Everything you need to know to learn how to smoke trout. It is extremely easy and is a real treat with a unique flavor that just can’t be beat. It involves a simple brine and a light smoke. Without using many ingredients, this recipe is easy and they turned out phenomenal!
I love the seafood selection at the Lotte in northern Virginia. I feel like a kid in a candy store! My wife was out of town, so this was the perfect opportunity to try a smoked trout recipe.
The gentleman behind the counter was kind enough to rinse the fish and packaged it up nicely. Always as the butcher to do little things like this. That is what they are there for.
🍽️ Why This Works
Decadent Treat: The light texture of the fish pairs just perfectly with the smoky flavors to create a masterpiece. You are used to eating this at high end Sunday Brunches, but now that I know how easy it is to make at home, it will be on my menu more often.
Just a Few Ingredients: Requires just a couple of ingredients. The brined is a simple salt and brown sugar mix and then a bit of lemon and butter to gently flavor the trout while it smokes.
Makes Amazing Dip: We have done this several times now and love how good it turns out and made it into Smoked Trout Dip a couple of times and it never makes it to the table…which is why we don’t make it more often. We scarf that dip down so fast.
Trout – Use a freshwater trout like a rainbow or brown. I rarely find this in our traditional grocery stores, but my local oriental store carries it all the time. Check there if you are having trouble buying one. Even better, go fishing and bring some back! Whole Foods carries it and also look at all of the local fish markets.
Brine: The brine is a very simple salt and brown sugar mix that helps the flesh firm up. This wet brine does a remarkable job. Just make sure you rinse the fish well afterwards.
Butter and Lemon: Pats of butter and slices of lemon are added to the cavity right before it goes on the smoker. You want the flavor of the fish to shine through, so it isn’t necessary to add other seasonings.
⏲️ Equipment and Tools
Large Bowl – You will want to brine the trout in a large bowl. Make sure it is big enough to submerge the entire fish.
Raised Baking Rack – After brining, the fish will need to rest and finish drying. The raised rack allows them to finish dripping, while allowing all sides to be exposed to the air and dry.
Smoker – Definitely need this as this is our cooking source. The recipe works perfectly on the Big Green Egg or Kamado style grill / smoker along with the pellet versions of Traeger, Pit Boss, Memphis Style or Camp Chef.
The electric version of Masterbuilt that uses the propane will work great for this fish as well. Remember if you are using the electric versions that you SHOULD NOT use pellets in them but you can use wood chips.
🍲 Brining the Trout
Step One: Mix about one gallon of water with one cup of brown sugar and one cup of kosher salt. Keep stirring until it is dissolved and placed the fish in the container to soak for about six hours in the refrigerator.
Step Two: After six hours, take the fish out of the brine, rinse them well and lay them on a raised baking tray. Cover them with Press-N-Seal and set it back in the fridge overnight.
🔥 Smoking the Trout
Step Three: Add a small amount of charcoal to the grill and light. I dropped in my homemade firestarter and let the grill heat up.
After about 30 minutes, the charcoal was burning nicely. Add the plate setter to the Big Green Egg or Kamado Grill and close the top and bottom vents to less than ¼”.
After another ten minutes, the temperature was stabilized at 225 degrees and it was time to put the fish on the grill.
Note: If you are using a gas grill, turn off the center burners and adjust the outside burners to bring it to the desired temperature. You will also need a smoking box to create the alder smoke.
Step Four: Soak your wood chips in a bucket of water. I used alder, but a nice fruitwood will work wonderfully as well. If you aren’t sure which wood to use, try my Wood Smoking Reference Chart to help.
Step Five: Optional – Add three pads of butter and a couple of lemon slices to the body cavity and another couple of slices of lemon on top. If you prefer, you can skip this step. A simple, plain smoked trout is delicious!
Step Six: Right before putting the fish on the grill, add the smoking chips. If you are using a Kamado grill, use the grate tool to lift the plate setter slightly and drop in about half of the wood chips. No problem.
Step Seven: Set the trout directly on the grate.
Note: The skin may stick a bit when you remove it, but it isn’t a big deal, as the meat will flake off easily. Use some olive oil on the grating to minimize the chances of it sticking.
Step Eight: Keep an eye on the temperature and made sure it stays less than 225 degrees. Pellet smokers like Traeger, should have no problem staying at the temperature as you dial that in.
That can be a bit of a challenge with the plate setter in there. It may continue to heat up and can cause problems later in the cook.
If it does start to get too hot, add a disposable pan filled with ice cubes between the grate and the plate setter. Try to close the vents a bit more too.
Step Nine: With about an hour left in the smoke, add rest of the smoking chips. Unlike many foods, I wasn’t too worried about it becoming too smoky, as the outside skin would collect most of the smoke flavor, but it is later discarded.
Step Ten: Smoke it until the temperature of the fish reaches 160 degrees. This took about 2-3.5 hours, but the amount of time will vary significantly, so keep checking the temperature.
