How long do you grill shrimp and fish

Grilled salmon steaks

Fish and shrimp aren't not only one of the quickest foods you can grill, they can also be the trickiest.

Why?  Because two devious misconceptions have become so widespread and popular, they've seduced at least seven out of ten backyard cooks into believing they're the standard rule of thumb for knowing when fish or shrimp are done – turning countless salmon fillets, halibut steaks, and shrimp kebabs into dry, gritty fish jerky.

So, what two cruel, myths are responsible for this seafood sabotage?

  1. That fish should be taken off the grill when it starts to flake, and
  2. That shrimp should be taken off the grill when it turns opaque

You see, while it is true that fish and shrimp are done cooking when these two things happen, food continues to cook for a few minutes after you pull it off the grill. 

In other words, the key to grilling up moist, tender fish or shrimp is to grill them until just before fish starts to flake or shellfish becomes pearly white at its center...

... which means the times listed below should only be used as an estimate of how long it'll take to cook you meal – not as an exact indicator of when to pull your fish or shrimp off the grill.

To find out how you can easily spot the ideal moment of doneness for pulling your seafood off the grill, check out our tips for grilling fish and shrimp.

Fish Thickness/Weight Approximate Grilling Time

Approximate Grilling Times for Seafood

Fish fillet or steak:  including halibut, snapper, salmon, sea bass, swordfish, and tuna*

1/4 - 1/2 inch thick 3 - 5 minutes over direct high heat
1/2 - 1 inch thick 5 - 10 minutes over direct high heat
1 - 1 1/4 inches thick 10 - 12 minutes over direct high heat
Whole fish 1 lb 6 - 10 minutes over direct high heat
2 - 2 1/2 lbs 20 - 30 minutes over indirect medium heat
3 lbs 30 - 45 minutes over indirect medium heat
Shrimp 1 1/2 oz 3 - 5 minutes over direct high heat
Scallops  1 1/2 oz 4 - 6 minutes over direct high heat
Mussels   5 - 6 minutes over direct high heat
Clams   6 - 8 minutes over direct high heat
Oysters   2 - 4 minutes over direct high heat
Lobster tail   7 - 11 minutes over direct medium heat