Some trout fillets with pale pink flesh look a lot like salmon, but while both fish are part of the salmon family and have tender, succulent flesh, trout have a milder flavor and cook more quickly. Farmed rainbow and steelhead trout are widely available, sustainably raised and ranked as a "best choice" fish by the Monterey Bay Aquarium's Seafood Watch program, as is wild salmon from Alaska and the North Pacific. Both fish work in a variety of cooking methods, but trout needs a little more careful handling.
The Necessity of Tweezers
Despite the diligence of most fish markets, both salmon and trout require you to pick out errant bones that the butcher has missed. But the process is more important with trout than with salmon because trout has so many more bones. If you cook fish on a regular basis, invest about $10 in a pair of fish tweezers from your local kitchen store rather than using the pliers from your toolbox so the job goes faster and easier.
Timing Is Everything
Whether you pan-fry, poach, bake, broil or grill trout and salmon, trout typically cooks in about two-thirds the time of salmon because the fillets are much thinner. As a general rule, cook salmon for about eight minutes for each inch of thickness, and trout for five to six minutes per inch, or until the flesh on either fish turns opaque instead of translucent and flakes when you probe it with a knife. For safety's sake, cook both fish until they reaches 145 degrees Fahrenheit on an instant-read thermometer.
No Flipping Allowed
While salmon and trout cook similarly in most cooking methods, pan-frying presents a special case. Salmon typically needs to be turned in the pan, while trout is so thin that trying to turn it might result in the fish breaking apart or sticking to the pan. Instead of flipping trout halfway through cooking, cook it skin-side down in an oiled pan, either covered or uncovered, and don't worry about ever turning it.
Saucing It Up
A spritz of fresh lemon juice and a sprinkling of salt and pepper turn either trout or salmon into a delicious meal, no matter what cooking method you use. But if you feel the need for more elaborate presentations, keep trout sauces and seasonings on the mild side -- salmon has stronger flavors that can stand up to stronger seasonings. For trout, try browned butter, toasted almonds, parsley, sage or white wine. For salmon, choose from basil, garlic, mustard, heavy cream or barbecue sauce.
- Monterey Bay Aquarium Seafood Watch: Trout, Rainbow/Steelhead
- Monterey Bay Aquarium Seafood Watch: Salmon, Coho
- Fine Cooking: How to Tell When Fish Is Truly Cooked
- U.S. Food and Drug Administration: Fresh and Frozen Seafood: Selecting and Serving it Safely
- The Flavor Bible; Karen Page and Andrew Dornenburg
- Photo Credit Eising/Photodisc/Getty Images