Smoked Lake Trout

by KenH

As a reservoir fisherman one of the pleasures I look forward to, especially in the cooler months is being able to bring home a Laker. And perhaps the best way to enjoy the catch is by hot smoking it. If you’ve never had smoked Lake Trout, it’s fairly common further up north and in Canada. Taste-wise I think it is on a par with smoked Whitefish, from which it’s literally indistinguishable. Browns of course are also ideal for smoking, and the larger ones being oiler lend themselves to smoking. While stream sized trout should be smoked whole, the larger reservoir trout need to be smoked in chunks, unless you have
a large smoker.

Equipment:
A smoker. They come in all sizes but I use the super small cheap model “Little Chief” made by Luhr Jensen. Yes, the people who make the Krocodile spoons.
Smokers come in all sizes and degrees of sophistication, some including thermometers. But in principle, it’s nothing more than a contained box into which fish can be placed on racks and low heat can be applied, including the smoldering of wood chips. On one episode of  Alton Brown’s “Good Eats” on the Food Network he built a smoker out of a large cardboard box and hot smoked a side of salmon.

Ingredients:
One Lake Trout (2-4 lbs)
Salt                     1 cup
White Sugar       cup
Brown Sugar      cup
Black Pepper      as desired

Optional: Kosher Salt instead of regular salt.
                Additionally other spices can be added as well. I sometimes add Dill.

Procedure:
Dress Trout by scaling lightly, then removing head, gills and gutting. Ensure that the stomach cavity is completely clean. I use an old toothbrush for this purpose.

smoked trout
Cut fish into chunks.

smoked trout
Small trout usually can be smoked whole. However Lakers are usually too large for this and cutting into chunks works well. If the fish is filleted, the brine is absorbed too quickly producing an excessively salty product, and in many cases it becomes overcooked as well.

smoked trout
Prepare the Dry Brining mixture in a mixing bowl. Using a wisk allows for the brown sugar chunks to be broken up.

smoked trout
Place the fish chunks into a glass bowl/container and sprinkle generously with the brining mixture, making sure that the stomach cavity is well coated as well.

smoked trout
Place bowl with cover, or Saran wrap into the refrigerator.
The fish will start leaching out water in just 2-3 hours. Keep overnight
for 10 to 12 hours, flipping the fish over so it soaks in it’s own brine juice.

Note* If Kosher Salt is used, because it is much milder, the brining process should be extended to 24 hours.

smoked trout
After 12 hours remove from refrigerator, and quickly wash the salt and brine off of he fish under cold running water. Then pat dry with a paper towel.
This fish should now me placed on a rack with ventilation and allowed to dry for
At least 3-4 hours. I use a small fan to speed up the drying process. During this time the proteins in the fish form a light “skin” called a pellicle over the entire fish, trapping in
the moisture.

smoked trout
After drying, the fish is placed on the rack and put into the smoker.

The fish is smoked for a period of 8 to 10 hours, with the wood chips added at least
3 times. The process of hot smoking a fish is really very slow cooking at low heat.
The addition of smoke from burning wood chips is simply for the flavor.

This time is based on current outdoor temperatures. If it were warmer the cooking time
would have to shortened.

smoked trout

The finished product should be golden bronze in color and the skin becomes tough like leather.

KenH is a founding member of WestchesterFishing.com