Appetizers and Drinks, Grilling
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Grill Smoked Trout

Smoked fish is on the top of my list of holiday appetizers. Smoky, meaty, sweet trout plays well with all sorts of different tasty beverages, and is the perfect complement to a holiday cocktail party, wine tasting, or a just a couple of good beers with friends. It’s easy to make at home, tastes better than store-bought, and will impress your guests. What more can you ask for?

I like to serve it chilled, with crackers, red onions, capers, and sour cream. But smoked trout is not just an appetizer; served warm, it can me the main course; leftovers make the base of a smoked trout spread.

Now, this trout takes a little planning ahead; it needs to brine for a few hours, and then smoke for at least a half an hour on the grill. That’s OK – I work around that by making it way ahead; smoked fish can be made up to two days ahead of time. It tastes great cold, straight out of the refrigerator, or at room temperature, if it has time to warm up.

One more thing – usually, when I cook fish, I want medium-rare to medium doneness – just the slightest hint of translucence in the middle. Not with smoked fish – I want to cook it all the way through, filling it with smoky flavor. That’s another advantage to this recipe – the cooking time is very forgiving.

Recipe: Grill Smoked Trout

Inspired by: Steven Raichlen, How To Grill

Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 45 minutes



  • 2 trout, filleted


  • 1 quart water
  • 2 tablespoons table salt (1/4 cup kosher salt)
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar

Accompaniments for appetizer style trout

  • Paper thin sliced red onions
  • Capers
  • Sour cream
  • Crackers


1. Brine the trout

In a large bowl, stir salt and brown sugar in the water, then wait for the salt and sugar to dissolve, about five minutes. Add the trout fillets and refrigerate for at least 1 hour, up to 8 hours. While the trout is brining, soak the smoking wood in water.

2. Set the grill up for indirect medium-low (300°F)

Set the grill up for cooking on indirect medium-low heat. For my Weber kettle, I fill a chimney starter half full of charcoal (about 50 coals), light it, and pour it in a tight pile on one side of the grill. Then I drain my wood chunk and put it on top of the charcoal.

3. Grill smoke the trout

While the grill is preheating, take the trout out of the brine and pat it dry with paper towels. Double up a piece of heavy-duty aluminum foil to use as a tray, a little wider than you need for all four pieces of trout, and lay the trout fillets on the foil skin side down. Carefully move the foil tray of trout to the grill, as far away from the lit coals as possible. Take the smoking wood out of the water and add it to the coals. As soon as the wood starts smoking, close the lid of the grill. (If you have a kettle grill, rotate the lid so the top vent is directly over the trout, which pulls the smoke over the fish.) Cook with the lid closed until the fish is thoroughly cooked and browned from the smoke, 30 to 45 minutes.

4. Serve

Remove the foil to a sheet pan, tightly cover with plastic wrap, and refrigerate until it is time to serve, up to three days. To serve, scrape the fillet away from the skin with a spatula, transfer to a serving platter, and serve with the accompaniments.


  • Why aluminum foil? Because it’s easier to get the smoked fish on and off the grill that way; there’s no chance of sticking.
  • If you’re serving straight from the grill as a main course, skip the foil; wipe the grill grate clean with a paper towel dipped in vegetable oil, then lay the fish directly on the grate, skin side down.
  • And…is it fillet, or filet? I’m going with fillet; I think of filet as a cut of beef from the tenderloin (filet mignon), and fillet as the deboned side of a piece of fish. (as in fillet o’ fish. Wait…bad example.)

What do you think?

Questions? Other ideas? Leave them in the comments section below.

Related Posts

Grill Smoked Salmon
Plank Grilled Brie with Honey and Thyme
Salmon Salad Bites with Sushi Flavors

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  1. Brian Thomas says

    Ah, smoked fish. One of my favorites. I like a milder wood when smoking fish. My favorites are Alder (my go-to wood when smoking fish), apple, cherry, pecan, and maple. I also have a bag of peach wood chips so will have to give those a try next time.

    Cedar planks work great too. I did this last weekend with some salmon I had in the freezer that needed to be used. I cut the pieces into steaks and this went well until I got to the last section. That turned into a mess since I just could not cut through the backbone the first try. Or the second try, or the third try. By this time it didn’t resemble a steak at all so there was no way I was gonna serve this for dinner. I was pretty PO’d by this time and didn’t really know what to do with this last piece, but my wife said “just cook it anyway and we’ll use it for dip”. Great idea! So we ended up with 5 steaks and one piece that was pretty much unrecognizable :-). I just pulled the meat off that piece and we’ll be making a dip out of it for tonight.

    Smoked fish also freezes well. Ended up with more fish than we’ll need for dip after I finished pulling the meat off of it, so I put half of it in a quart size foodsaver bag, vacuum sealed it and into the freezer it went.

    Happy New Year!

  2. Brian Thomas says

    You’re welcome! There’s really no limit to the items you can vacuum seal and re-use later.

    I’m planning on making pulled pork and pulled chicken soon and vacuum sealing several bags of each. This will come in handy later for weeknight meals. Just take out a bag, put it in a pot of simmering water, heat it up to serving temp, and presto. You have smoked meat ready to eat that tastes almost as good as when it came out of the smoker. Amazing!

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