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Smoked Trout

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There aren’t many things I can confidently say I’m REALLY good at, but let me just brag for a minute and say I’m REALLY good at fishing. Not because I’m lucky, but because I’ve spent thousands of hours with a fishing rod in my hand. There aren’t many freshwater species I haven’t caught, and I even spent time in Alaska as a fishing guide. I know how to catch fish, and this smoked trout recipe is one of my favorite ways to prepare fresh trout or salmon.

Before I settled down to start a family, I worked as a fishing guide. Long days fishing led to long nights smoking trout and salmon. This recipe comes from years of experience, and trial and error. If you're looking for the best way to smoke trout or salmon, this is it! This smoked trout recipe includes a recipe for a smoked trout brine, how long to brine trout, and how to form a pellicle too! This smoked trout guide has it all! #barbecue #easy #simple #barbecue #traegerrecipe #pelletgrill

Step One – Go Catch a Fish!

The best smoked fish is fish you’ve caught your self. This recipe works especially well for salmon, rainbow trout, brook trout, and lake trout. If you have access to those fish, and you know how to catch them, go catch a few and then come back to this recipe.

Smoked Salmon Recipe
A Coho Salmon from Alaska

Don’t know how to catch them? Send me an email… I’m confident I can help!

Another option is to buy the fish from your local grocery store or market. If you’re buying fish, ask how it was caught. Wild, line-caught salmon or trout is the best, and the only type of fish I would buy. Farmed fish are a poor substitute for their wild counterparts. The meat is of lesser quality because the fish don’t have to move like wild fish do. Furthermore, most farm-raised fish are treated with a dye to make their meat look appealing. How appealing is that… really? Do yourself a favor… buy wild-caught salmon or trout.

Smoked Fish Brine

Smoked Trout Recipe
A nice lake trout from a recent trip to Manitoba

I’m using two Lake Trout fillets for this recipe, but any of the previously mentioned trout species or salmon will do. If you’re going for salmon, Sockeye Salmon is my favorite, followed closely by Coho Salmon.

Common Mistakes When Smoking Trout or Salmon

There are a few mistakes people make when they smoke salmon or trout, mistake #1, they don’t brine the fish. The brine serves a couple of different purposes, but the two that are most important are:

  1. Keeping the fish from drying out during the smoke process.
  2. Adding an additional layer of flavor to the meat of the fish.

How to Brine Trout or Salmon

You can brine your fish in a dry brine, or a wet brine. Everyone has there own preference, but mine is a dry brine for fish. There are just a few ingredients you need to make the dry brine:

  • Kosher Salt
  • Brown Sugar
  • Onion Powder
  • Garlic Powder
  • Paprika

Combine the ingredients in a large food safe container like this one, and then set aside.

Place your fish fillets in the container with the brine, and then liberally sprinkle the brine over your fish. Every nook and cranny of the fish fillet should be covered with your dry brine. Once the fish is adequately covered, cover the container with saran wrap and place it in your refrigerator. Let the fish brine for 3-6 hours.

Be careful not to dry brine the trout much longer than 6 hours. If you do, you’ll end up with some very salty smoked trout!

You’ll be shocked by how much moisture is in the container when you finally decide to pull the fish out of the brine and move on to the next step!

Smoked Fish Pellicle

I could go into detail about what the pellicle is, but you probably don’t care. This next step is the step most people completely skip over, and it’s the difference in perfect smoked salmon, and average smoked salmon (or trout).

After the trout has been brined, rinse each of the fillets thoroughly, and then pat dry. Place the fish on a grill rack, and then put the rack on the sheet pan you were using before, and back in the fridge!

If you don’t have room in the fridge, you can put the fish in a cool (under 50 degrees), well-ventilated area. The fish will need to sit out for at least three hours.

This step produces a tacky film on the surface of the salmon, called the pellicle. The pellicle will help your trout or salmon hold more of that smoke flavor you’re looking for, and keeps the fish from cooking too quickly.

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Time To Smoke the Trout (or Salmon)

Hopefully, you’ve taken the time to properly brine the fish, and form a nice pellicle on the surface of the flesh. Now it’s time to put your fish in the smoker!

Set your smoker up to cook with indirect heat at around 140 or 150 degrees, and then place your trout or salmon fillets on the grill grates. After two hours, increase the temperature in your smoker by 20 degrees. Repeat this process every two hours.

