*This post and recipes are sponsored by my friends at Kingsford Charcoal. All recipes and opinions are my own, however.
As you know, I’m all about grilling and smoking foods. A lot of people put their grills into hibernation in the fall or winter, but I’m here to tell you those are my favorite times of the year to grill or smoke foods. It’s much cooler weather, some of the best “comfort recipes” come off the smoker or grill, and you don’t get chased by wasps or other creatures.
This recipe for Smoked Trout is delicious any time of the year. However, my preference for smoked or grilled fish always seems to grow when it cools down outside. Make sure to cook two or three extra trout and make the delicious smoked trout dip as well!
Many people love to brine pork or poultry, but I’ve never really thought there was much improvement by doing that. However, I do believe in brining fish, especially if you are going to smoke it. Brining will add flavor for sure, but more importantly, will help the texture of the fish. It also will help the fish retain moisture, giving you a much more pleasing bite.
Brining time can range from as little as 15-minutes (on a thin salmon filet or fish steak) to overnight (the way I do these trout.)
After brining, it is very important to let the fish dry. Remove fish from the brine and rinse thoroughly to remove excess salt, then pat dry with paper towels. At that point, it will need to go in the fridge for a while to help if form a tacky, outer layer called a pellicle. The pellicle helps smoke flavors adhere to the trout, and will greatly increase the flavor if you give it enough time to form.
Types of Brines
When people think of brines, they generally think of wet brines, where salt, sugar and flavorings are dissolved in water and a meat is soaked in the solution for some time. Dry brining is simply mixing sugar with salt (and other flavors as desired) and placing directly on the meat. If I brine my turkey, I use a dry brine. When I’m doing fish, I love a wet brine for the flavor and moisture it adds to the dish.
Smoking and brining trout
Trout is one of my favorite fish to grill or smoke. First, it’s basically portioned for you- one small to medium trout per person. I love cooking whole fish (or whole hogs, turkeys, etc,) as I think you get a much better flavor. These fish are small enough to go in most people’s smokers or grill and still look great on a plate. Now, I’ve happily smoked and grilled trout without brining and gotten delicious results. If that’s the route you want to go, then just skip down to the seasoning in the recipe, season your fish, stuff a few herbs inside and smoke. Dinner will be on the table, and soon!
If you want to go the brining route, you’ll need to think a bit ahead. I generally make this a 20-24-hour procedure. The evening before I plan to grill the fish, I make my brine. I keep it fairly simple – salt, sugar, 2-quarts hot water, 3-quarts ice, and some fresh herbs and peppercorns. Mix the salt and sugar with the hot water until dissolved. Add in the ice to cool down the solution, then add the remaining ingredients you are using. Add in the whole trout, cover, and place in the fridge overnight.
The next morning, I rinse and pat dry the fish, then prop the interior cavity open with a sprig of rosemary (if you like a herbal flavor,f not, use a toothpick). Place them on a tray and let them dry for most of the day, or at least 6-hours to help you form the pellicle.
Get that Smoke Rollin’!
Preparing your smoker to run for smoking trout is easy, just get some help from my friends at Kingsford. I love their Kingsford Original Charcoal (the famous “blue bag”). I’ve been a Kingsford user for years for one reason, and one reason only, it is consistent. I know how it will burn, and that makes it easy for me to cook, whether I’m cooking at the World Barbecue Championship or my own backyard.
I like to smoke trout at 250-degrees. I’m not trying to smoke-cure it, I’m just adding flavor. For these trout, I used a few apple wood chunks to provide a nice light smoke flavor. Fire up a smoker (or grill set up for indirect grilling) and let it stabilize at 250-degrees. Lightly oil your grates before putting the on the trout. Remove the trout from the fridge and lightly season the interior of the fish. Place on the smoker and let them smoke for about 40-minutes to an hour, or until they reach an internal temperature of 145-degrees. The meat should be opaque and flaky. I like to remove the trout and serve directly as dinner for a really delicious meal.
Remember those extra trout I said to add?
This is where the real deliciousness comes in and is one of my favorite things to prepare. I refrigerate the extra trout, then pull the meat from two or three of them (about 8-10 ounces of meat.) Then mix with cream cheese, sour cream, fresh herbs, and other seasonings. Make it the centerpiece of an appetizer platter and your guests will go wild!
Other delicious uses for smoked trout
Smoked trout has such a nice flavor it can be used in any number of dishes. I like to toss cooked penne, olive oil, and some herbs with some trout to make a refreshing, flavorful pasta.
As always, I hope you enjoyl
- smoker or grill
For the Brine
- 4 whole small to medium sized fresh trout
- 2/3 cup kosher salt
- 1 cup sugar
- 2 quarts hot water
- 3 quarts ice
- 2 TBS cracked peppercorns
- 6 sprigs thyme
- 6 sprigs rosemary
For the seasoning
- 2 TBS kosher salt
- 1/2 TBS black pepper
- 1 TBS smoked paprika
- 1/2` TBS dried thyme
- 1 tsp granulated garlic
- 1 tsp onion powder
- Combine hot water, salt and sugar and stir until brine is mixed. Add remaininng brine ingredients and then add trout. Cover, place in fridge, and allow to brine overnight.
- Remove the fish from the brine in the morning. Rinse well, and then pat dry. Prop open interiour of fish with a rosemary sprig or toothpick. Put on a wire cooling rack and place in the fridge uncovered for at least 6 hours.
- Fire up smoker using applewood or your favorite, lightly flavored wood. Get smoker to 250 degrees. Oil racks then place fish on smoker. Cook 40 minutes or until an internal thermometer reaches 145 degrees. Remove from smoker and serve.
- 8-10 oz smoked trout, skin and bones removed
- 4 oz cream cheese bring to room temperature
- 4 oz sour cream
- 1 tsp kosher salt
- 1/2 tsp black pepper
- juice 1 lemon
- 1 TBS minced Italian parsley
- 1 tsp minced fresh rosemary
- 1 TBS Pink Peppercorns, lightly cracked
- In a mixer, combine all ingredients. Mix at low speed until thoroughly incorporated.Serve chilled.