Learn how to make Smoked Trout on ANY grill or smoker!
Smoked Trout Fillets are delicious and incredibly easy to prepare.
Whether you are using a pellet grill like a Traeger, Camp Chef, or Pit Boss, an electric smoker like a Masterbuilt, or just a conventional propane grill like a Weber, we’ve got you covered.
Preparing your Trout for Smoking
Rinse and Dry the Trout
The first thing you want to do when preparing your trout is to give it a good rinse under cold running water.
Then place it on your cutting board and pat it very dry with paper towels.
Once it is dry, run your fingers along the trout checking for any bones that were not removed previously.
If you feel any, remove them with some tweezers and discard.
Lastly, slice your trout into about 2 inch portion sized fillets.
Dry Brine the Trout Overnight
Now, like we did with our honey smoked salmon, the BEST way to prepare trout for smoking is to dry brine it for at least 4 hours, but preferably 8 hours or more overnight in a mixture of brown sugar, salt, and pepper.
This not only flavors the trout really well but draws out all the moisture and cures the trout, leaving it perfectly ready for the smoker.
Don’t worry, your smoked trout will still be VERY juicy and tender when you eat it it.
You will need:
- A Covered Baking Dish or Plastic Sealable Container
- 3 Cups Dark Brown Sugar
- 1 Cup Kosher Salt
- 1 Tbsp Fresh Cracked Pepper
You may not need this much brine if you are only doing a couple fillets. But keep the ratio of sugar to salt 3:1.
Mix the brine mixture ingredients together well and place some in the bottom of the baking dish.
Place the trout fillets on top of the mixture, then spread more of the brine mixture over the fillets, trying to cover every exposed surface of the fish.
Continue to layer your trout fillets like this, depending on how much fish you have, packing the brine mixture around them, and then cover the whole dish tightly with plastic wrap or a cover.
Place the baking dish in the refrigerator for 6-8 hours overnight.
Rinse and Dry the Trout Before Smoking
When you take out the trout the next day, you will see A LOT of moisture has come out of the fish.
This is normal.
Take the trout fillets out of the tray and rinse them off really well under cold running water, pat dry with paper towels, and place them on a wire rack over a baking sheet to air dry.
Keep them on the wire rack for about 1-2 hours while you start to get your grill or smoker ready.
Over the course of an hour or so the dry brined salmon will form what is known as a pellicle on the exterior.
This is just a fancy term for a sticky layer that forms as some of the salt and sugar that infused last night makes its way to the surface.
The pellicle is the ideal surface to absorb smokey flavor and form a delicious crust on the trout as it smokes, so give it time to form.
If you are in a rush, the pellicle will form even faster if you bring the trout outside or set up a box fan to circulate air gently on the fish while it is on the wire rack.
The Best Seasonings for Smoked Trout
Now, go easier than you normally might with any additional seasonings because your trout fillets are already very well salted.
If you just want the taste of the smoked trout to shine through, don’t even bother with additional seasoning.
The pellicle that is forming on the outside of the trout is almost like a layer of rub on the fish.
If you DO want some additional savory flavor or heat, then we can suggest a simple SALT FREE BBQ rub such as the following:
Salt Free BBQ Rub for Brined Fish
- 2 Tbsp Smoked Paprika
- 1 Tbsp Chili Powder
- 1/2 Tbsp Garlic Powder
- 1/2 Tbsp Onion Powder
- 1/2 Tbsp Black Pepper
- 1/2 Tsp Cayenne
Adjust as necessary depending how many trout fillets you are smoking.
You can also use regular paprika if you don’t have smoked paprika.
Best Wood Choices for Smoked Trout
Trout is an oiler fish so it will hold up well to a longer smoke than more delicate white fish such as tilapia.
It will however absorb quite a bit of smokey flavor over the same period of time when compared to heavy meats like beef or pork, so you also don’t want to overdo it with a very aggressive smoking wood.
If you want to keep it simple and straightforward, choose a lighter smoking wood like oak, apple, or peach.
Middle of the road? Try hickory or cherry.
We recommend staying away from mesquite unless you only plan to add smoke for the first 20 minutes or so.
A little goes a long way with mesquite.
You can also experiment with cooking your smoked trout on cedar planks for added woods-ey flavor.
