The Perfect Mahi Mahi
Before we dive into some yummy approaches for grilling or “open-flame cooking” this fish, a few Mahi-Mahi tidbits. It is one of the most sustainable species on the planet.
They are resilient to fishing pressure, with the population capable of doubling within 15 months. One of the fastest-growing fish in the ocean, averaging 1.3 to 2.5 inches per week. At the one-year mark, most Mahi exceeds 20 lbs.
Quite frankly, they’re known as “rabbits of the ocean”. Good choice!
And…they are yummy.
A fresh, raw Mahi fillet is light pinkish colored. Cooked meat is off-white, moist, and flakey. It has less than 1% fat and adapts very well to grilling and blackening.
Actually, this is an incredibly versatile fish.
The flavor ranges from somewhat sweet in the lighter sections to less sweet and more swordfish-like in the darker portions.
Mahi is a ferocious fighter. Inch-for-inch, is one of the best fighting fish out there.
But, let’s talk about eating these bad boys.
First, our advice is the same we give about wine…drink what you like. Or with this versatile fish, lots of ways to prep…and they’ll all work.
If you’re hanging with us after a productive day on the water, we’re going in one of two directions with our Mahi catch.
option one: easy peasy
Get the grill rolling on high. Make sure to oil the grate which will mitigate sticking. In fact, you may want to spray oil the grates again when you turn the fish. If the fish is large enough, the best is to steak-cut the meat. One-inch thick would be perfect. Cut out dark spots or bloodlines. The flesh should be light pink. Seriously, go with a fresh “same day” fish whenever you can.
Brush both sides with olive oil. If no olive oil, use melted butter. If no olive oil or melted butter, go with coconut milk. If none of these are available, send someone to the store.
Don’t “blot” off the oil, butter, or coconut milk, let it serve as a “fish moisturizer”. Season up the Mahi steaks directly onto the moistened fish.
You can keep it simple with just salt and pepper. We like to add some Italian seasoning into the mix. Coat both sides well with your favorite seasoning mix.
Here’s the secret: it’s all about the timing. This is going to go fast. Make sure the rest of the table, side dishes, etc. are already in place. You’ll want this to be the last item on the table.
Time on the grill aligns with the thickness of the meat. Here’s the guidance:
½ inch thick: 2 minutes/side
1 inch thick: 3 minutes/side
2 inches thick: 4-5 minutes/side (watch it close)
The best is to use a fish spatula for the flipping. Here’s what they look like. If you press with a fork, the pink coloring has turned white and the meat breaks into firm flakes.
The best idea for leftovers…fish tacos. The next day grilled Mahi is an excellent “main” ingredient in your own fish taco creation.
Or, as Mr. Clint Eastwood once said…” …are you feeling lucky?” Yep, we’re talking whole fish, open flame cooked, Mediterranean style. Hey, you can do it!
We’re looking for a nice 5-6 pounder. Imagine it being served whole on a platter, and guests just digging in. You’re the hero!
Here’s how to tackle this feat and feast.
First, we’ve got some prep work to knock out.
Set yourself up with a nice, clean fish. If you’re buying it from the local monger, look for glassy eyes and nice red gills for the freshest fish in the case.
Make sure the fish fits nicely on the grate…either inside on a grill or a grate over an open flame fire pit.
The Mahi has been cleaned (guts removed), fins and gills removed. Everything else is intact, skin on.
Lay the fish on a piece of aluminum foil that’s large enough to comfortably hold the fish. Tear off a 2nd piece of foil about the same size and set it off to the side.
On either side, depending on the size of the fish, make 3 or 4 “scoring” cuts across the body about an inch long and 1/8 inch deep between the spine and belly area. This helps get a nice, even cook across the fish.
Lightly sprinkle the outside of the fish with your favorite salt.
Prep some olive oil by adding garlic and thyme to it, then drizzle over both sides and baste the inside of the fish.
Add your favorite herbs to the outside and stuff a few inside. Thyme sprigs or tarragon make an excellent flavoring.
Add a few slices of lemon to the outside and inside. Not too much, just 4-6 slices positioned around the outside and inside.
Lay the 2nd piece of foil over the fish and “crimp” the edges of the lower piece and upper piece together. Actually, this style of wrapping is reminiscent of an old French style called “en papillote” where the fish is wrapped in paper.
Essentially, we’re keeping the juices inside the wrap and steaming the fish.
Get the grill heated up at about medium flame. If you’re over an open pit, keep the grate about 10-12 inches above the fire.
Let it cook for about 8-10 minutes. Periodically check the fish. Target is an internal temp of 135 degrees. Remove from grill and place the entire package on a platter. Those extra few minutes, off the flame, but still in the packet will raise the temp to 140-145…which is perfect.
Remove the top layer of foil and “Voila!” …you’re ready for Gordon Ramsey.