Recipe: Grilled Panfish with Lemon and Dill

My favorite recipes are ones that don’t require exact measurements. Fortunately, many fish recipes fall into this category, including grilled panfish. If you’ve come home from the pond with bluegills, crappies, perch, or other panfish, this is a simple and yummy way to cook them.

It’s best with relatively large panfish, since you’ll be able to flake a whole fillet off the bones more easily, and pin bones will be easier to remove. However, it’s also fine for smaller fish as long as you’re willing to pick the meat off the bones as you go.

Again, this recipe doesn’t have exact measurements. The preparation of the ingredients matters much more than the quantity.

Ingredients:

  • Several whole panfish
  • Butter
  • Salt
  • Pepper
  • Lemon juice
  • Fresh dill

If you’re cooking these over a portable grill on a camping trip, check out How to Bring Spices, Sauces, and Oils Camping.

If you need help killing your fish, check out 3 Humane Ways to Kill Fish.

Directions:

As mentioned before, the preparation matters more here than quantity. Season to taste with as much lemon, salt, pepper, and dill as you want. Make sure to scale thoroughly, though, or you’ll be spitting them out later!

1. Cut the head off each fish, just behind the gills and pectoral fins.

A bluegill with the head cut off behind the gills

2. Gut each fish and clean out the body cavity.

A cleaned and gutted bluegill on a cutting board

3. Scale each fish. To scale, hold the fish down on a cutting board near the tail. Using a spoon or butter knife, scrape the scales toward the head. It’ll take quite a few passes in each spot to completely remove the scales. Some fish are also easier to scale than others. Double and triple check your work here. It’s much better to do this right the first time than to find scales in your meal.

Multiple cleaned and gutted panfish in a bowl

4. Make the stuffing mixture:

Chop the fresh dill finely. Melt the butter until it’s creamy and spreadable, and add in fresh dill, lemon juice, salt and pepper to taste.

Chopped dill and butter on a cutting board near a knife

5. Spread the mixture into the body cavity of each fish, and brush the skin with it as well. Also set some aside for dipping later.

Multiple cleaned and gutted panfish in a bowl with butter in the body cavity.

6. Make 2-4 vertical slices along the body of the fish. “Scoring” the flesh allows the heat to distribute evenly through the meat. Heat the grill to medium-high, and put the fish on. Cook for a few minutes on each side, flipping only once. The fish are done when the skin is crispy and the flesh flaky.

Multiple panfish cooking on a grill

7. Melt the rest of the butter mixture and serve as a dip for the fish.

Depending on the size, grilled panfish can be eaten with a fork or as finger food. You may find pinbones in the flesh, but they can be picked out as you go, especially if you’re eating it as finger food. If the spines of the fins are still strong and sharp, they can be discarded, but the soft fins, including the tail, are tasty. When you’re done, you should have a perfect little fish skeleton (sans head) on your plate!

If you liked this recipe, also check out Recipe: Simple Campfire Roasted Trout.

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This is a list I made and use for my own trips, and I think any backcountry angler will find it handy.