Test Kitchen Notes
Grilling whole fish may seem like a big fuss, but this simply grilled red snapper—which you can also make in a cast-iron pan on the stovetop—proves that it doesn’t have to be. Here, the mild, lightly sweet flavor of the snapper makes the perfect canvas for bright, punchy ingredients, like California Cara Cara oranges, Fresno chile peppers, freshly squeezed lime juice, and cilantro.
The whole snapper is first dressed in a few spoonfuls of the Cara Cara sauce (using both the zest and juice make it extra-aromatic) before grilling, and gets drizzled with it afterward just before serving, along with the chopped cilantro. The whole dish comes together in about 30 minutes (if your fish is already prepped and ready to go), making it quick enough for a fancy-feeling weeknight meal and impressive enough for a spring weekend spread. To up the wow factor when serving, plate the whole grilled fish on a platter and garnish it with big wedges of fresh Cara Cara oranges.
This recipe is shared in partnership with California Citrus Growers.
- Prep time 20 minutes
- Cook time 5 minutes
- Serves 4
whole (2- to 4-pound) red snapper, cleaned, descaled, and gutted
California Cara Cara oranges, zested and juiced
extra-virgin olive oil
cumin, toasted whole and ground in a spice grinder or mortar
light brown sugar
cloves garlic, finely minced
Fresno chile pepper, deseeded and thinly sliced
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
fresh cilantro, leaves and stems, coarsely chopped
- Prepare your grill: Heat a cast-iron grill pan, charcoal grill, or gas grill over medium-high heat and allow to preheat until the temperature reaches around 450°F. Once hot, take a kitchen rag or paper towel, moisten with a neutral oil like canola oil or vegetable oil and rub the grates of the grill or grill pan. There should be a thin layer of oil that will smoke and burn off, creating a temporary nonstick surface.
- Prep the snapper: With a paper towel, dry the fish thoroughly on the exterior and interior, and remove any scales that may have lingered. With a sharp knife, score the surface of the snapper about 1 inch apart in a criss-cross pattern. Repeat on each side.
- Prepare the snapper sauce: Combine the orange zest and juice, lime juice, extra-virgin olive oil, cumin, garlic, brown sugar, Fresno chiles, salt, and pepper together. Taste and adjust seasoning. Depending on the acidity level of the citrus, you may need a touch more lime juice, or a little more brown sugar to balance.
- Take a few spoonfuls of your sauce and rub it into the fish, especially in the scores on the surface of the fish.
- Grill the fish over medium-high heat for about 15 minutes, flipping halfway through. Less is more when it comes to grilling fish; resist the urge to touch or move the fish while it grills, as it will stick and the skin will tear.
- Remove fish from the grill and allow it to rest on a large serving platter. Top your fish with the sauce and fresh cilantro. Serve with wedges of Cara Cara orange and enjoy.