Grilled bream - step-by-step instructions

My grandfather, John Becker, wrote a poem, ‘How to Make a Fish’. The best way to cook a fish is as simple and as beautiful as his words – just grill it. Which is not to say that to grill fish simply is a simple feat – you need an understanding of fire, temperature, timing and the fish at hand. I have provided some notes to help you along the way – and one really, really fresh gilthead bream (orata).

Take some paper from a drawer,

Just one piece, not any more,

To make a fish.

                               Put the paper on a dish.

                               Make a wish.

                               Cut out the fish.

                                                           Colour in its yellow gills

                                                           Cover it with polka pills

                                                           Cook the fish.

                                                                                  Serve it on a serving dish

                                                                                  It’s delish.

                                                                                  Eat the fish.

You will need:



Olive Oil

Your fish serves 1 hungry person (with a salad or something) or 2 regular people (with more substantial sides)

Your pack contains:

1 gilthead sea bream, very fresh, very clean, otherwise as nature intended (if a little deader)

1 Amalfi lemon (not used in the recipe, but nice to serve with the fish or to dress a salad you might serve alongside


The dish will take about 12 minutes to cook

Preheat the BBQ – getting the fire right is the key to grilling fish. This bream will cook in 5 minutes on each side – in that time the skin must crisp and brown substantially – it is the browning of the skin that makes it unbond from the grill bars and possible to lift without breaking – and also what makes it delicious. So for this fish, you want a pretty hot BBQ, with the bars not too high above the fire – it should be uncomfortable to hold your palm 3-4 cm above the grill bars, for more than 3-4 seconds. I am starting to think that 3-4 might be a new universal constant – roll over, Pi.

Method 1 (fish pi)

  • π minutes before cooking, season the fish with πg of salt – and just before cooking, rub it with π2 ml of olive oil. Cook the fish on grill bars 3π cm above the coals, hot enough that you can hold your hand π cm above the grill for π seconds before becoming uncomfortable. It will take 3π minutes in total, turning once halfway. Next week: salmon grilled on a Planck.

Method 2

  • Your fish was delivered whole, scaled, gutted and cleaned – but head on, not slashed. Leave it this way – the skin will keep the flesh juicy as it grills
  • A good 10 minutes or so before you cook the fish, season it well with salt inside as well as on the skin. Leave it at room temperature to warm a little – it will be easier to cook perfectly if not fridge-cold.
  • Check the grill is perfect – giving strong, even heat. If it is still too blazing, or if you need to add a few coals, the fish can wait
  • Brush the bream with a touch of oil just before you grill – just to prevent sticking. Too much oil will make the grill flare up.
  • Clean the grill bars and use a paper towel to rub them with oil too, just before the fish goes on
  • Lay the fish on the grill bars exactly where you want it (over a nice, even heat) once it is down do not move it at all until it is time to turn it over
  • If you fancy, grill half your lemon – grilling changes it, reducing slightly the acidity and making the juice more extractable. Honestly, I prefer the taste of raw lemon but grilled ones do look good.
  • After 5 minutes, check the skin can detach from the grill bars easily by lifting the belly flap gently – the skin should be blistered and well browned under if you peak
  • Turn the fish over when the first side is ready, gently starting to lift from the dorsal side. If it has grilled enough, the skin should come away from the bars easily, without ripping.
  • Cook the second side for 5 minutes, then peek inside the belly cavity of the whole fish: if the traces of blood on the spine look cooked, it’s done (if you have a thermometer probe, you’re looking for the core temperature to reach about 48C); if not, give it a minute more. When done, take it off the grill to rest for a minute or two,
  • Serve it on a serving dish
    • It’s delish
      • Eat the fish

ENJOY! This is the stuff of life – simple food as our earliest ancestors enjoyed it. Enjoy yours MORE by pairing with a simple wine – pinot grigio, falanghina, or greco di Tufo.

ALLERGENS: all packs prepared in a mixed kitchen, we cannot guarantee the absence of any allergen. All packs of this dish contain fish