How to Cook Fish on the Grill in Aluminum Foil With Lemon

Grilled fish takes on whole new flavor tones beyond those of fried or baked fillets, absorbing the flavor of charcoal and wood smoke. Fish is delicate, however, falling apart easily on grill grates without the proper care. Grilling fish in a foil pouch allows for the smoky taste while keeping the fish intact. Foil pouches enhance heat distribution to the fish for even cooking over the often uneven heat of charcoal fires.

Grilled fish wrapped in foil with lemon slivers. (Image: vikif/iStock/Getty Images)


Step 1

Select your first fillet and tear off a sheet of aluminum foil about five or six inches longer than the fillet. Place the piece of fish in the center of the dull side of the foil, skin side down, if applicable.

Step 2

Fold up the edges and ends of the foil around the fish, forming a bowl shape. Shape it so the foil will hold liquid without allowing it to run out.

Step 3

Squeeze a lemon half over the fillet, saturating the upper side of the fish with juice. Lightly sprinkle coarse sea salt, fresh ground pepper and a pinch of dill weed over the top of the fish. Top the fish with a tablespoon of butter or margarine in the center of the fillet.

Step 4

Bring the edges and ends of the foil bowl together over the top of the fish, forming a foil pouch. Poke several holes in the top of the pouch with a fork, ventilating it for the grilling process.

Step 5

Wrap the other fillets in foil in the same way.


Step 1

Toss the cherry wood chips into the small plastic bowl and fill the vessel with enough water to either cover or float the chips. Let the chips soak until grilling time.

Step 2

Open all grill vents or chimneys wide for maximum air flow, open or remove the grill lid, and remove and set aside the cooking grate.

Step 3

Fill the upper chamber of the charcoal chimney starter with natural lump charcoal, which lights easier and imparts a better hardwood flavor than briquettes.

Step 4

Crumple two sheets of newspaper into the lower chamber of the charcoal starter and place the starter in the center of the coal grate inside the grill. Light the newspaper from below and wait at least 20 minutes for the coals to fully ignite.

Step 5

Grab the starter by the protective handle and dump the lit coals atop the coal grate, using the starter to manipulate the coals into a single layer covering two-thirds of the grate.

Step 6

Remove the wood chips from the water and toss them directly atop the lit coals. Place the cooking grate back into grill and arrange the foil packets on the grate directly above the lit coals.

Step 7

Close the grill lid and let the fish cook for about 20 minutes, depending on the thickness of the cuts. Remove the foil packets from the grill with long-handled grilling tongs -- taking care not to spill the juices from the top of the foil packet -- and serve the fish.

Things You'll Need

  • Heavy aluminum foil

  • 4 thick-cut fish fillets

  • Low-fat or fat-free margarine or butter

  • 4 lemons, sliced in half

  • Coarse sea salt

  • Fresh ground black pepper

  • Dried dill weed

  • 2 handfuls dried cherry wood chips

  • Small plastic bowl

  • Natural lump charcoal

  • Charcoal chimney starter

  • 2 full sheets of newspaper

  • Long-handled grilling tongs

  • Long grill lighter


Pull one foil packet over to the unheated side of the cooking grate and open it to ensure that the fish is fully cooked before removing all fillet packets from the heat. The fish should flake easily with a fork when it's done. Thicker fish cuts -- such as salmon or mahi mahi -- work best for grilling as they hold their moisture and remain intact better than smaller fillets. Don't forget to soak the wood chips as wet wood produces more smoke and thus more flavor.

If using a gas grill, skip the wood chips and cook the foil-wrapped fish on medium-high heat. A gas grill imparts less flavor than a charcoal grill.


Never handle hot grill vents, lids, grates or chimney starters without protective grilling mitts or gloves.

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