Follow these easy steps to turn freshly caught lake trout into the most delicious Smoked Trout you will ever taste. Enjoy the smoked fish on its own as a snack or appetizer or add it to salads, dips, and pastas.
Want a sneak a peek into my family’s recipe box? It truly is a treasure trove of delicious home cooking and I love sharing these special recipes with you. Check out grandma’s Pickled Garlic Dill Carrots and Strawberry Rhubarb Fluff (my favourite dessert).
PS. I hope she doesn’t mind that I altered her Creamed Garden Peas and Bread and Butter Pickles recipes!
Brined Smoked Trout
This post was so difficult to write without drooling all over my keyboard. Believe me, the flavour of this smoked trout is something you will never forget. The day we smoked this fish, our boys came over and promptly demolished two of the filets as soon as they came out of the smoker!
Unlike west coast style candied smoked salmon, this smoked trout sits in a wet brine of equal parts salt to sugar, so it isn’t overly sweet. The meat is moist and slight chewy – the perfect textural balance in my opinion. If you prefer a softer texture, either use the lowest recommended brining time or less salt/sugar in the brine.
Smoking trout filets is easier (and quicker) than smoking whole trout. However, since they have more exposed surface area, they can dry out during the smoking process if you aren’t careful. Today I’m sharing some preventative tips and tricks along with this favourite family recipe.
A Cherished Family Smoked Trout Recipe
This smoked trout recipe fits into the category of our family’s cherished recipes. Smoking, pickling, and canning fish are all preservation techniques we use to preserve our catch. In fact, these methods are a way of life and have been for decades.
Of the three techniques, I always got incredibly excited when grandpa was smoking fish. Back in the day, he made his own smoking chamber out of wood and chicken wire, and he would cold smoke the fish for days. Lake trout was and still is the best fish for smoking, although sometimes there was rainbow trout too, depending on the catch.
These days my dad smokes his trout fillets in a chest style pellet smoker. It’s much easier to control the temperature and smoke level with this set up. However, I developed this smoked trout recipe using a barrel style charcoal smoker. Any style smoker will do, if it will achieve a low enough temperature.
Top Tips and Tricks for this Recipe
- Start with firm, fresh trout fillets of similar sizes to ensure even cooking.
- Pick your brine strength. Use a stronger brine or longer brining period for a chewy texture and a lighter brine or shorter brining period for a light flaky texture.
- Choose light flavoured wood chips (or pellets) like apple or even cherry. Fish flesh has a delicate flavour that may become overpowered by strong smoking woods like hickory or Mesquite.
- Add some humidity. This is especially important with a barrel smoker. A water pan (or the drip tray of a chest smoker) of cold water helps control the cook temperature and prevents the fish from drying out.
- Place a piece of parchment paper or Aluminium foil in between the fish and the grill. This helps keep the fish moist and prevents sticking.
- Smoke the fish at a low, steady temperature until it reaches 145 degrees F when measured with a thermometer.
How to Make Brined Smoked Trout
Brine the Trout
To make the wet brine, place kosher salt, brown sugar, water, and pickling spices in a large saucepan and bring the mixture to a simmer. Cook and stir for a few minutes until salt and sugar have dissolved. Allow the brine to cool to room temperature.
Next, inspect the fresh trout filets and remove any remaining bones with fish tweezers then place them in a large freezer bag or suitable container.
Pour the room temperature brine over the trout until they are submerged. Squeeze the air out of the bag before sealing it. Alternatively, place a plate or other food safe object over the fish to keep it submerged.
Place brining fish in the fridge and allow to brine for at least 4 hours but ideally overnight and no longer than 24 hours.
Smoke the Trout
Prepare the smoker by placing cold water in the drip pan then pre heat the smoker to 200 F.
Next, remove fish from the brine and pat dry with paper towel, removing most of the pickling spices.
