How to Cold Smoked Trout.
If you like cold smoked salmon, then you should try cold smoked trout. Extremely tasty and perfect with a bagel and cream cheese or with scrambled eggs for breakfast. If you prepare it correctly it will taste like salmon. Here’s an easy cold smoked trout recipe.
What You Need For 6 – 8lb of whole trout
Trout or salmon, sharp filleting knife, large chopping board, fish descaling tool, bag of brown sugar, bag of kosher salt, smoke generator, smoking dust, smoker or large box, fishhooks, resealable bags.
However you obtain your fish, the process is similar apart from the gutting. If it comes from a shop, then there’s a good chance that this process has probably been done by the fishmonger.
One thing to note is that cold smoked fish is essentially raw fish so you need to obtain the freshest fish you can. On returning from a trout fishing trip I will usually have the fillets brining within twelve hours.
The first thing you need to do is descale the fish. This is because we do not want a mouthful of scales with our smoked trout and cream cheese bagel. You can leave the scales on but you have to be very experienced.
There are a variety of tools made for this purpose, but the back of a knife works just fine if you have not got a descaling tool. Once you have removed the scales, wash the fish and dry its sides with a cloth or paper towel, so it does not slip around on the cutting board.
Next up is gutting. If you are an experienced fish filleter like myself, you can leave the guts in, but if you are new to the process then I would advise you gut the fish.
To gut the fish, take a very sharp knife, preferably a filleting knife and enter the fishes vent hole (poop hole). Then slide the knife up towards the throat making sure you cut straight down the middle in between the anal fins and right up to the middle of the throat. You only want to be cutting through the belly of the fish and try and keep the knife from cutting the guts inside the fish. Once you have opened the cavity push your fingers inside and around the back of the guts and pull them out. Sever around the throat to release and trim if there is any thing left on the vent. There is a long blood line that runs inside the of the backbone. Take your knife and run it all the way down splitting the membrane. Then, using you thumb scrape the blood away until clean. You will not be able to clean it perfectly but if you can get in 80% out you’ve done well. Wash again thoroughly and it is now ready to fillet.
Fillet from the back so you leave yourself two beautiful clean fillets. If you have not done it before, do not worry. I messed it up a few times and still occasionally do.
Before starting I would recommend watching a few videos on YouTube to get the idea. There is a YouTube video link at the bottom which will give you a good idea where to start.
Only watch up until 3 minutes 20 seconds. Ignore the rest. Remember you are not selling your fish to Harrods and Selfridges so do not worry too much about the look of the final fillet. It will taste just great.
To Pin Bone or Not to Pin Bone
Pin bones in trout are a pain in the butt. You take a nice mouthful of fish and spend the next fifteen seconds playing around trying separate the bone in your mouth. We have all done it and it is annoying.
So, here is my view on the subject. If you want whole boneless fillets that look amazing, then I suggest pin boning before brining. If you are like me and do not care about looks then cut the pin bones out after smoking. Pin boning is best done with a good pair of pin boning tweezers. If you haven’t got tweezers then try a pair if long nose pliers from the shed. You will leave the odd bone but you will be able to feel them later when you start to slice the fish.
Brining serves two purposes. Firstly, it seasons the fish, adding flavour and secondly acts as a natural preservative that breaks down muscle tissue to get a more tender flesh. Remember once you have brined your raw fish and washed it clean it is basically ready for eating. The smoking process adds the flavour to the flesh.
The simplest and most popular brine recipe is a dry brine.
A 50/50 mix of fine kosher or natural salt and brown sugar. Kosher salt is used because it is clean and doesn’t contain Iodine unlike regular table salt. Mix the two ingredients well together making sure they are equally dispersed. You can find other recipes on the internet but this one is a great start.
Lay a bed of brine mix on the bottom of a large deep sided non-metallic tray. You should still be able to see bits of the bottom of the tray. You do not need a half inch layer for trout like you do a thick salmon fillet. Lay some fillets skin side down making sure no fillets are over lapping.
Spread Brine evenly
Add a layer of brine on top of the flesh and place another layer of fillets flesh side down and repeat the process until all the fish are brining. You need to make sure that you lay fillets flesh on flesh and skin on skin, so any loose scales do not escape onto the flesh.
Make sure to cover the final layer and then clingfilm or Saran Wrap the tray and place in the fridge. I have given my recommendations in the table below on brining times but do feel free to experiment to get the taste and texture you prefer.
At this point in the process some people like to add weights to help squeeze out the water during brining. I have found that you end up with thin fillets that are too salty, and the flesh is too firm. Once again try it and give it a go.
Smoked Trout Brining Times
Because we all catch different size fish, the table below gives you an idea on the appropriate brining time. You will get to understand how long to brine for when you finally taste the fish. You will be able to adjust the brining time to your pallet.
Dry the fillets with kitchen towel and lay each one skin side down on a tray so they are open to the air. Do not cover, and leave in the fridge overnight or for around twelve hours. This process is called creating a pellicle and allows the flesh to form a tacky outer layer. It helps to produce a better smoked product and acts as a protective barrier for the food. It also plays an important role in enhancing the flavour and colour produced by the smoking process.
When removing the tray from the fridge, you will notice that there is a lot of liquid in the tray. This is exactly what we are looking for. Drain the liquid that has been extracted from the flesh then wash the fillets thoroughly making sure all the excess salt is removed under a cold tap. I then like to leave mine soak in a sink of cold water for around 15 minutes. Then wash off in clean cold water and put to the side.
For my YouTube Video on how to cold smoke trout Click here
Smoking, slicing and storing Click here to see part 2
Click Here YouTube Filleting Fish Link
You might find the following article on Spinning for Reservoir Trout fishing interesting https://www.fishingmaverick.com/spinning-for-trout/