Smoked Trout And A Clear Head: Getting Away From It All

Smoked Trout And A Clear Head: Getting Away From It All

Our truck hugged the winding, rollercoaster-like roads with ease. It had been way too long, but that familiar topsy-turvy feeling in my stomach was actually welcomed along with the beautiful, scenic drive. The fall weather, just starting to cause the leaves to change their colors, complemented the crystal clear stream that curled around bends, under walking bridges, and over small waterfalls. Oh man, this is the stuff that we’ve been missing.

Time away from the daily responsibilities hadn’t been easy to come by in a good while, so when it did, we had to take advantage. When it gets to be so long in between these types of getaways, I think sometimes, that really, we just kind of forget things. Not who we are necessarily, but what makes us feel alive and grateful for what we have. 

And that’s where the story begins.

The leaves on the trees seemed to wave us in with that “come on in” sort of wave. And we happily obliged. The quiet of these woods can, at times, be deafening, but man, the sound of that river making its way around the rocks and trees was very welcoming. Indeed, this is a lollygaggers dream, and the biggest decision that had to be made for the next few days was meal choice, not for us, but for the trout that we were going to be pursuing. And that was just fine with me. Time spent fishing was interrupted only for necessary meals, cold drinks and afternoon naps. Alarm clocks were replaced by trout whistles, and a friendly wave and nod greeted us at every encounter. Just accepting and enjoying what Mother Nature provides can clear a person’s head and reset priorities.

But enough about our mental health trip, because right in front of us is a crystal clear stream full of hungry trout. I’m not saying that we caught our limit on all those days because we didn’t. But we caught what we needed, and that is a satisfying feeling. And a worthy definition of success.

Now I’ve posted before about the tastiness of grilling trout directly over a hardwood fire or using a dutch oven to make trout chowder in a bread bowl, but when you see a hefty amount of trout in your freezer, you start thinking about variety in ways of enjoying them. My first thought, of course, was to smoke those beauties, so without any further reminiscing, let’s get after it.

A simple dry brine consisting of 1/2 cup each kosher salt and brown sugar, 1/4 cup each of granulated/dried garlic and onion powder, and a heaping tablespoon of smoked paprika covered the fish for about 5 hours.

A goodly amount of liquid was pulled out of the fish, and that’s just fine, so now the brine mixture was discarded and the fish rinsed well. In order to allow the trout to completely air dry, a wooden skewer was cut to length and put in place to keep the fish open for maximum airflow.

It’ll take 2 or 3 hours for the fish to dry, so now is a good time to get the smoke rolling, maintaining a steady temperature between 150 and 180 degrees. I like to leave plenty of space in between the fish for even cooking and smoke. You can add wood for additional smoke if you want, but fish can take on smoke pretty easily, so I find that just using a quality hardwood lump charcoal is all you really need. But hey, you be you!

These beauties will take 2 to 2 1/2 hours to fully smoke, and I still like to rotate and flip them once during that time for completely even cooking. But they’re looking good already.

Once the magic temperature of 145 degrees at the thickest part of the trout is reached, they’re ready for showtime. You’ll notice that the skin comes off rather easily and the flesh is now a pink color from the smoking process.

Nothing left to do now but give it a sample and see how we did. Close your eyes, imagine that cold stream rippling along the rocky banks, playing a mesmerizing tune in your head. That image, along with the flavor of the smoked trout, here paired with an Asian style slaw, will put a big ol’ smile on your face.

But the beauty of smoked trout is that it’ll keep longer, allowing you to come up with ways to incorporate it into different meals. That’s where variety comes in, with smoked trout crostini and also using shredded trout in salt block grilled trout cakes.

All delicious, all eaten, and all bellies were filled. What are some ways you enjoy smoked trout?

Because Life Is Better Wood-Fired