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Smoked Trout

Smoking trout is a delicious and relatively quick way to enjoy your catch. People who say they don't like the taste of fish are wowed by the texture and flavor of the smoked variety.

What Is Trout?

Trout is a freshwater fish that lives in the streams, rivers, and lakes of cool climate areas. River trout usually weigh between 2 to 5 pounds. Lake trout are larger, typically between 2 and 10 pounds.

Salmon is a close relative of the trout. The difference between the two fish is that salmon migrate to the ocean while trout remain in freshwater their entire lives. Like the ocean-going salmon, trout can be smoked with delicious results.

Smoking Trout vs. Grilling Trout

When you smoke trout, you cook it over low temperatures (165-225 degrees Fahrenheit) for an extended period of time (usually at least one hour). Smoking trout gives more time for natural wood smoke to flavor the finished product. The flesh of the trout will be slightly dry to the touch, but a salt curing process locks in moisture, so the trout itself won't taste dry.

When you grill trout, you cook it over high temperatures (400-500 degrees Fahrenheit) for a short amount of time (10-15 minutes). Grilled trout won't absorb very much smoke flavor, and will be moist to the touch.

People who say they don't like the taste of fish sometimes prefer smoked fish to grilled fish, because smoked fish has a drier texture and the smoke flavor is more prominent than the "fishy" flavor.

How to Prepare Smoked Trout

Trout must be gutted and cleaned prior to smoking. Any additional preparation is up to you.

We recommend butterflying the trout. When you butterfly a whole fish, you slice it down the center to create two thin halves that lay flat.

By butterflying the fish, you expose more of the fish's surface to smoke. The butterflied halves are also thinner than the whole fish would be, so it will smoke faster.

Small trout -- say, smaller than 18 inches -- can more easily be smoked whole without butterflying.

Can You Smoke Frozen Trout?

Yes, trout that has been frozen immediately after being caught can be smoked. The fish must be fully thawed first.

How to Make Brine for Smoked Trout

Brine is salted water -- which adds flavor and helps kill bacteria before the smoking process.

A basic brine recipe will include water, salt, sugar, spice, and a savory element. Here's an example.

1 gallon water

1/4 cup salt

1/2 cup brown sugar

1 tablespoon black pepper

2 tablespoons soy sauce

You can experiment with many different types of flavors and seasonings in a brine. Kitchen herbs and spices are a common addition, and a good place to start if you want to develop your own brine.

These other ingredients are sometimes added to smoked trout brine.

  • Lemon juice
  • Allspice
  • Garlic (or garlic salt, or garlic powder)
  • Onion (or onion powder)
  • Dill

Stir the brine until all ingredients are dissolved. A blender can help if you have chunky ingredients.

Dry Brine for Smoked Trout

Another option for smoking trout is a dry brine. A dry brine has the same ingredients as a regular brine except for the water.

Brining and Curing

Because trout fillets are thin, brine can work its magic fairly fast. You can brine for as little as 20 minutes for smaller river trout, but some folks prefer to brine in the fridge for a couple of hours, or overnight.

After brining, you can take the additional step of putting the trout uncovered in the fridge for an hour or more. During this time, a thin film called the pellicle will form on the surface of the fish. With a pellicle in place, the surface of the trout will take on more smoke. This is an optional step.

Smoking the Trout

Once the brining and curing are complete, you're ready to smoke the fish. Simply remove it from the brine and pat dry. (If you use a dry brine, rinse the brine off first, then pat dry.)

What Is the Best Temperature to Smoke Trout?

Most experts suggest smoking at approximately 180 degrees Fahrenheit. A range between 165 and 225 degrees is acceptable.

Any temperature below 165 degrees could create unsafe conditions and bacterial growth. Temperatures above 225 degrees will cook the fish but won't allow much time for smoke to flavor it.

What Type of Wood Should You Use to Smoke Trout?

It's always nice to pair food and wood that share a natural habitat. For a fish like trout that thrives in cooler climates, we recommend a tree that also thrives in cooler temperatures such as oak.

How Long Should You Smoke Trout?

Smoke trout until the flesh turns opaque and begins to flake, and to an internal temperature of approximately 145 degrees Fahrenheit.

This will take approximately one hour per half-pound of fish that you are smoking.

Smoked Trout Recipe

Our basic recipe for smoked trout is a good introduction to the process. Check out the comments for variations by fellow Traegerers.

Smoked Trout

Cook time: 2 hours

Serves: 6

Ingredients

8 rainbow trout fillets

1 gallon water

1/4 cup salt

1/2 cup brown sugar

1 tablespoon black pepper

2 tablespoons soy sauce