What’s That White Stuff Oozing Out of My Smoked Fish?

You can start your smoker out at 225 and just keep it there, but you’ll notice a white substance ooze out of the fish called albumin. Gradually increasing the temperature helps the fish firm up at a slower rate, thus reducing the albumin appearance, and giving you much better flavor!

Love this post? Be sure to check out my smoked salmon recipe!

If you’re looking for something other than fish, you’ll love my Smoked Juicy Lucy’s!

Small trout only take a few hours to smoke, but larger trout and salmon can take several hours. Check the temp of your fish with a good meat thermometer after a few hours, and when the fish has reached an internal temperature of 145 degrees, you’re done!

Best Way to Check Internal Temperature

There are quite a few different products on the market that you can use to check the internal temperature of your food. I’ve tried several different types of thermometers, but my favorite one is the Thermapen MK4.

Thermapen MK4 in Smoked Salmon
One of the reasons I really love my Thermapen is because it takes all the guesswork out of knowing when my foods have been cooked to a safe temp… PS… This fish is not done! Smoked fish is safe for consumption at 145 degrees.

The Thermapen MK4 gives an internal temperature readout almost instantly. The Thermapen’s intelligent design makes it easy to read the backlit display at almost any angle.

We first purchased the Thermapen for use in our smoked meat cooking, but it’s quickly become a tool my wife uses when we are cooking other food in the kitchen too.

Smoked Trout or Salmon Glaze

You don’t have to add a glaze to your smoked fish, but if you’re looking for an added layer of flavor, I highly recommend this step. After you put your salmon or trout in the smoker, combine the following ingredients in a small bowl:

  • Honey
  • Apple Cider Vinegar
  • Cayenne Pepper
  • Brown Sugar

Stir the ingredients until the honey and brown sugar has dissolved, and then set aside. At the end of each hour, brush your fish with the glaze. This is how you get NEXT LEVEL AWESOME smoked fish.

Would you do something different? Let me know in the comments.

Smoked Trout Recipe
Yield: 6

Smoked Trout - The Way a Fishing Guide Does It

Prep Time: 1 days 3 hours
Cook Time: 6 hours
Additional Time: 1 hour
Total Time: 1 days 10 hours

There aren't many things I can confidently say I'm REALLY good at, but let me just brag for a minute and say I'm REALLY good at fishing. Not because I'm lucky, but because I've spent thousands of hours with a fishing rod in my hand. There aren't many freshwater species I haven't caught, and I even spent time in Alaska as a fishing guide. I know how to catch fish, and this smoked trout recipe is one of my favorite ways to prepare fresh trout or salmon.

Ingredients

  • Whole Salmon or Trout Fillets

Smoked Trout Brine

  • 1/2 cup Kosher Salt
  • 1/2 cup Brown Sugar
  • 1/4 tsp Onion Powder
  • 1/4 tsp Garlic Powder
  • 1 tbsp Paprika

Smoked Trout Glaze

  • 1/4 cup Honey
  • 1/4 cup Apple Cider Vinegar
  • 1/2 tsp Cayenne Pepper, optional
  • 2 tbsp Brown Sugar

Instructions

  1. Combine the brine ingredients in a food safe container.
  2. Place your fish fillets in the container, and then liberally sprinkle the brine over your fish. Every nook and cranny of the fish fillet should be covered with your dry brine. Once the fish is adequately covered cover the pan with saran wrap and place the whole pan in your refrigerator.
  3. Let the fish brine for at least 3 hours, and up to 6 hours. Any longer and it will be too salty.
  4. After the trout has been brined, rinse each of the fillets thoroughly, and then pat dry.
  5. Place the fish on a grill rack, and then put the rack on the sheet pan you were using before, and back in the fridge with the fish! If you don't have room in the fridge, you can put the fish in a cool, well-ventilated area. The fish will need to sit out for at least three hours. This step produces a tacky film on the surface of the salmon, called the pellicle. The pellicle will help your trout or salmon hold more of that smoke flavor you're looking for, and keeps the fish from cooking too quickly.
  6. Set your smoker up to cook with indirect heat at around 140 or 150 degrees, and then place your trout or salmon fillets on the grill grates.
  7. Combine the glaze ingredients in a small bowl
  8. Stir the ingredients until the honey and brown sugar has dissolved, and then set aside.
  9. At the end of each hour, brush your fish with the glaze.
  10. After two hours, increase the temperature in your smoker by 20 degrees. Repeat this process every two hours.
  11. Smaller trout only take a few hours to smoke, but larger lake trout and salmon can take several hours. Check the temp of your fish with a good meat thermometer after a few hours, and when the fish has reached an internal temperature of 145 degrees, you can pull the fish from the smoker.
  12. When the fish is done smoking you can eat it warm, or let it cool for about 60 minutes before putting it in an airtight container in the fridge.

