Following is what I have learned about smoking trout so far. I am by no means an expert, but I have had good results evolving the method below and continue to learn. I use the Little and Big Chief electric smokehouses, so your mileage may vary; also, there is no reason why this method shouldn’t work for any fish – experimentation leads to success!
Most trout do not need to be filleted but I prefer them that way. A good way to fillet trout for smoking is to fillet down each side to the tail, leaving it on and attached, cutting the skeleton off from the very base of the tail. After you fillet, carefully fillet the rib bones out, sliding your fillet knife underneath them. This will take care of most, if not all of the bones. In all cases involving trout, I prefer to leave skin on, but be sure to scale your trout; if you don't, you will wish you had as a mess seems to result at various places in the process.
I have had excellent luck using a simple brine consisting of 1/2 cup of non-iodized salt (or soy sauce), 1/2 cup of white sugar (or, better yet, try brown sugar, honey, maple syrup etc.) and 2 cups of good-quality warm water (or apple juice). Stir together in a gallon jar or other non-metal, non-wood container, making sure to completely dissolve the salts and sugars, then add any of your favorite herbs and a few crushed red pepper flakes, if desired. I have also added garlic, onion, wine, tabasco and other spices with good results; you are limited only by your tastes, your imagination and what is in your kitchen. Be careful of the salt content because it is easy to have too much salt. Use fresh seasonings and reduced-salt or salt-free whenever you can, but do not use salt substitutes. When all is dissolved, add two cups of cold water or apple juice and stir. Add your trout fillets and at least a quart of water (have I mentioned that I really like to substitute apple juice?); depending on the amount of trout fillets you can usually simply fill the gallon jar. Brine at least 12 hours or overnight; be sure to stir or mix the contents periodically for good coverage.
When this is done, lightly rinse each fillet or fish in cold water, then pat dry with paper towels. Hang fish fillet-side-out by the connected tail on a rack. You can also forget the tail thing and simply lay the fillets skin-side-down on a rack or grill. If you are smoking whole trout, prop the bellies open with a toothpick or similar object and lay the fish on their side or hang them head-down. The rinsing step is not absolutely necessary if you prefer saltier tastes, but I do this as I would rather taste the spices and seasonings than the salt. Rinsing will not remove the flavors of your other seasonings; trout seems to hold the flavors of herbs and spices well. No matter what seasonings I had put into the brine, I also like to sprinkle a modest amount of crushed bay leaves and crushed red peppers on the fish when the time comes to smoke; try this, or perhaps dill or some other herb according to your tastes.
Wait an hour or so for the pellicle (a shiny, tacky “skin” on the surface of the fish) to form, then smoke your trout according to the smoker manufacturer’s instructions. Do not under any circumstances use pine, spruce, fir or other soft woods; my own preferred wood for smoking trout is maple, but apple, cherry and of course alder work very well. I am sure there are many choices that I haven't even thought of, including almost any fruit tree. Alder blended with any of the above is very nice and particularly suited for fish. Most trout has a very mellow taste, so it takes and holds smoke well. You can smoke as much as you want but medium is probably best; for the “Chief” smokers, two pans of chips are just about perfect.
After the smoking process, keep the fish over wet or dry heat depending on your smoker until done. I prefer that my fillets be still a bit moist with the meat opaque and flaking. Some prefer to continue drying the fish until it is similar to jerky; I have tried this and it is good with an intense, smoky flavor, but to me it is not nearly as versatile as leaving it moist. Keep in mind that the dryer the fish, the longer the shelf-life.
Your smoked trout can be eaten by itself or in any way you want. Peel it off the skin or, if smoked whole, peel off the skin and lift the meat right off the bones. Try it on crackers with cheese, or flake it up so it resembles canned tuna (but not nearly as moist, of course), then mix it with cream cheese or sour cream and finely-chopped green onions. Add a dash of salt-n-pepper, onion or garlic powder, tabasco, Worcestershire sauce, lemon juice or whatever you want. The result will be an excellent dip or spread that will have the neighbors, the co-workers at the office or the relatives bugging you for more.
Helfen, Wehren, Heilen
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Do not under any circumstances use pine, spruce, fir or other soft woods; my own preferred wood for smoking trout is maple, but apple, cherry and of course alder work very well. I am sure there are many choices that I haven't even thought of, including almost any fruit tree.
I have not smoked too much trout, but I have done a TON of salmon. I agree the fish does MUCH better with the milder woods, especially the fruit woods. The stronger/harsher woods like Mesquite and Hickory seem to overpower the fish.
Weber Smokey Mountain
GOSM x 2
Vermont Casting Grill
Black Thermapen (only color available in these parts)
Just wanted to add something to the end here that my Dad (after talking him in to getting an MES ) did last weekend that I'm going to try. He said it went great!
He used store-bought fresh trout fillets, and simply smoked them at 190F. He smoked them for 1 hour, but said he'd prefer 45 min. next time. He was going for moist, warm, serve-it dinner. He said he doesn't normally like trout (he was cooking at Mom's request) but said he loved it.
I'm gonna try it - sounds easy. I'll probably do a blend of Alder and Maple with a simple lemon pepper seasoning.
i was finally able to get some fishing done this past weekend, and we caught nearly a dozen fine trout. i smoked them and brought a couple of the smaller ones to work today to share with the office:
this trout was brined in a basic salt/sugar brine to which i had added apple juice, a little soy sauce, a few shakes of tabasco and a can of mountain dew. it was smoked in the little chief over applewood.
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Die Wahrheit wird euch frei machen