How to Smoke Trout [Cold Smoke & Brine Recipe]


Prepare smoked trout the right way with this cold smoke recipe. Prepared with a brine of salt and herbs before being cold smoked over alder for the perfect flavor. Learn how to smoke trout at home with our BBQ recipe.

Smoked trout recipe

Today we are cooking one of my absolute favorite types of fish: trout. This freshwater fish has a distinctive, fresh flavor that is taken to a whole new level when grilled. With a combination of fresh saltwater brine and cold smoking over wood, you’ll soon see why nothing beats this smoked fish. Let’s get into that.

You will be forgiven if you mistake trout for salmon. Both carry that same but beautiful deep color as well as a weighty flavor. Best of all, just like my Cold Smoked Salmon recipe, trout cooks slowly and slowly just as well.

If you have never eaten trout, you will be delighted. The composition of the flesh means the fish is perfectly built to take smoke. While catfish can taste pretty “squishy,” trout tastes a lot cleaner thanks to its status as a freshwater fish.

Close up of cold smoked trout on a cutting board


As with many of our smoked fish recipes, our first step is salting. For certain that aren’t fortified, brining is a crucial stage that helps lock in the moisture and flavor of the fish. This is especially important with long cooking methods where prolonged exposure to heat can dry out the meat.

Some people prefer to dry fish in brine (where only spices are used without water), but I use wet brine for my cold smoke recipe. We use a simple mixture of salt, brown sugar, and water. Salt is especially important as it soaks the fish and helps it retain moisture while cooking.

You will need a brine bucket to salt the trout. While YOU can use freezer bags or Tupperware-like containers, these specialty buckets are large and airtight enough to get the job done. These are available in different sizes and are quite cheap. Recommend this on Amazon.

Smoking time and temperature

It takes two to three hours to smoke the trout at 175°F (79°C) until the fish’s internal temperature reaches 145°F (62°C). Smoking time depends on factors such as meat size, smoker airflow, and temperature consistency.

When the fish is done, it should flake and appear opaque when pierced with a fork. The real test will be the internal temperature, so I recommend getting a two-probe smoking thermometer. This will help you control the meat and the temperature.


Because trout and other fish species are delicate, it’s important to choose a wood that doesn’t overpower their natural flavor. We recommend alder wood for smoking trout. You can also use fruit woods like apple or cherry. Alder smoke is mild, but also gives the fish a subtle aroma without overpowering it. For this reason we also recommend it as firewood for smoking salmon.

Stay away from robust, strong woods such as hickory or mesquite. While they’re good for tough meats like beef, they overwhelm fish and render the meat inedible.

Smoked trout

Nice rainbow trout for every dinner. Prepared with a moist brine before being cold smoked over alder wood, this is grilled fish done right.
Course appetizer, main course
American cuisine , BBQ
Preparation time 10 minutes
Cooking time 3 hours
Salt time 2 hours
Total time 5 hours 10 minutes
Serving 4


  • Salzheimer
  • Alder wood shavings


  • 4 rainbow trout fillets


  • ½ cup kosher salt
  • ½ cup brown sugar
  • 1 gallon of water


  • In a salted bucket, whisk together the water, kosher salt, and brown sugar. Stir until the salt and sugar have completely dissolved.
  • Carefully place each of the trout fillets in the bucket, making sure to submerge them in the brine. Place the bucket in the fridge and let it sit for at least two hours or overnight.
  • Remove the trout from the brine and rinse under cold running water to remove excess brine. Pat each fillet dry with kitchen paper and allow to air dry for an hour.
  • Turn on your smoker at 79°C. Use an incense thermometer to accurately measure the internal temperature of the chamber.
  • When your smoker has heated up, place alder chips in the firebox and place the trout fillets on the smoker racks. Smoke for 3 hours or until the internal temperature of each fillet reaches 62°C (145°F).

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