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How to Make Smoked Trout

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. 

Let’s go!

smoked trout on a tray

 

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.

a raw trout fillet on a paper towel

Once it is dry, run your fingers along the trout checking for any bones that were not removed previously.

pulling pin bones out of a trout fillet

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

mixing smoked trout brine ingredients together

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.

brine for smoked trout

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.

trout in a brine mixture before smoking

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.

trout brining before smoking

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.

rinsing salmon after brining before putting on smoker

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.

brined trout fillets drying on a wire rack

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.

 

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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.

loading wood chips in an electric smoker

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.

Check out our complete guide on how to grill with cedar planks HERE.

 

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.

trout fillets smoking in a smoker

 

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.

trout fillets smoking in a smoker

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.

Check out our complete guide on how to grill with cedar planks HERE.

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.

Another option is to use a grill mat, which are becoming increasingly popular in many BBQ circles, especially for delicate veggies like broccoli and small seafood like oysters.

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

Char-Broil 12201570-A1 American Gourmet Offset Smoker, Black,Standard
The entry level Char-Broil Offset Barrel Smoker.
Read Char-Broil Reviews on Amazon

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..

Want to see a list of our FAVORITE Vertical Smokers for 2021?  Check it out here!

 

Propane or Electric Smoker

Masterbuilt MB20073519 Bluetooth Digital Electric Smoker with Broiler, 30 inch, Black
The Classic Masterbuilt Electric Smoker
See Masterbuilt Reviews on Amazon

Propane and electric options are some of the easiest smokers for beginners to start with.

Debating whether to buy a propane or electric smoker?  Check out our COMPLETE Comparison Guide HERE.

 

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.

 

For Electric: Plug your electric smoker in, open the vents, and turn the temperature to 225° F.

While it comes up to temperature, add smoking wood chips, not pellets, to the smoking wood tray.

Fill the water tray if there is one.

Place your trout fillets either directly on the rack, or on your soaked cedar planks, in a grill basket, or on a Phat Mat, and close the door.

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.

Refilling wood chips is one of the major drawbacks, besides tray size, of electric smokers compared to pellet grills like Traegers and Pit Bosses.

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!

 

Pellet Grill

Z GRILLS ZPG-450A 2020 Upgrade Wood Pellet Grill & Smoker 6 in 1 BBQ Grill Auto Temperature Control, 450 Sq in Bronze

Check out this Z Grills Pellet Grill on Amazon

Pellet grills like the ones from Traeger and Pit Boss are great for smoking trout.

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.

When the pellet grill has come up to temperature, place your salmon directly on the grill grates or on a grill mat like a PhatMat.

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.

Here is also a list of our Favorite Pellet Grills for 2021 priced under $500!

 

Gas or Charcoal Grill

Weber 45010001 Spirit II E-310 3-Burner Liquid Propane Grill, Black

Check out the Weber Spirit on Amazon

On a gas or charcoal grill you will likely need to use a smoker box filled with wood chips, or a pellet tube smoker filled with wood pellets.

Click HERE to learn the all differences between smoker boxes and a smoker tubes.

 

a smoker box

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.

Lastly, see a selection of our favorite pellet tube smokers 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.

charcoal grill set up for indirect heat

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.

Now, if you are using a pellet grill or electric smoker, you should be able to pretty accurately dial in your desired temperature of 225°F with the turn of a dial.

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.

thermo prop cooking temp probe reading 275 degrees
A good probe thermometer like the ThermoPro will tell you the REAL temperature inside your grill or smoker.

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.

And even if you have a fancy pellet grill like a Traeger or even an electric smoker, it can’t hurt to double check how accurate your temperature settings are to the true temperatures you are getting.

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.

smoked trout on a cutting board

You can serve them with some vegetables like smoked asparagus, broccoli, or cauliflower, or just eat them as is!

 

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!

More Seafood

 

Pork

 

Beef

 

Poultry

 

Lamb

 

Other Odds and Ends

 

smoked trout on a tray

Easy Smoked Trout Fillets

Smoked trout fillets dry brined overnight then gently seasoned and slow smoked to perfection.
These can be smoked on a gas grill like a Weber, a pellet grill like a Traeger or Pit Boss, or even an electric Masterbuilt smoker.
5 from 1 vote
Prep Time 20 mins
Cook Time 2 hrs
Brining Time 10 hrs
Total Time 2 hrs 20 mins
Course Main Course
Cuisine American, Australian, barbecue, BBQ, Seafood, Smoked
Servings 4 people
Calories 550 kcal

Equipment

  • 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)

Ingredients
  

  • 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

Instructions
 

Rinse and Dry the Trout

  • Rinse the trout fillets under cold running water.
    rinsing salmon after brining before putting on smoker
  • Place them on your cutting board and pat very dry with paper towels
    a raw trout fillet on a paper towel
  • Once dry, run your fingers along the trout checking for any bones that were not removed previously.
    pulling pin bones out of a trout fillet
  • 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.
    mixing honey smoked salmon brine ingredients together
  • 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.
    trout in a brine mixture before smoking
  • 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.
    trout fillets in a brine mixture in the refrigerator

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.
    rinsing brined trout fillets
  • Pat dry with paper towels, and place them on a wire rack on top of a baking sheet to air dry.
    brined trout fillets drying on a wire rack
  • 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
    setting the traeger pellet grill to 225 degrees F
  • 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.
    trout fillets smoking in a smoker
  • Remove the smoked trout from the smoker and serve immediately.
    smoked trout on a cutting board

Nutrition

Calories: 550kcal
Keyword Masterbuilt, pellet grill, Pit Boss Recipes, pit boss smoked trout, seafood, smoked fish, smoked rainbow trout, smoked seafood, smoked trout, smoked trout fillets, Traeger Recipes, traeger smoked trout
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