Lake trout are some of North America's most elusive and prized game fish, because of their habit of living in the deepest and coldest portions of lakes. They can grow very large if undisturbed, with 100-pound trout being widely recorded. Like their cousins, the salmon and Arctic char, their flesh is pink and flavorful and they support a significant freshwater commercial fishery. A big lake trout is often too much to eat all at once, so anglers who are fortunate enough to land one often smoke their catch.
Things You'll Need
- Large pot
- 2 gallons of water
- 2 ½ pounds coarse sea salt or pickling salt (non-iodized)
- ¼ pound dark Demerara sugar or maple sugar, or up to ½ pound for a sweeter cure
- 1 tablespoon onion powder
- ½ tablespoon garlic powder
- 1 tablespoon coarsely ground black pepper
- ¼ cup honey (optional)
- 15 pounds lake trout fillets
- Cutting board
- Large plastic container with lid
- One or more plates
- Paper towel
- Baking sheets
- Aluminum foil or plastic film wrap
- Wire cooling racks
- Wood chips, such as alder or apple
- Instant-read thermometer
Brining the Trout
Place a large pot on your stove, and fill it with two gallons of water. Add the salt, sugar and other seasonings, and bring it to a boil. Once the salt and sugar have dissolved, remove the pot from the heat and allow the brine to cool.
Lay the fillets on your cutting board. Check them carefully with your fingertips to ensure that all the pin bones have been removed. If you find any, pull them out with a pair of tweezers.
Trim away any rough areas from the fillets, as well as any remaining fins. If the fillets are especially large, you can cut them into more manageable sections with a sharp knife.
Place the fillets in a large food-grade plastic container and pour the brine over them until they are covered to a depth of at least one inch. If some of the fillets float, cover them with one or more plates to hold them under the brine.
Brine the trout in your refrigerator for eight to 10 hours, depending on how deeply flavored you wish them to be.
Smoking the Trout
Drain the brine from the trout and replace it with clean, cold water. Soak the trout for 10 minutes, and then drain and pat dry with paper towels.
Line baking sheets with aluminum foil or plastic film wrap, and then place wire cooling racks on the sheets. Lay the brined fillets on the racks, spacing them to allow air flow. Refrigerate the fillets, uncovered, for at least two hours or overnight, until the surface is dry and tacky.
Prepare your smoker according to the manufacturer's instructions. Use light-flavored wood chips for trout, such as alder, apple or other fruit woods.
Hot-smoke the trout at 175 to 200 degrees Fahrenheit until it reaches an internal temperature of 145 degrees when tested with an instant-read thermometer. Depending on the thickness of the fillets and your smoking temperature, it may take up to three hours.
Cool and refrigerate the trout. Use immediately or pack in airtight wrappings and freeze for long-term storage.
- "On Food and Cooking: The Science and Lore of the Kitchen"; Harold S. McGee; 2004
- "Garde Manger: The Art and Craft of the Cold Kitchen"; Culinary Institute of America; 2000
- Fresh Water Fishing Canada; Smoked Fish Recipes; 2011
- Washington State University Pacific Northwest Extension; Smoking Fish at Home -- Safely; Barbara Rasco; November 2009
- Photo Credit Jupiterimages/Comstock/Getty Images
How to Smoke a Trout
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