A smoked trout dinner is a tasty finale to a fine day of trout fishing on the White River or anywhere these spirited fighters are found.
Think of smoked anything and the mind conjures visions of the feast smoking slowly for hours on end while diners get impatient. A dinner of smoked trout can be ready in as little as 90 minutes. All that’s needed is a grill with a lid and simple ingredients found in most kitchens.
A key is to brine the trout for an hour before putting it on the grill to smoke for 30 to 45 minutes. Here’s what to do.
Filet your trout like you would warm water fish like crappie, but leave the skin on. This way, there’s no bones to mess with when it’s time for fine dining, and trout have a lot of them.
Now, make a simple brine by mixing a quart of cold water, two tablespoon of salt and one-quarter cup of brown sugar. White sugar will do. Stir until the salt and sugar dissolves. Add the trout filets to the brine and soak for at least an hour in the refrigerator. Longer is fine.
This brine mixture is enough to soak maybe six filets. Double the ingredients if the trout were jumping in the boat, and you’ve got a pile of filets. If you’ve caught a limit of five rainbow trout, that’s 10 filets.
Next, clean the grill grate with cooking oil to prevent the filets from sticking to the grate. Fire up a fair amount of charcoal, maybe 20 briquettes. You don’t want a real hot fire. When the coals are ready, move them over to one side of the grill. Put a chunk of hickory chips or other smoking wood on top of the coals.
Some recipes recommend soaking the smoking wood in water. Here at the shack-ri-la, we’ve found that soaked wood lowers the cooking temperature inside the grill — not good — and the wet wood takes longer to start smoking. We smoke our trout with a single dry chunk of hickory, about half the size of a fist.
Take the filets out of the brine and pat dry with paper towels. Place the trout filets skin side down on the cool side of the grill, as far from the coals as possible. Close the lid and, if it’s the removable kind, rotate it so the vents are directly over the fish to draw smoke over the filets. Close the vents about half way.
Watch and smell that wonderful smoke curl out of your grill for about 30 minutes. It’s good to check the temperature of the fish with a digital meat thermometer. Around 125-130 degrees is perfect doneness. Smoking adds delicious flavor and an appetizing, caramel color to the trout filets.
Smoked trout hot off the grill can’t be beat. The next best thing is leftovers, if there are any, enjoyed cold as an appetizer. Cut the fish into bite-sized pieces and place one on a cracker.
Not into fishing or maybe the trout didn’t bite? Grocery stores and fish markets sell whole rainbow trout, but it’s rewarding to catch and bring home dinner for the family.
We’ve never tried smoking warm-water fish like catfish or crappie this way. Maybe we’ll give that a whirl soon when the crappie are jumping in the boat.