Best Times and Temperatures for Smoked Trout
What is the Best Temperature to Smoke Trout?
We are going to set up the smoker for very low and slow indirect cooking at 225°F.
This will give the trout about 2 hours to cook and absorb plenty of smokey flavor while remaining SUPER tender and delicate.
Target Internal Temperature for Smoked Trout
You HAVE to use a good instant read meat thermometer to know where the internal temperature is of your smoked trout, so as to make sure they are not over or under cooked.
We are particular fans of this one from ThermoPro because of its durability and affordable price.
We are targeting a final internal temperature of 145°F on the smoked trout to know that it is safe to eat and finished cooking.
How Long Does it Take to Smoke Trout Fillets?
At 225°F, our smoked trout fillets will take about 2 hours to cook and come up to 145°F internally.
This gives the smoked trout plenty of time to absorb a good amount of smoke and really develop some great flavors on the smoker.
They may take a little longer or less time depending on the size of your trout fillets.
That is why you need a good instant read thermometer and why we always cook to TEMPERATURE, not TIME.
Smoking Trout Fillets with Cedar Planks, Grill Baskets, or Phat Mats
Option 1: Cedar Planks
You can experiment with smoking your trout on cedar planks for some added woods-ey flavor.
Make sure to soak the cedar planks in water for at least an hour before putting them on your grill or smoker so that they don’t char and burn.
This also helps release steam and flavor the smoked trout fillets while they are smoking.
Option 2: Use a Grill Basket or Grill Mat
Because trout fillets, and really any fish, are more delicate than other cuts of meat, you may be more successful if you place the fillets in a grill basket rather than directly on the grill grates of your grill or smoker.
We are particular fans of the ORDORA Portable Grill Basket because it comes with its own handle, making it much easier to manage and move lots of delicate food, even shrimp, scallops, and asparagus around with one quick motion.
Our personal favorite is the PhatMat Non Stick Grill Mat.
Just throw it down on your grill to keep your smoked trout (or any other food) from falling through.
It keeps your grates really clean, and when you are done, you just throw it right in the dishwasher!
Setting up your Grill or Smoker for Smoked Trout
Ok, we have prepared our trout for smoking and know all our times and temperatures.
Now it’s time to get down to the business of setting up the grill or smoker to cook these smoked trout fillets.
Feel free to jump to the section with the kind of grill or smoker you own.
Vertical or Offset Charcoal Smoker
Fill your firebox or lower charcoal basin with about 1/4 bag of unlit charcoal and create a small hollowed out depression in the center where you can add your lit briquets.
If your smoker comes with a water pan, like the Weber Smokey Mountain, fill the water pan as well to help stabilize the temperature and add moisture to the cooking chamber.
Light a charcoal chimney about 1/4 way with charcoal and wait about 15 minutes for it to fully ignite.
You will not need too many lit briquets here because we are trying to keep the smoker temperature very low for about 2 hours at the most.
Fill your water pan first, then add the lit briquets to the center depression you created.
Keep the dampers about 1/2 way to 3/4 open until the cooking chamber temperature reaches about 175°F. Then slowly close them down until they are just barely open and you are maintaining a temperature of 225° F.
Place 1 chunk of your chosen smoking wood on top of your lit charcoal once the smoker is up to temperature and put your salmon on once the smoker is actively producing smoke..
Propane or Electric Smoker
Propane and electric options are some of the easiest smokers for beginners to start with.
For Propane: Open your gas valve and light the bottom burner. Adjust it to keep the temperature constant at 225° F.
Need a refresher? Check our our Complete Guide to How to Use a Propane Smoker HERE.
Fill the water tray if there is one.
You will need to refill the wood chips every 30 minutes or so as they smolder out in the chip loader, which will end up being about 4-5 times during the 2-3 hour cook.
However, we recently found a great solution.
If you are tired of having to reload fresh wood chips into your electric smoker, especially on longer cooks like pork butt and brisket, then check out this Masterbuilt Automatic Slow Smoker Attachment.
It basically burns new fresh wood chips at a constant rate, much like how a pellet grill works, freeing you up to do other things while getting your food nice and smokey!
Fill the pellet hopper with your choice of smoking wood pellets.