To smoke trout, place filets skin side down on the grill (or use parchment paper/Aluminium foil). Add preferred hard wood chips and allow fish to smoke for 60 minutes to 3 hours, depending on how thick the filets are.
Keep the temperature between 175 F and 200 F and do not allow the temperature to rise above 225 F or the fish will dry out quickly.
When the fish turns slightly opaque and begins to flake, check internal temperature of the fish with a meat thermometer. The fish is done cooking when it reaches 145 F. Enjoy smoked fish warm or cold.
To store smoked trout, wrap it tightly in paper towel and store in a plastic bag in the fridge for up to one week. To store in the freezer, seal the fish in vacuum-sealed bags and freeze for up to one year. Remove and thaw as needed.
How to Serve Smoked Trout
There are so many ways to enjoy this smoked treat. Firstly, you must eat smoked trout warm right out of the smoker like my boys do. It’s so good! Warm smoked trout is amazing in a creamy pasta dish, in a quiche or fish chowder. You can serve it warm or cold as a cream cheese smoked trout dip on crackers.
Cold smoked trout is intriguing on a charcuterie board while combining it with capers and mayonnaise makes a mouthwatering sandwich filling. Try replacing canned tuna with smoked trout in Niçoise Salad or using it in place of the traditional ham in Eggs Benedict.
Hi! I’m Bernice Hill and I’ve been the sole recipe developer, photographer, and writer at Dish ‘n’ the Kitchen for the past eleven years. It is my pleasure to share easy to follow recipes that are delicious, nutritious, and approachable for the whole family.
If you make this Brined Smoked Trout recipe, I’d love to hear about it in the comments section or in a recipe rating. Be sure to follow me on Facebook and Pinterest for my latest recipes. Also, if you do make this recipe please share your photos and tag me on Instagram. I hope you like this recipe!
- 2-6 Fresh Lake Trout filets (1-3 fish)
- 1/2 cup Kosher Salt*
- 1/2 Brown Sugar
- 8 cups water
- 1/2 cup Pickling Spice
BRINE THE TROUT
- Place brine ingredients in a large saucepan and bring to a simmer. Simmer and stir until salt and sugar have dissolved. Allow the brine to cool.
- Inspect trout filets and remove any remaining bones with fish tweezers then place them in a large freezer bag or suitable container.
- Pour the room temperature brine over the trout until they are submerged. Squeeze the air out of the bag before sealing it. Alternatively, place a plate or other food safe object over the fish to keep it submerged.
- Place brining fish in the fridge and allow to brine for at least 4 hours but ideally overnight and no longer than 24 hours.
- Remove fish from the brine and pat dry with paper towel, removing most of the pickling spices.
SMOKE THE TROUT
- Bring the smoker up to 200 F. Remove fish from the fridge and place the trout filets skin side down on the grill**.
- Add preferred hard wood chips*** and allow to smoke between 175 F and 200 F. Do not allow temperature to rise above 225 F or the fish will dry out quickly.
- Smoke the trout for 60 minutes to 3 hours, depending on how thick the filets are. When the fish turns slightly opaque and begins to flake, it is done smoking. Check internal temperature of the fish with a meat thermometer to be sure it has reached 145 F.
- Serve warm or cold.
*Amount of Kosher salt and brown sugar can be reduced to 1/4 cup (per 8 cups/half gallon of water) if desired. Always keep the 1:1 ratio of salt to sugar.
**If desired, place filets on their own little 'boat' of parchment paper or Aluminum foil. This decreases moisture loss and helps keep the fish moist.
***Lighter, fruit woods are best for smoked trout as strong flavours like hickory will overwhelm the delicate flavour. Use alder or willow for a more traditional flavour.
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 59Total Fat: 3gSaturated Fat: 1gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 2gCholesterol: 22mgSodium: 3048mgCarbohydrates: 0gFiber: 0gSugar: 0gProtein: 7g
Nutritional calculation was provided by Nutritionix and is an estimation only. For special diets or medical issues please use your preferred calculator.