Cold Smoked Trout
- 12-16 – ½ to 1 in thick rainbow or brown trout fillets, cleaned
- 2 quarts water
- ½ cup kosher salt
- ¼ cup sugar
- ¼ cup brown sugar
- 2 crumbled or torn bay leaves
- ½ teaspoon dried sage
Stir the brine ingredients until the salt and sugars dissolve. Add the trout and use a weight on top of it to keep the fish submerged in the brine. Leave the fish in the brine in the refrigerator for 12 to 24 hours.
Rinse the trout under cold water and then pat dry with either a clean dishtowel or paper towels. Lay the filets out on a rack set over a dish or tray and let them dry at room temperature for approximately 30 minutes. As the fish dries, a shiny, tacky layer called a pellicle will form. This seals in juices that keep the fish tender and also gives the smoke something to adhere to. This gives the final product a richer smoke flavor than it would have otherwise.
Get your smoker and smoking components ready. If you are using commercial charcoal and soaked wood chips, begin soaking them. Only use hardwoods such as pear, apple, and birch for the wood chips.
Cold smoke the trout for two to three hours at between 90 and 100 F. Add the soaked hardwood chips to the coals as needed to keep a consistent amount of smoke wafting over the fish. Open the vents or add water to the bowl in some smoker models (as needed) to maintain the temperature.
Separately from the smoker, start another wood fire or get some charcoal burning. A charcoal chimney is useful for this. Add more hot coals to the smoker and bring the temperature up to 225 F. Insert a digital thermometer into the thickest part of the fish. Maintain the 225 F temperature as closely as you can until the internal temperature of the fish reaches 180 F. This will usually take about three to four hours, but if you’ve got an especially big fish and are smoking it whole, it could take as long as 10 hours. During this time, continue to add soaked hardwood chips to the coals to keep the smoke surrounding the fish.
Once the internal temperature of the fish reaches 180 F, maintain it for an additional 30 minutes before removing the trout from the smoker.
Once the trout has completely cooled to at least room temperature, wrap it tightly in foil, butcher’s paper or vacuum seal it. Trout smoked by this method will keep in the refrigerator for up to one month and in the freezer, for at least three months.