This is how you properly brine and smoke a whole trout on the Traeger Grill (or whatever smoker you have). This method works for fillets as well, but you have to adjust the time spent on the smoker. This smoked trout recipe takes a bit of time to come together, but the majority of that is hands-off. The results are a delicious salty, smoky fish that is better than anything you can get from the store.
I also have a similar recipe for smoked salmon — How To Smoke Salmon On The Traeger Grill — which uses a more complicated brine recipe including beets, blood oranges, and pomegranate molasses. Did you know that salmon and trout can often be used interchangeably in the same recipes? Well, now you do.
I Have a Secret Trout Fishing Spot
It's in Ontario, but that's about all I can tell you about it.
Every summer I regularly pull out massive trophy Speckled (also called Brook) trout from pristine water. But I'm not after trophies, I'm looking to stock my freezer with practically free wild fish for the colder months. And trout is one of the most delicious freshwater fish species you can target.
It is not a walk in the park. The area is hard to reach and remote. The best lakes require bushwhacking through dense forest outfitted in a full bug suit and carrying a trolling motor and batteries — not to mention your fishing gear.
But it's worth it...
What Purpose Does a Brine Serve?
Why do we brine? The process of soaking the fish (or any meat) in salted water for a period of time causes the flesh to absorb some of the salty water through osmosis. This makes the meat moister when cooked.
You can also dry-brine, but I won't get into that here today.
To prepare your trout for smoking, you will need to brine them first. 8-10 hours will suffice, but overnight is even better.
Take your whole trout or fillets and place them in a glass or plastic dish, bowl, or pan. I find that a glass casserole dish or large Pyrex bowl with a lid works the best. Remember, the fish have to be able to be fully submerged in the brine solution so choose your vessel accordingly.
Pour 1 full measuring cup full of water over the fish, and repeat until they are fully covered and submerged in water.
Did you keep track in your head about how many full cups of water you used? Good. Remember that number. Discard the water, you will be starting with fresh water later.
The Purpose of Salt & Sugar in Brine
You can freely omit the sugar caramelization step if you're not a sugar person or feeling lazy. The most important thing here is SALT. And yes, it seems like a TON of salt.
Remember — the trout are not going to be absorbing the VAST majority of the brine, trace amounts really.
The quantity of salt used, and he scant tablespoons of sugar I include in this recipe do not permeate the flesh in their entirety. Regardless, you still need to use the correct amount for the science of osmosis to take place — 1 tablespoon of kosher salt per 1 cup of water.
And you will be rinsing the brine off the surface at the end anyway, so don't freak out if you've never done this before. It's fine.
I live in a condo and the Traeger Grill was a godsend. Prior I had an electric grill to work with and it just was not performing how I wanted.
You can use whatever smoker you have for this recipe. I can't advise you on how your brand or model works, but honestly this is such a simple recipe that you should be able to figure it out.
Buy Traeger 100% hardwood pellets (no additives) here:
Enjoying Your Smoked Trout, Some Ideas
Smoked trout is delicious hot off the grill, but if you have a big fish or a lot of them, they're equally tasty cold or at room temperature.
My favourite breakfast recipe that calls for smoked salmon works beautifully with trout as well:
A smoked trout spread with flaked fish and cream cheese with herbs is lovely, as a smoked trout salad. It's very versatile.
I have an article with some more great trout recipes here if you want to try methods other than smoking:
Serve Your Smoked Trout Alongside:
- A Pretty Summer Salad of Nasturtium Flowers & Leaves
- Wild Edibles: Stinging Nettle Soup
- Ajoblanco Extremeño: Cold Spanish Soup
The recipe is adaptable to any size, weight, and amount of trout you may have.
If you try this recipe, I would love to know what you thought. If you have any additional tips and tricks for me, I would love to hear about it in the comments below.Print
How To Smoke Whole Trout on The Traeger Grill
I hope you read the notes, because they will answer any important questions I just do not have room for in a recipe card. This is a great way to brine and smoke your freshly-caught wild (or store-bought) trout. It works for numerous other fish species too.
1 whole trout per person for dinner is recommended unless you have particularly large fish.
- Prep Time: 15 minutes
- Cook Time: 2 hours
- Total Time: 2 hours 15 minutes
- Yield: 1 trout 1x
- Category: Dinner
- Method: Smoking and Preserving
- Cuisine: North America
- Whole trout. Gutted and gilled
- Enough fresh water to fully cover and submerge your trout
- 1 tablespoon of kosher salt per 1 cup of water
- 2 tablespoons of cane sugar per trout
- 2 tablespoons of coconut amino acids (or soy or tamari sauce) per trout
- A few bay leaves
- Whole Peppercorns
- Some dark maple syrup for basting (optional)
- Toothpicks, 2-3 per trout
(I use hickory woodchips most of the time, but if you want a milder flavour try applewood.)
To Determine the Amount of Water Needed:
You only need enough fresh water to fully submerge the trout, no more. You can weigh the water too, but this is how I do it.
- Using a 1 cup measure, fully submerge the trout in fresh water.
- The amount of cups you used is the amount you need for your brine.
- I like to discard the trout water and start with a fresh batch for making the brine.
- In a large enough saucepan on medium heat, add your cane sugar (if using) and allow to melt and bubble until dark brown.
- Immediately add some of your water to stop the caramelization process and prevent the sugar from burning. WARNING: This can cause the sugar mixture to splatter, please do this with care, or remove the sugar from the heat and add water once cooled down.
- Add the rest of your water as you measured in the above steps.
- Add the kosher salt, soy/tamari/coconut aminos (if using) and bay leaves.
- Heat the water and stir until all of the sugar and salt is completely melted.
- Remove from heat and allow to come to room temperature — IMPORTANT — do not use hot brine on your trout, it will cook the fish which you do not want.
- When the brine solution has cooled down, fully submerge your trout in it and add a few teaspoons of whole black peppercorns.
- Place your trout in the refrigerator to brine anywhere from 8 hours to overnight. Overnight is preferred.
- After the trout is sufficiently brined, remove them from the solution and discard the liquid.
- Rinse your trout under cold running water to remove the brine from the surface. Failing to do so will result in an overly-salty fish.
- Pat the fish dry.
- Using 2-3 toothpicks per trout, stick them in the fish cavity to keep it propped open while drying and smoking.
- Place the trout on a rack to dry from 1-4 hours. This step is crucial in developing sticky the pellicle which helps smoke adhere to the flesh. I usually go for 2 hours at cool room temperature, but the refrigerator is probably best.
- Preheat your Traeger on the 'Smoke' setting for 5 minutes.
- Baste the trout inside and out with maple syrup using a pastry brush and place them, with their chest cavities propped open, directly on the grill.
- Set your timer for 1 hour and every hour baste the trout with more maple syrup and check to see if the flesh is flaky.
- Depending on the size, the smoking will take anywhere from 1.5 hours to 4.
- Do NOT surpass 4 hours until you are looking to make trout jerky.
- Do NOT let the temperate get above 200/220 Fahrenheit, and if it does place a bowl of ice water inside the smoker.
Keywords: trout, brook trout, speckled trout, smoked trout, Traeger grill, smoking