As expected, when it was time to take them off, the skin stuck to the grate a little. Not a big deal. A little coaxing and I removed the fish to the tray to cool. Make sure to oil the grill grate and consider oiling the bottom of the fish going onto the grate.
📌 Expert Tips
Picking the Meat – After the trout cools, it is time to pick the meat. Trout are very bony fish. The best way I found to remove the meat while minimizing the number of bones was to peel the skin of the fish up from the belly to the dorsal fin (on top). There is a very nice filet of meat there. The spine is about ½” below the top of the fish, so use your finger to pull the meat away from above the spine. You’ll quickly feel the bones.
After the top meat is removed on one side of the fish, you should see the exposed spine. Using your fingers again, slowly peel the filet below the spine, down towards the belly. With any luck, the bones stay attached to the spine, and meat comes off easily.
With one side of the fish cleaned of meat, hold the tail in place and gently lift up on the spine from the tail to the head. Do it gently, so the spine and all the bones lift up. That leaves the filet easy to remove from the other side of the fish.
I can almost guarantee you’ll still get a few bones in the meat, but I definitely had a lot fewer on all of the fish I tried after that. So, practice definitely helps here.
Wood Selection – Choose a mild wood like alder or a fruit wood. Apple, Cherry or Pear work exceptionally well. Stay away from the more intense flavors like mesquite or hickory. Those woods impart an extremely strong flavor that overtakes the mild trout flavors.
🐟 How Does It Taste
I was extremely surprised how mild and tender the smoked trout was. The heavy smoke smell of the skin turned into a mild, well-balanced flavor of the meat. The trout meat can be eaten warmed or cooled. You have to love that! I had some crackers, cream cheese and a bit of the smoked trout. Oh my! Was that tasty!
💡 Recipe Uses
Here are some ideas to use your smoked trout.
- Make your favorite salad and lay a few slices of the smoked trout on top of the bed of greens.
- Mix together a couple tablespoons of softened butter with a tablespoon of chopped fresh dill in your mini food processor to create a nice spread for sandwiches or on crackers.
- Make a delicious smoked trout dip. Mix cream cheese, yogurt, and chives together in the mini processor. Hand mix the trout with the mixture to keep the larger pieces. If you want to mix it up a bit more, add the zest of one lemon. Another variation is to add 1-2 minced garlic cloves. You just want a little zip from those not an overpowering taste of the garlic.
- Create a nice bagel with softened cream cheese and lay a couple of slices of the smoked trout on top like you would lox.
- We have also seen people do a simple bread/cracker with avocado and the smoked fish. Three ingredients and that’s it.
- The big one that I’m anxious to try is to make a “grown-up” macaroni and cheese with the trout using fontina and gruyere cheeses. Gently mix in the fish before baking off so you still have those nice pieces in each bite!!
The options are really endless but at least you have a great idea of where to start!
🥦 Serving Suggestions
This recipe is perfect served either warm or chilled. I love it for a nice Sunday brunch. Consider these side dishes to go with the trout. Grilled Broccolini is extremely fast and is special treat that works perfectly for brunch. Add in some Grilled Seafood Tater Tots for both the carbs and the delicious seafood flavor. They are always a hit!
I find it best to pick the trout free of bones as much as possible and store the meat in a freezer-safe Ziploc bag. Try to press as much air out of the bag as possible prior to sealing in order to minimize the chances of freezer burn.
I usually wrap it Press-N-Seal first, and then add it to the freezer bag as an added security. You don’t want this to get those freezer smells.
As long as the internal temperature reaches 160 degrees, this is safe to eat according to the FDA.
This is a unique, buttery, white fish that has a mild smoky flavor. The butter and lemon accentuate the flavors for this amazing dish.
This fish is packed with protein, Omega -3 fatty acids, Vitamin B, 6 and 12 are all included making this a pretty healthy option.
No it isn’t. It’s light and a little bit delicate in the taste while lacking an overly oily taste.
As long as it is WILD CAUGHT and not farm raised then, yes, by all means go ahead and eat it.
200-225 degrees works great. Don’t go over 225 degrees as it will cook and dry out before it slowly smokes.
Other Smoked Recipes
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For the Brine
- 1 gallon Water
- 1 cup Kosher Salt
- 1 cup Brown Sugar
- 2 whole Trout
- 2 tbsp Butter
- 4 slices Lemon
Brine for the Trout
- Combine the salt, brown sugar and water and stir until there is no sediment at the bottom. Add the trout to the water and cover.
- Place in refrigerator overnight (or for at least six hours)
- Remove the trout after the brining and rinse the fish off thoroughly
Smoking the Trout
- Preheat the smoker to no more than 225 degrees. Add your favorite smoking chips. I chose alder.
- Add the fish directly to the grate. On one fish, I added lemon and butter.
- Let the fish smoke until the internal temperature is 160 degrees. It should take 2-3.5 hours. Ours took a little over 3 hours. Always gauge it by internal temperature though.
- Remove the fish, let cool, and debone. It’s time to serve!