are usually done, but still juicy, when their centers just turn opaque. (Opaque means you can’t see any light through it.)
5. Keep It Dry. When you start be sure to pat dry any fish fillet or seafood you are about to grill or brown in a pan (use paper towels). This is important because wetness on the surface can prevent browning and cause splatters.
6. Add a Coat. Add a light coat of oil or cooking spray on your seafood before grilling. This will help it brown and keep it from sticking to the grill or broiler pan.
7. All in Due Time. The general rule for grilling fish fillets or steaks is four to five minutes per 1/2 inch of thickness, and 8-10 minutes per 1 inch of thickness. For other seafood items, here are some grilling recommendations from the Weber-Stephen Products Co.:
- Shrimp –2 to 4 minutes over direct high heat.
- Scallops — 3 to 6 minutes over direct high heat.
- Mussels — 5 to 6 minutes over direct high heat. Don’t eat any that do not open.
- Clams — 8 to 10 minutes over direct high heat. Don’t eat any that do not open.
- Oysters — 3 to 5 minutes over direct high heat.