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Nutrition Information:

Yield:

6

Serving Size:

1

Amount Per Serving: Calories: 219Total Fat: 6gSaturated Fat: 1gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 4gCholesterol: 31mgSodium: 9468mgCarbohydrates: 31gFiber: 1gSugar: 30gProtein: 11g

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18 Replies to “Smoked Trout

  1. in the recipe you state leaving the fish out for 3 hours if it wont fit in the fridge,,,, how long do i leave it in the fridge if it will fit?????

  2. In your smoked salmon recipe website you suggest that “if you do not know how to fish . . . .Send me an e-mail. I could not find your e-mail address, so here is my request: Apparently you could give some tips on how to catch any of the recipe fish. I am interested in catching brook trout and lake trout. The lake I fish has native brook trout and native lake trout. I have been able to catch a few brook trout but not lake trout. I understand that Lake trout are located much deeper than brook trout.
    I request and welcome your suggestions and your expertise. Thank you.

    1. Hey Carlos – If you’re fishing from shore I’d try casting a 3″ or 4″ spoon near an inlet or steep bank on the body of water your fishing. The inlet will attract baitfish, and that attracts big fish.

      If you’re in a boat try jigging a 3″ or 4″ tube jig on the bottom in deeper water. Chances are those lake trout are eating brook trout, so think BIG.

      1. Hello, I fish up in the Sierras above Shaver and Huntington lakes at a small lake called Portal Forebay, I go up camping and fishing for trout once a year and usually come home about 10-15 trout leftover for smoking on the grill. I fish by using my kayak, I paddle backwards slowly using a set of large or medium cowbell flashers with a 6” lead, a small #6 hook, and 1/2-1/3 of a jumbo night crawler worm on the hook, I cast out about 10 yards and then paddle about 5 times and close my reel to lock it in to troll. I slowly paddle backwards and watch my rod tip bounce slowly with my flashers and bait about 20 yards behind my boat about 6-10 ft below the surface, the depth of my lake is 25-30 ft deeply and the fish sit about 7-12 ft deep. I usually fish around 5:30-9 am and the fish hit constantly, I have no problems landing fish!!

  3. I noticed in the pictures that you cut the fillets while smoking. Are they cut before you brine? Also what wood do you use for your smoke and do you smoke them for the whole time they are cooking?

    1. So if you are smoking 12 fillets, increase the amounts of dry brine ingredients that you have stated per every 2 fillets?

  4. First time we’ve ever used a dry brine. Hubby said it’s the best Lake Superior smoked trout he’s ever had. Trust me… that’s high praise because we’ve had a lot!!!

  5. Thank you for your recipe and guidance. I smoked trout for the first time ever yesterday and since I don’t own a dedicated smoker I used my Weber charcoal grill. I used hickory chips on top of charcoal briquets as the main source of smoke and I added hickory sawdust to the large pan of water under the fish to double up on the smokey flavor. My biggest concern was controlling the temperature but your post about starting around 150 degrees was very helpful. I started with fewer than a dozen charcoal briquets, got a good flow of smoke going, and spent most of the first 2 hours between 150-160 degrees. I added a few more briquets and brought the temp up to 175-180 degrees and although the charcoal didn’t burn quite long enough to finish the cook, I improvised by adding some sawdust directly to the fire for the final 30-40 minutes and that did the trick. The smoked trout taste great and my 14 y.o. fishing addict son who caught them with me loves eating the final product on club crackers with sharp cheddar cheese. Cheers!

    1. That’s awesome. LOVE how you improvised to make it work. I was that 14 y.o. fishing addict once… Keep encouraging him to fish and eat his catch… he’ll thank you when he’s older for teaching him all those life skills that come from fishing with Dad.

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