How to Smoke Trout [Cold Smoking & Brine Recipe]

Make smoked trout the right way with this cold smoking recipe. Prepared with a salt and herb brine before cold smoked over alder for the perfect flavor. Learn how to smoke trout at home with our barbecue recipe.

smoked trout recipe

We’re cooking one of my all-time favorite types of fish today: Trout. This freshwater fish carries a unique and fresh flavor that is taken to an entirely new level when done on the barbecue. With a combination of a sweet salt-water brine and cold smoking over wood, you’ll soon see why nothing is quite like this smoked fish. Let’s get into it.

You’d be forgiven for confusing trout with salmon. They both carry that unmistakable but beautiful deep orange color, as well as a thick flavor. Best of all, just like with my cold smoked salmon recipe, trout is equally good cooked low and slow.

If you’ve never had trout before, you’re in for a treat. The composition of the meat means that the fish is perfectly built for absorbing smoke. While catfish can carry quite a ‘muddy’ taste, trout boasts a much cleaner taste thanks to its status as a freshwater fish.

close up of cold smoked trout on chopping board

Brine

Like with a lot of our smoked fish recipes, our first step is brining. For the unfamiliar, brining is a crucial phase that helps preserve the moisture and flavor in the fish. This is especially important with long-form cooking methods, where prolonged exposure to heat can dry the meat out.

Some people prefer to dry brine fish (where only seasoning no water is used), but I use a wet brine for my cold smoking recipe. We’ll be using a simple mix of salt, brown sugar, and water. The salt is especially important, as it will soak into the fish and help it lock in its moisture when cooked.

You’ll need a brining bucket to brine the trout in. While you can use freezer bags or Tupperware-like containers, these special buckets are large and airtight enough to do the job. These are available in a range of sizes and are fairly inexpensive. I recommend this one on Amazon (affiliate link).

Smoking Time & Temperatures

t will take between two and three hours to smoke trout at 175°F (79°C) until the internal temperature of the fish reaches 145°F (62°C). Smoking time will vary depending on factors such as meat size, smoker airflow, and temperature consistency.

When ready, the fish should flake when prodded with a fork and should be opaque in appearance. The true test will be in internal temperature, so I recommend getting a dual probe smoker thermometer. This will help you keep on top of both meat and ambient temperature.

Wood

Because trout and other types of fish are delicate, it’s important to go for a wood that won’t overpower their natural flavors. For smoking trout, we suggest alder wood. You can also use fruit wood like apple or cherry. The smoke from alder is mild, while also delicately flavors the fish without overpowering it. For this reason, we also recommend it as a wood for smoking salmon.

Steer clear of robust and powerful woods like hickory or mesquite. While they’re well suited to tough meats like beef, they’ll dominate fish and make the meat inedible.

smoked trout recipe
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Smoked Trout

Beautiful rainbow trout for any dinner. Prepared with a wet brine before cold smoked over alder wood, this is barbecue fish done right.
Course Appetizer, Main Course
Cuisine American, BBQ
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 3 hours
Brining Time 2 hours
Total Time 5 hours 10 minutes
Servings 4

Equipment

  • Brining bucket
  • Alder wood chips

Ingredients

  • 4 rainbow trout fillets

Brine

  • ½ cup kosher salt
  • ½ cup brown sugar
  • 1 gallon water

Instructions

  • In the brining bucket, mix the water, kosher salt, and brown sugar. Stir until the salt and sugar have fully dissolved.
  • Carefully place all trout fillets in the bucket, making sure to submerge them in the brine solution. Move bucket to refrigerator and leave for at least two hours, or overnight.
  • Remove trout from the brine and wash under cold water tap to remove excess brine. Pat each fillet dry with paper towels and place on cooling rack to air dry for one hour.
  • Fire up your smoker to 175°F (79°C). Use a smoker thermometer to accurately gauge the internal temperature of the chamber.
  • When your smoker has warmed up, add alder chips to the firebox and place trout fillets on smoker grates. Smoke for 3 hours, or until the internal temperature of each fillet has reached 145°F (62°C).

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