According to fishing enthusiasts, pitmasters, and foodies alike, there are many ways to prepare delicious fresh trout, and smoking it is among the best.
The smoked trout retains its moistness and tenderness and gains an added smoky flavor.
Here is a complete guide for preparing smoked trout.
Choosing the fish
Of course, the satisfaction of preparing delicious smoked trout will be greater if you catch the beautiful fish yourself. This particular recipe is suitable for rainbow trout, lake trout, brook trout, and even smoked salmon.
But not all of us are avid fishing enthusiasts, so there is an easier option of buying the trout from the store or the market instead.
When choosing and prepping the fish, you will be cooking, make sure to follow the safety recommendations by the FDA for seafood.
You can opt for line-caught wild trout to ensure that it has better quality meat than farmed fish, or choose the less expensive and sustainable farmed trout instead, depending on your preferences, views, and on your budget.
Some mistakes to avoid when preparing smoked trout
When making smoked salmon or trout, there are a few frequent blunders that people do, with neglecting the brining of the fish being the most prevalent. Trout is better when brined because it provides additional tastes, enhances texture, and prevents drying out.
Brining the trout
You can use either dry or wet brine when prepping smoked trout.
If you want to dry brine the fish, here is a simple recipe for dry brine, which you can make at home.
Ingredients for the dry brine
- Kosher salt (not table salt)
- Brown sugar
- Garlic powder
- Onion powder
Preparing the dry brine
Mix all of the ingredients in a large container or bowl, place the trout fillets inside the container and sprinkle them with the dry brine generously from all sides. Once the fish is completely covered with the seasoning, cover the bowl with plastic wrap and let the fish sit in the refrigerator for 3 to 6 hours, at a temperature of 40 degrees Fahrenheit or lower. If you let the fish dry brine for more than 6 hours, you will risk ending up with overly salty smoked trout.
If you prefer using wet brine for preparing your smoked trout, then you can brine the fish in a simple homemade, wet brine for trout.
Ingredients for wet brine
- 2 cups of filtered water
- 1 tablespoon of coarse grain Kosher salt
- 1 tablespoon of brown sugar
- Fresh herbs and spices of your choice (popular options include dill, onions, and garlic)
Brining the fish in a wet brine
Mix all of the ingredients so that the salt and sugar are completely dissolved in the water, and place the fish inside the brine, so that it is completely covered. Let it brine inside the refrigerator for 20 to 40 minutes, depending on the thickness of your fillets.
Forming the fish pellicle
The pellicle coat formation on the fish is an important step that some people tend to skip. By letting the fish dry for 30 minutes or leave it overnight in the fridge. The pellicle is a protein coat that will help the fish hold and absorb more of the smoke and protect it from being cooked too quickly.
To let the pellicle coat form, rinse your dry brined trout fillets and pat them dry with paper towels.
Place them on a grill rack on top of a sheet pan and let them dry for at least 30 minutes, or if possible, leave it for several hours or overnight. The temperature in the fridge (or another ventilated and cool area) must be a maximum of 40 degrees Fahrenheit for the fish to stay safe for consumption.
Smoking the trout
The fish needs to be cooked to an internal temperature of a minimum of 145 degrees Fahrenheit, in order to be safe for consumption.
The way you smoke the trout depends on the type of smoker you will be using.
Our recommendation is to preheat the smoker to about 140-150 degrees F, use wood chips of your choice (alder, oak, fruitwoods, or maple go well with trout and fish in general), and when the temperature is reached, place the trout fillets on the grates of the grill. After two hours, you can increase the temperature to 160-170 degrees. After another two hours, or until your fish reaches the temperature of 145 degrees, you can continue increasing the heat every two hours.
Depending on the size of the fillets or fish, smoking the trout might take several hours or longer.
Another way to smoke trout is to put it in a smoker that has been warmed to 225 degrees Fahrenheit. However, because the fish will cook quickly, this approach is likely to result in the creation of the ugly white albumin on the fish.
By starting off at a lower temperature and gradually and slowly increasing it, you will reduce the risk of the albumin oozing from the fillets.
How to ensure that the fish is ready?
In order to make sure that your fish is cooked properly and is safe to eat, you may want to use a suitable meat thermometer like the Thermapen MK4 for quick and instant temperature readings or a wireless thermometer like the ThermoPro TP20, which will allow you to monitor the temperature of the fish without having to open the smoker and thus will prevent the smoke and heat from getting out.
Adding glaze to the trout
While glazing the fish during the smoking is optional, it is a great way to ensure that your trout or salmon ends up with a beautiful and delicious glaze.
To make the glaze, mix the following ingredients in a bowl:
- Apple cider vinegar
- Brown sugar
- Cayenne pepper
Stir them until the honey and sugar have dissolved, and use a basting brush to apply the glaze on the surface of the fish every hour during the smoking.
How to prepare delicious smoked trout?
- 6 Trout fillets (rainbow, lake, or brook trout) or a whole gutted and gilled trout
For the dry brine:
- Kosher salt (not table salt) – ½ cup
- Brown sugar – ½ cup
- Garlic powder – ¼ teaspoon
- Onion powder – ¼ teaspoon
- Paprika – 1 tablespoon
Or for the wet brine:
- Water cool – 4 cups
- Kosher salt – 2 tablespoons
- Brown sugar – 2 tablespoons
For the glaze (optional):
- Honey – 1.4 cup
- Apple cider vinegar – ¼ cup
- Brown sugar – 2 tablespoons
- Cayenne pepper – ½ teaspoon (this one is optional)
Step-by-step instructions for smoking trout
- Mix the ingredients for the dry or wet brine (whichever you are using) in a large bowl or container
- Place the fish inside the container, and sprinkle or let it soak in the wet brine
- Cover the bowl and let it sit in the fridge or a cold area with a temperature of up to 40 degrees Fahrenheit for 3 to 6 hours with the dry brine, or for at least 15 minutes to overnight if using wet brine. When using wet brine, make sure you place the trout inside the brine with the skin side up
- If you have used dry brine, rinse off the fillets, pat them dry with paper towels and place them on racks back in the fridge or the cool and ventilated area where you let the fish brine. When using wet brine, there is no need to rinse the fish off. This step is optional but helps the forming of the pellicle, which is essential for that rich smokiness of the fish and also for preventing the fish from cooking too quickly
- Set the smoker to 140-150 degrees Fahrenheit, and place the fish fillets on the grates over indirect heat
- Choose a mild wood, such as alder, fruitwood, oak, or maple, for smoking the delicate fish
- Mix the ingredients for the glaze, and apply it on all sides of the fish every hour during the smoking
- After two hours, increase the temperature by 20 degrees, and continue doing so until the internal temperature of the fish reaches 145 degrees Fahrenheit
- Small fillets take a few hours to smoke, but a whole large salmon or trout may take more extended hours. Use a reliable meat temperature to monitor the internal temperature of the fish throughout the cooking
- You can serve the fish warm or eat it cold. You can store it in an airtight container in the refrigerator once it has cooled down completely.
(Per 1 serving)
Calories: 219 kcal
Total fat: 6g
Saturated fat: 1g
Unsaturated fat: 4g
Trans fat: 0g