Plug in the pellet grill, turn it on and let it run through its start up process.
Then turn the temperature to 225°F.
Never used a pellet grill like a Traeger or a Pit Boss before?
Read our ultimate guide to pellet grills to learn why they are so easy to use and how to set one up for success every time.
Gas or Charcoal Grill
And if you need a full lesson on how to smoke on a gas grill the RIGHT way, check out our Ultimate Guide to Smoking on a Gas Grill HERE.
In the case of smoked trout, we would opt for just using the smoker tube filled about half way with pellets since we will be cooking for longer than the 20-30 minutes a smoker box full of wood chips will last.
Set up your gas or charcoal grill for indirect cooking with the burners or a small amount of lit briquets on one side and plan for your trout to be on the other side, preferably on a grill mat like a PhatMat Non Stick Grill Mat.
Because we are keeping the temperature relatively LOW at 225°F, you don’t need much heat.
Probably just one lit burner if using a gas grill, and one handful of charcoal if using a charcoal kettle grill.
Once the temperature of your grill is around 225°F, place your smoker box or pellet tube smoker over the coals or lit burners and once smoke begins coming out, place your trout on the opposite side of the heat.
Make sure to oil the grates on the indirect side well so that the fish does not stick.
Monitor your Grill Temperature
Almost every grill and smoker will have some sort of temperature gauge on them.
This is what makes them so convenient!
If, however, you are using a charcoal or propane grill/smoker, you can’t rely on the cheap lid mounted temperature gauge that come installed on them.
We have found these can sometimes be up to 30°F off from the true actual temperature at the grill grate level!
This is unacceptable.
This is why you will always see competition cooks, and backyard chefs who know their stuff, using wireless digital probe thermometers to keep track of both their meat AND their cooking chamber.
We are big fans of the ThermoPro Wireless Digital Meat Thermometer series.
Finishing and Serving the Smoked Trout
Your smoked trout fillets should be served immediately after removing them from the grill or smoker.
What Other Food Can I Smoke on a Grill or Smoker?
Looking for some more smoky inspiration?
So glad you asked.
Check out some of our other great recipes of smoked and grilled food to try out at your next outdoor BBQ!
- Honey Smoked Salmon
- Smoked Oysters in a Garlic White Wine Sauce
- Smoked Scallops with Lemon Butter Sauce
- Smoked Lobster Tails
- Honey Smoked Tilapia
- Perfect Smoked Halibut
- Smoked Mahi Mahi Fillets
- Smoked Swordfish Steaks
- Smoked Crab Legs with Cajun Clarified Butter
- Smoked Mackerel with Maple Balsamic Glaze
- Smoked Catfish with Cajun BBQ Rub
- Smoked Red Snapper with Blackening Rub
- Traeger Baby Back Ribs
- Traeger Smoked Pulled Pork
- Traeger 3-2-1 Pork Ribs
- Traeger Smoked Pork Loin
- Pit Boss Pulled Pork
- Pit Boss Smoked Baby Back Ribs
- Pit Boss Smoked Pork Loin
- Pit Boss 3-2-1 Ribs
- Camp Chef Pulled Pork
- Masterbuilt Electric Smoker Boston Butt
- Masterbuilt Baby Back Ribs
- Pellet Grill Smoked Pork Chops
- Pellet Grilled Bratwurst
- Gas Grilled Bratwurst
- Smoked Fresh Holiday Ham
- Spiral Sliced Smoked Hot Dogs
- Smoked Bratwurst with Beer Braised Onions
- Roasted Pig in Your Backyard
- Traeger Smoked Prime Rib
- Traeger Beef Tenderloin with Horseradish Cream
- Traeger Smoked Beef Brisket
- Traeger Smoked Chuck Roast
- Traeger Smoked Pot Roast
- Pit Boss Beef Brisket
- Pit Boss Smoked Beef Tenderloin
- Pit Boss Smoked Prime Rib
- Pit Boss Smoked Chuck Roast
- Masterbuilt Smoked Chuck Roast
- Masterbuilt Beef Brisket
- Perfect Smoked London Broil
- Smoked Ribeye Roast
- Smoked Corned Beef
- Smoked Ribeye Steaks
- Smoked Filet Mignon
- Hot and Fast Pellet Grill Beef Brisket
- Pellet Grilled Steak
- Perfect Grilled Hamburgers
- Smoked Eye of Round Roast Beef
- Easy Smoked Flank Steak
- Pit Boss Smoked Whole Chicken
- Pit Boss Smoked Chicken Thighs
- Smoked Chicken Leg Quarters
- Beer Can Chicken on a Pellet Grill
- Spatchcocked Chicken on a Pellet Grill
- Pellet Grill Smoked Turkey Breast
- Pellet Grill Turkey
- Easy Smoked Turkey Legs
- Spatchcock Smoked Turkey on a Pellet Grill
- Trash Can Turkey – OK, technically not made on a grill or smoker but one of the most fun ways there is to cook a Turkey…at over 700 degrees in only 2 hours!
