Last Updated on December 5, 2023 by Carne Diem
Protein: Seafood, Halibut
Origin: North American, American Northwest
Method: Grill or Smoker, StovetopJump to Recipe
This Bacon Wrapped Halibut Cheek recipe is super easy, very customizable, and makes for a perfect appetizer. Can't find halibut cheeks? No worries, just cube up some halibut and proceed. These grilled halibut bites are great no matter how you make them.
If you are fortunate enough to live in an area with access to halibut cheeks, you have got to give this recipe a try. During our last visit to Seattle we were lucky enough to come across several fishmongers selling this delicacy from the sea. We did not think it was possible for us to love halibut even more, but these halibut cheeks are the most tender melt in you mouth part of the halibut. They look like and cook up similar to scallops but without the worry of getting a gritty piece like you sometimes run into with scallops.
It's ok to eat fish because they don't have any feelings. -Kurt Cobain
Table of contents
Making the Bacon Wrapped Halibut Cheeks
To make the Bacon Wrapped Halibut Cheeks, you will need about 1 pound of halibut cheeks. You will need 1 piece of bacon per halibut cheek, but this typically works out to about 8-10 slices of bacon. You will also need a little of your favorite seafood seasoning or BBQ rub.
Precook the bacon
Whenever doing bacon wrapped foods on the grill or smoker we have found that thinner bacon slices work a lot better that big thick slices of bacon. This is especially true when working with seafood. Center cut bacon works wonderfully for this recipe. You want to find the balance between the bacon being perfectly cooked, without overcooking the fish. One method we have found to be helpful is to "sweat" the bacon, or slightly cook it prior to wrapping the halibut cheeks.
The key is to cook the bacon until it is just starting to brown very slightly, but is still pliable so you can work with it. Once the bacon it just slightly beginning to brown, remove from the skillet and place on a paper towel.
The halibut cheeks should not require any prep work. They are typically just ready to wrap with the bacon and go.
Wrap the halibut cheeks
Use one whole piece of bacon to wrap around each of the halibut cheeks. Use a toothpick to keep the bacon wrapped around the halibut cheeks. If you are using larger pieces of bacon you can cut to size.
Season the Bacon Wrapped Halibut Cheeks
Liberally season the Bacon Wrapped Halibut Cheeks with your favorite seafood seasoning, or favorite BBQ rub. There is a lot of room to improvise here so use your favorite. Some of our favorite version are using a Cajun seasoning for a little kick or if you want to keep it simple Old Bay works well. For this version we used some Kinder's SPG rub (The Blend). Meat Church Holy Voodoo is another favorite when we want a little more kick.
Cooking the Bacon Wrapped Halibut Cheeks
Preheat your grill or smoker to 300 degrees and set up for indirect heat. If you are using a smoker, use a mild wood such as fruit woods (apple, cherry, etc), alder or maple. Non-stick mesh mats like frog-mats are also a great investment if you plan or grilling or smoking much seafood. They work perfectly to keep your delicate seafood from sticking to the grill, and keep smaller pieces from falling through the grates. These grilled halibut bites work great on any grill or smoker including ceramic grills like the Big Green Egg we are using, or even Weber grills or pellet smokers.
Cook the Bacon Wrapped Halibut Cheeks until they reach an internal temperature of about 130 degrees. Flip the fish every 5-10 minutes to make sure the bacon finishes evenly. Halibut does not contain a lot of fat or oils so it is prone to drying out so try not to overcook it. Visual cues that the halibut it done is that the halibut cheeks should be opaque throughout and the fish will flake with a fork, but using an instant read thermometer is by far the most accurate method.
These are small pieces of meat so they do not take long to cook. They are typically done in under 20 minutes. If you like a little sweetness, consider basting with a little maple syrup the last few minutes of cooking. We like this combination whenever we are using a spicy rub to give it a little sweet heat.
Once cooked through remove from the smoker and serve warm.
If you are in the mood for some more great smoked and grilled seafood recipes give these great recipes a try:
- Spicy, Bacon Wrapped Shrimp: Bottle Rocket Shrimp
- Maple Bourbon Hot Smoked Salmon
- Smoked Salmon Chowder
- Blackened Chicken a la Mer
- Caribbean Fire Shrimp
- Grilled Feta and Orzo Stuffed Branzino
Frequently Asked Questions
The grilled halibut cheeks are best cooked to an internal temperature of 135-140 degrees.
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Bacon Wrapped Halibut Cheeks
- 1 Pound Halibut Cheeks
- Center Cut Bacon 1 slice per halibut cheek
- Your Favorite BBQ rub or Seafood Seasoning
- Par cook the bacon by frying until just beginning to brown but still pliable enough to wrap around the halibut cheeks.
- Wrap one piece of bacon around each halibut cheek and secure with a toothpick.
- Liberally season with you BBQ rub or seafood seasoning.
- Cook over indirect heat, on your grill or smoker, at 300 degrees. Flip every 5 minutes. Remove when the fish reaches an internal temperature or 130 degrees. The halibut cheeks should be opaque throughout. This typically takes under 15 minutes, but cook times can vary.
- Serve Warm