How To: Cook Whole Fish Over Coals

If you've been looking for a sign to learn how to cook fish over coals, this is it. Welcome! I am so glad you are here. In case you didn't know, I am very passionate about cooking over hot coals. We've had our fire pit in our garden for two years now and every autumn, winter and spring (definitely not summer - it's way too hot) we get down there to cook up a storm. We love cooking all types of meat and vegetables, but my favourite is cooking whole fish, particularly rainbow trout. A little while ago I asked if you wanted me to show you how to cook whole fish over coals and the response was a resounding yes. So here we go! In this "How To" I will be showing you how to cook my famous "Whole Rainbow Trout with Native Saltbush and Tasmanian Pepperberry, Fresh Parsley and Lemon slices" fish over hot coals.


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Equipment you will need

  • Fire pit (ours is from Bunnings)
  • Hardwood and kindling (such as dry leaves and twigs)
  • Natural firelighters from Bunnings  
  • Matches or firelighter
  • Grill or BBQ grate to cook on (ours is from FrontRunner)
  • Tongs 


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How To: Cook Whole Fish Over Coals

  1. The first thing you need to do is set up your hardwood and kindling, and get your fire going at least an hour before you want to start cooking. Get the fire started and keep an eye on it as the flames start to die down and the hardwood turns to coals. 
  2. You'll know the coals are ready by holding your hand roughly over the coals at the same height as your cookie surface, in this case a grill or BBQ grate. The general rule of thumb is if you can hold your hand above the coals where the cooking surface will sit for five seconds, the temperature is roughly 100C. For a moderate heat, 3 seconds is around 180C and for a high heat, you should only be able to hold your hand out for 1 second and that's around 200C. You can cook whole fish at all of these temperatures but for my recipe, 3 seconds or 180C is what we like to cook with.
  3. Remember, you want to cook over coals - not flames. Once the coals are ready, place the Grill or BBQ grate on top of your fire pit and wait for it to heat up. 
  4. While this is happening, prep your fish. We buy our fish gutted and cleaned from the Noosa Seafood Market. You don't need to have the scales removed on a rainbow trout as they are small and will melt when cooked, but that's totally a personal preference (we don't worry about getting the scales removed because it adds another depth of flavour). Pat the skin of your fish dry with a piece of kitchen paper, then season all over both sides of the fish skin with native saltbush and native Tasmanian pepper berry. You can actually buy the saltbush and pepperberry we use here.  If you don't want to use or buy native ingredients, flaky sea salt and cracked pepper are just as lovely! Stuff the fish with slices of fresh lemon and fresh parsley sprigs, then wrap it up tightly in aluminium foil. 
  5. Place the fish over the hottest part on the grill or BBQ grate. In the grate we use from Front Runner, we like to cook over the grate not the hot plate. Cook the fish on one side for 9 minutes, turn it over and cook the other side for a further 9 minutes. Take the fish off the grill and be careful when opening the aluminium foil as it will be steamy. Pull the skin off, and expect the flesh to literally melt off the fish bones.
  6. Serve the fish with a simple side salad and roast potatoes, or make my quick and simple healthy Pantry Quinoa Salad (shown below) - it pairs beautifully with rainbow trout cooked over coals. 

NB: These instructions are for a whole rainbow trout. If you want to cook with a smaller or a larger fish, you will need to adjust the cooking time. 


And that's it! It's really very simple and once you get comfortable with cooking over coals a few times, it doesn't seem so daunting anymore. If anything, you may want to cook outdoors more - hopefully! There is so much you can do with flames and coals, but this is such a great place to start. 


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A little note from me

Thank you so much for taking the time to read through this tutorial. I hope you enjoyed it and feel inspired! You can also stay in touch with me by following along on Instagram and Pinterest, or sending me an email at Happy cooking!

And for those wanting to know, the table cloth featured in these images is from I Love Linen, and it's absolutely gorgeous!