It is the end of the day, and the excitement from the lake is not over yet as your cooler is full of fresh trout- time for dinner! That is right it is that time of year again memories made while sitting out by the lake sipping a drink, watching fireflies with family and friends; that is what smoking trout is all about.
Things you will need
- A smoker- (If you are still trying to decide on the right smoker for you then you may want to head check out our tips on choosing the right smoker.)
- Pellets, Wood Chips or Charcoal (Optional)
- Mixing bowl
- Saucepan – This is optional and only needed if heating the brine
- Sharp fillet knife
- Serving tray or plate
If using a charcoal smoker, you may also need a Charcoal hot box and lighter fluid.
9 Steps of smoking trout:
Step 1: Preparation (for trout)
One of the most popular cutting techniques is filleting and Deboning with a fillet knife. When prepping Trout filets for your hot smoker, experts recommend removing the head first, do this by using a fillet knife and make a cut behind the gill plate near the head of the Trout at a 90-degree angle towards the front of the fish.
Place the knife blade through the top side of the backbone and continue to move the knife all the way down the fish to the tail cutting one fillet. Flip over the trout and continue the same process for the other side starting at the head of the fish and filleting the meat from the rib bones.
Remove any remaining pin bones from the fillets. If you miss a few, it is ok, just be cautious. Then with your hands or with a fillet knife remove the skin from the fillets. Remove any remaining fins and rinse the Trout fillets under cold water to eliminate any unnecessary fluids and fish debris.
Step 2: Curing the trout
The dry rub
Using your favorite dry rub recipe generously cover both sides of the fillets. My favorite dry rub recipe a mix sweet and spicy. Brown sugar, Cajun seasoning, and Garlic powder. Yummm!
Brine or Season
Before smoking, we recommend marinating the Trout in a brine to help hold moisture and infuse flavors of the seasoning. Keep in mind two different methods can be applied for making brine; the hot method and the cold method—both explained in further detail below.
If you chose to use the hot method, mix all of your preferred ingredients in a saucepan with water and salt then let the brine mixture cool. Alternatively, you can make brine using the cold method by eliminating the heating process.
Smother the Trout with the brine mixture making sure the Trout fillets are completely submerged in the brine mixture and place them in the refrigerator. Let them rest in the fridge for at least 15 minutes, keeping in mind 6 hours is ideal and never more than 10 hours. Before smoking, remove the trout from the brine, rinse it with cold water and let it sit until it is dry you can speed up this process by either patting it with a dry clean cloth or paper towel before putting it in the smoker.
Step 3: Prepare the Smoking Unit
There may be a few small alterations when preparing the smoking unit, depending on your style of smoker.
The general rule of thumb when prepping a smoker is to add the coals and wet wood then and heat the smoker to the desired temperature which for Trout is around 200 degrees.
If using a pellet smoker insert the wood pellets and turn on the smoker setting the temperature to 200 degrees.
If using an electric smoker add the tray or water pan that contains coal, wood, or seasoning to the lower rack of the smoker and turn it on setting the temperature to 200 degrees.
If using a charcoal smoker fill the smoker box or chamber with charcoal and ignite the coals using lighter fluid refer to the instructions on the charcoal bag and lighter fluid container for safety and the recommended amount to use. You will know the coals are ready when they are nice and hot in the middle with a slight gray ash on the outside. Once the coals are hot, spread them, out evenly throughout the smoke chamber and add the wet wood (if using wood) on top of the hot coals.
Step 4: Start the Smoking Unit
If using an electric smoking unit plug it in and turn it on setting the temperature to 200 degrees. If using a pellet smoking unit turn it on and set it to 200 degrees as well.
The key to smoking is to maintain a steady low temperature throughout the cooking process. With a charcoal smoker seal the lid tight so that smoke does not escape. Some smokers might have some smoke escape, which is ok just be sure to keep the lid closed and as tight as possible for about 30 minutes.
Step 5: Add the Trout
Once you have the prime temperature, place the Trout flat and evenly on the hot smoker rack or grate. If you used the filet cutting method and chose to keep the skin on place each filet flat skin side down, and evenly spaced, so there is plenty of room surrounding each filet.
Step 6: Smoke
Smoke the Trout filets for about 30 minutes. If the filets are larger than the average size; increase the smoking time to 45 minutes or up to an hour.
Step 7: Increase the Temperature
For a slight crispness on the Trout about 30 minutes of smoking at 200 degrees, raise the temperature of the smoker about 25 degrees and continue to smoke the trout for another 30 minutes.
Step 8: Remove
Removing the Trout can be a bit tricky if not done carefully. So, proceed with caution during this step and pay close attention. Using a flat grill spatula gently slide the Trout Filets onto the spatula and place them on a serving tray or plate.
Step 9: Eat or Refrigerate
Finally, the moment has arrived your Trout is smoked and ready for you and your loved ones to enjoy. If you have leftovers feel free to wrap them up and refrigerate as they will still be delicious later just as they were hot off the smoker.
Charcoal smokers provide authentic smoky flavors, but the temperature can be difficult to gauge and control. A digital thermometer can better measure temperature.
Refrigerated leftovers go great with breakfast eggs, hash browns and buttery toast on the side.
If you are out by the lake and need to be resourceful we get it; you can get away with combining the water, salt, and seasonings and skip the heating process.
If cooking the trout whole about 30 minutes into smoking, you can gently pull the top fin to remove most if not all of the pin bones. If the fins come out smoothly with the bones, that indicates your trout is ready.
- Trout is a type of fish that has many small and tiny pin bones and can be a choking hazard or cause pain if not removed.
- Using dry wood can be a fire hazard.
- Never leave your hot smoker unattended.
- Consuming raw or uncooked fish may cause mercury poisoning or leave your susceptible to other germs and bacteria.
Now you are prepped, ready and know how to smoke Trout next time you are out on the lake. Share your favorite smoked trout recipe with us by commenting in the box below.