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Easy Smoked Trout

November 9, 2011

I originally started this blog to write up technical things. But sometimes, I can’t write about the most interesting stuff because it’s proprietary, and other times the mood to write technical doesn’t strike after a long day’s work. One day at lunch, we were discussing food and in particular, smoking meat, and my coworker suggested I blog some of my cooking experiments. So, now for something completely different than the usual topics.

Usually smoking meat is an all-day affair, requiring lots of prep and ingredients, including making marinades, rubs, mops, sauces, etc. and setting up my Weber Smokey Mountain smoker.

Yesterday I had trout fillets, and since I like smoked trout but never made it, thought it would be something to try. Also, I wanted this to be simple. Since trout fillets are pretty thin, I figured an elaborate setup was unnecessary because cooking would be quite quick, and instead opted to use a Weber Smokey Joe, which isn’t really a smoker, it’s just a portable charcoal grill.

I improvised this recipe, using past experience smoking salmon as a guide. The results were outstanding. So following is the recipe and instructions:


  • Trout, filleted with skin on
  • Brine
    • 1:1:8 ratio brown sugar:salt:water
    • garlic and onion powder to taste


  1. Prepare the brine, making enough to cover the fillets in a shallow bowl or plastic bag. Heating the brine will allow the salt and sugar to fully dissolve in the water. After heating, allow it to cool to room temperature before adding fish.
  2. Allow the fish fillets to sit in the brine, for about 4 hours, in the refrigerator.
  3. Remove fish from brine, pat dry with paper towels. Return the dry dish in the refrigerator for another hour.
  4. Prepare grill:
    • For a large grill: prepare indirect heat by putting the lit charcoals on only one side of the grill.
    • For a small grill: prepare grill like normal, but with only a single layer of lit coals on the bottom rack. A small grill like Smokey Joe doesn’t allow for indirect heat so what I did was aim for low heat.
  5. Wait for the coals to burn off past their peak heat. We’re aiming for slow cooking, so don’t want a lot of fire, just enough to last about 30 minutes. Since the grill can usually stay lit for about an hour, I waited roughly a half hour before adding the fish.
  6. Right before adding the fish, put some wood into the fire. I used cedar, but cherry would also work well. Mesquite and hickory might be a bit strong for fish, but could also be used.
  7. Lay the fillets skin-side down on a sheet of tin foil. Put the foil with the fish on top of the grill, and cover the grill. On a large grill use the side without charcoal, on a small grill you have no option than to put it in the middle, but the foil will help keep direct heat off the fish.
  8. Keep grill covered for about half hour, trout should be done by then (it will easily flake away from the skin). Check periodically to make sure they do not become too dry, in which case you can stop earlier.

That’s all there is to it. If you’re looking for a dish to use the trout in, here’s what I did:

  1. Boil bite-size pasta (as opposed to string pasta), I used bow-tie shaped.
  2. Thinly slice a fennel bulb.
  3. Saute the fennel slices in olive oil until almost caramelized.
  4. Add lemon zest, and some lemon juice on the cooked fennel (I squeezed about a tablespoon or so from a half-lemon).
  5. Toss the cooked pasta and flaked trout into the pan and mix.
  6. Add some chopped fennel fronds and black pepper.

This turned out to be a good mix of flavors, containing the sweet from the caramelized fennel, the tartness of the lemon, and the saltiness of the fish. Also it was easy to make, with little prep and only a few ingredients.

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