You can never be too careful when it comes to smoking trout. As an oily, coldwater fish, trout is a good choice for hot smoking on your grill, but without close attention to safe handling, smoking and storage procedures can encourage the growth of bacteria. Understand that while hot smoking adds flavor, it is only a “marginal preservative,” so access to a freezer is essential for long term storage. Start with fresh caught, cold trout fillets, follow marinating and smoking procedures exactly and store following safety guidelines for the safest and healthiest results.
Marinate in Brine
Add 2 cups of water and brine ingredients to a large stockpot. Although traditionally brine is a saltwater solution, a healthier brine mixture consisting of seasonings, garlic and shallots or onions will significantly reduce the sodium level in your smoked trout. Add lemon juice, sliced garlic, shallot or onion slices, salt, sugar and dill. Do not eliminate the sugar or salt ingredients, as these are necessary for curing the trout.
Add the trout fillets to the brine mixture, cover and set the pot in your refrigerator for four to five hours.
Remove the trout using tongs and discard the brine. Once brine marinade meets raw fish it will contain bacteria from the fish. This is why you can never reuse and must always discard brine marinade after removing the fish.
Add 2 cups of water to a pan and add the wood chips. Although you can choose from a variety of different types, hickory or mesquite chips provide the best smoke and flavor. Soak the wood chips a minimum of 20 minutes and a maximum of two to three hours.
Spray the grill grate with vegetable oil spray to prevent the trout from sticking as they smoke. Prepare your grill for indirect cooking by setting the drip in the middle of your grill and an equal number of charcoal briquettes on either side. The exact number of briquettes depends on the size of your grill, but in general, add about 15 briquettes for a 14-inch diameter, 16 briquettes for an 18 1/2-inch diameter and 25 briquettes for a 22 1/2-inch diameter grill.
Heat the briquettes for about 30 minutes or until they achieve a gray color. Sprinkle the wet wood chips over the coals and use tongs to place the fish in the middle of your grill, over the drip pan. Close the grill cover.
Smoke the fish for 25 to 40 minutes without turning. As an option, baste with a little olive oil every 10 minutes. When done, the trout will be golden brown and will flake easily if you pick at the skin with a fork.
Transfer the fish to a serving platter using tongs.
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FDA Food Storage Temperature Guidelines
- Store smoked trout in your refrigerator for up to seven days. If you do not plan to eat it within this time frame, freeze it immediately after smoking.
- Wash your hands with hot water and soap before and after handling raw fish. Take extra care with cooking utensils that encounter raw fish and wash in very hot, soapy water before reusing. For example, wash the tongs you use for removing trout from the marinating brine before using them to place the trout on the grill and again before removing the trout from the grill.
Based in Green Bay, Wisc., Jackie Lohrey has been writing professionally since 2009. In addition to writing web content and training manuals for small business clients and nonprofit organizations, including ERA Realtors and the Bay Area Humane Society, Lohrey also works as a finance data analyst for a global business outsourcing company.