How to prepare a tasty whole fish on the braai

We ask Ocean Basket innovation chef Junelle Germishuizen about the best and easiest way to prepare a whole fish on the braai this festive season

08 December 2021 - 14:00
Grilled fish retains those healthy omega-3 fats and nutrients.
Grilled fish retains those healthy omega-3 fats and nutrients.
Image: Supplied

When Ocean Basket launched a new summer menu in October, they decided to try something new and add whole sea bream to the offering. They weren’t sure how their clientele would take to the idea. What they thought would be a risky move proved highly successful — within the first week their stock of sea bream sold out.

On their menu they serve the sea bream both fried and grilled, a cooking technique that limits the loss of healthy omega-3 fats and retains the most nutrients.

Ocean Basket innovation chef Junelle Germishuizen.
Ocean Basket innovation chef Junelle Germishuizen.
Image: Supplied

“For centuries fish has always been cooked and served on the bone, and for good reason,” said Ocean Basket innovation chef Junelle Germishuizen.

“The flesh is sandwiched between fatty skin and a gelatin rich back bone which drastically affects the flavour profile of the fish. Keeping the fish whole will keep the fish nice and moist and it will be less likely to dry out.”

Intrigued by the idea of cooking whole fish, we asked Germishuizen for to prepare a whole fish on the braai an alternative and healthy option for the festive season.


  • Unless you’re a regular fisherman, cleaning and gutting a fish can be difficult, so start by buying a scaled and gutted fish.
  • Fish like yellowtail, dorado or black bream are popular on the braai but there are many other types you can prepare. Ask your fishmonger for advice and ensure the fish you buy is not on an endangered list.
  • Braaiing a whole fish is a little harder than roasting, mostly because if the fish sticks to the grill grate, things can get messy. Lubricating with plenty of oil lessens that risk. Coat both the fish and grill grate in olive oil every time you move or flip the fish.
  • You can use a fish basket or hinged grid as it makes turning the fish on the grill foolproof, but it’s not essential.



One whole fish

Salt and black pepper

1 teaspoon olive oil

125ml orange juice

½ lemon (slice ¼ of the lemon into thin slices, the rest will be used for juice)

1 teaspoon capers (drained)

Tablespoon chopped fresh parsley


  1. Let the fish stand at room temperature for 20 minutes and pat dry with paper towels before adding to your grill.
  2. Get the fire to a steady, medium heat and ensure the grill is clean.
  3. Brush the fish and grill with a little olive oil and lay the fish down on the hot grill with the tail end facing away from the hottest part of the fire.
  4. Depending on the size of your fish, cook it anywhere between seven and 12 minutes per side, until lightly charred and it releases easily from the grate. If it sticks when you try to turn it over, leave it for a few minutes and flip.
  5. Cut your lemons into slices and place on the grill until they are caramelised and brown.
  6. Remove fish from the heat and allow it to rest for a few minutes before serving.
  7. Mix together the orange juice, capers and parsley and pour over the fish (it is important not to cook the orange juice as it becomes bitter very quickly).
  8. Keep the flavours simple and taste the fish itself: add a drizzle of olive oil, a squeeze of the caramelised lemon and a sprinkle of sea salt and pepper to your liking.

If it’s raining, you can easily use this method on your grill in the kitchen.

Serving suggestion: Set the fish on a plate. Slice the fish on one side and then flip it to slice the other side. Fish have a simple two-dimensional bone structure so three simple cuts will do the trick.

First, make a vertical cut from the top of the head towards the belly. The second cut is a short stroke through the body of the fish down to the tail. Make a third cut on the top ridge of the fish that connects the first two cuts.

Take a blunt-edged knife and lift off the first fillet. Remove the bones by lifting the tail of the fish and pulling up. The bones will easily pull out of the fish, leaving you with two clean fillets.

Serve with roasted vegetables or a salad.


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