- Smoked Leg of Lamb with Guinness Marinade
- Smoked Lamb Chops with a Balsamic Butter Sauce
- Smoked Rack of Lamb with Garlic and Rosemary or Smoker
- Smoked and Pulled Lamb Shoulder with a Turkish Spice Rub
- Smoked Lamb Shanks
Other Odds and Ends
- Masterbuilt Smoked Cheese
- Smoked Gouda Cheese
- Smoked Asparagus
- Easy Smoked Broccoli
- Smoked Cauliflower
- Sticky Smoked Sweet Potatoes
- How to Steam Tamales
- Maple Bourbon Smoked Pineapple
Easy Smoked Trout Fillets
- Gas Grill, Pellet Grill, or Smoker
- Wood pellets, chunks, or a pellet tube smoker with pellets or a smoker box with wood chips
- Cutting Board and Knife
- Paper Towels
- Baking Dish
- Plastic Wrap
- Wire Rack
- Baking Sheet
- Instant Read Thermometer
- Grill Mat (optional)
- 6 4-6 oz Trout Fillets skin on
Overnight Dry Brine
- 3 Cups Dark brown sugar
- 1 Cup Kosher Salt
- 1 Tbsp Fresh black pepper
Salt Free BBQ Rub for Brined Fish
- 2 Tbsp Smoked Paprika
- 1 Tbsp Chili Powder
- ½ Tbsp Garlic Powder
- ½ Tbsp Onion Powder
- ½ Tbsp Black Pepper
- ½ Tsp Cayenne Pepper optional for heat
Rinse and Dry the Trout
- Rinse the trout fillets under cold running water.
- Place them on your cutting board and pat very dry with paper towels
- Once dry, run your fingers along the trout checking for any bones that were not removed previously.
- If you feel any, remove them with some tweezers and discard.
Dry Brine the Trout Overnight
- Mix the brine mixture ingredients together well and place some in the bottom of the baking dish.
- Place the trout fillets on top of the mixture, skin side UP, then spread more of the brine mixture over the fillets, trying to cover every exposed surface of the fish.
- Continue to layer your fillets like this, depending on how much fish you have, packing the brine mixture around them, and then cover the whole dish tightly with plastic wrap or a lid.
- Place the baking dish in the refrigerator for 6-12 hours overnight.
Rinse and Dry the Brined Salmon
- After the trout is finished brining, take the fillets out of the brining liquid and rinse them off really well under cold running water.
- Pat dry with paper towels, and place them on a wire rack on top of a baking sheet to air dry.
- Keep them on the wire rack for about 1-2 hours while you start to get your grill or smoker ready.
- You can optionally season them lightly with the Salt Free BBQ Rub for Brined Fish if you want extra savory flavor.
Set up your Grill or Smoker
- Light or turn on your smoker, grill or pellet grill and set up the temperature to 225°F. If using a grill, only light a small amount of charcoal or light a single burner on one side for indirect cooking
- Brush the grill grates with oil to keep the trout from sticking. Ideally use a grill mat.
- Add your wood chunks directly to the firebox of a smoker, or use chips in a smoker box, or pellets in a tube smoker or pellet grill.
- Once smoke is being produced and the grill or smoker is at 225°F, put your trout on the cool side of the grill with the skin side DOWN.
Smoking the Trout
- Smoke the trout for about 2 hours until the internal temperature reaches 145°F using an instant read thermometer.
- Remove the smoked trout from the smoker and serve immediately.