Simple Way to Smoke Trout in a Portable Smoker

Over the years I’ve smoked hundreds of trout, & used a portable smoker quite a few different ways.

I wanted to share my ‘simplest’ way of using my portable simple smoker.

I’m sure other guys have used this technique before, however I wasn’t able to find it online and thought I would post this easy to follow guide which I use at home or when I’m camping and fishing in the wild.

I’ve heard these ‘direct’ heat type of smokers are popular in Scandanavia and New Zealand!

Portable Smoker Smoked Trout Large
Portable Smoker – Trout – Sprinkled with Walnuts & Parsley

The focus on smoking meat seems to very much be on indirect heat or what is know as low & slow smoking. I use this method myself at times.

I like more Norcini Salumi Dry Curing generally. Low & Slow is pretty much sprinkle some seasoning, and low temperature cooking/smoking! Dry Curing is a little bit more involved, which I love!

That is definitely one way of smoking trout with indirect ‘low & slow’. You’ll probably be looking at a few hours doing it that way at least!

With this simple portable smoking trout method below, it normally takes me around 10 to 15 minutes to do the actual cooking and smoking.

Simple Way to Smoke Trout in A Portable Smoker

  1. Sprinkle Salt and Brown Sugar on Trout
  2. Leave for 6-12 hours in Fridge
  3. Place in Portable Smoker
  4. Place Wood in Smoker, Turn Heat to Medium
  5. Smoke for 10-12 minutes

Steps in Smoking Trout with a Portable Smoker

Step Zero – Catching the Trout!

1. Sprinkle Salt and Brown Sugar on Trout

It, of course, depends on how thick the trout is and whether you are smoking it whole or just the fillets. I will try and put a photo up of the amount of salt sugar next time I do a trout.

Basically it’s a pretty light sprinkling, So it’s pretty much transparent or ‘see-through’, not piles up spread out a bit. A little bit more around the thicker areas a little less towards the tail.

The salt will help dry out the outside and hold in moisture inside.

Also the salt helps form the pellicle, so you know the smoke vapor will stick to the meat more.

If you’re using trout fillets, you want to have the skin side facing down and the meat exposed. The trout fillets I only sprinkle with salt and sugar on the meat side.

(The skin will probably stock to the rack underneath, but it also protects the meat some what.)

2. Leave for 6-12 Hours in Fridge

Uncovered then just place the trout in the fridge, if you can figure out a way of setting the whole trout on its spine or placing it on a rack gives it a bit more airflow which helps develop the pellicle.

The pellicle is like the binding of surface proteins, it gets a little bit sticky when you touch it (I think the meat is like protecting itself or something, but this is the way to get smoke flavor/vapor sticking to the meat).

3. Place in Portable Smoker

It’s an incredibly simple device this type of ‘direct heat’ portable smoker, I have found that a two-piece smoker that doesn’t have rivets can be a bit better.

One piece which is a molded ‘pan’ shape, and another slide on lid.

There are a few on the market which are flat packed and then you just join the unit together. When I have been using them, Denatured alcohol / Methylated Spirits as a heat source, the flavor has sometimes been a bit off.

Denatured alcohol burners come with some portable smokers, I’ve had mixed results with these, and prefer a gas burner element inside.

This is the kind of smoke I don’t like to use! But gives you an idea of the basics… I will replace this video when I record another trout smoking session!

  • Don’t like the smoker’s super light weight design
  • Danatured alcohol burner, not for me
  • Looks over smoked too me!
  • Does get the basics right, but I use all sorts of wood – pellets, sawdust, grapevine trimmings..

Most of the time of using a gas burner or the side down on my gas grill bbq at home.

Basically turned down to low, I leave the lid off and wait till the wood starts to smoke, put in the grill the fish sits on, and then put the fish in.

For most light and medium types of wood like apple or beech, I close up the lid.

But for heavier woods or mixing of hickory or oak – then I might leave half an inch of the lid open for a little bit of airflow.

Less smoke flavor is better than too much, when you get too much smoke flavor and a direct smoke it can lead to bitterness.

So you want one like these I reckon.

To produce this!

They are awesome for taking in the back of the car if you’re going camping or of course fishing.

My brother prefers to smoke the trout with no salt or sugar cure, you basically are wood fire oven cooking with a bit of smoke. This leads to more “trouty” flavorless you want good trout from clean waters for this!

I have sometimes got a little bit technical but it’s not really necessary, and used the temperature probe to get an idea of the temperature inside the small portable smoke chamber, holding it around 270°F/130°C which is the high end of “low & slow” smoking.

You can use portable smokers directly on a campfire, waiting until some of the five dies down to embers and placing the smoker on this. You don’t have so much control and it takes a little bit of learning things in this way. But can be good for car/truck camping adventures (Bring an old sheet to wrap the smoker up, it will be messy!)

One of the best things about these types of smoker is, is that you can use many different shapes and sizes of wood.

Often I’m just using the dried out prunings from the grapevine since the sticks haven’t been chipped. Half a handful is enough to smoke some a trout.

4. Place Wood in Smoker, Turn Heat to Medium

It’s good to keep an eye on the heat you don’t want to be pumping out massive amounts of smoke, too much heat = too much smoke = bitter trout.

It’s amazing how much smoke you get from a few tablespoons of sawdust!

The temperature does drop significantly every time you open it up so checking every 4-5 minutes is probably best.

5. Smoke for 10-12 minutes

You can just poke the fish with a knife, once it starts to flake a little bit – you can see that it’s ready. Flaking from the thickest part of the fish, it’s pretty obvious when bits are still raw.

It has never taken me longer than 15 minutes to smoke trout using a portable smoke, apart from this one!

Brining Trout Vs Dry Curing Salt

Some recipes use a salt and sugar brine to hold the moisture in the trout.

Each one to there own, brine’s tend to dilute / dry curing tends to intensify.

Using a dry brine or wet brine – it all helps to create the pellicle before you start smoking.

I prefer a sprinkling of salt and sugar or simply dry curing.

Direct Smoker Vs In-Direct Smoker

Both can produce decent results, but I love using a portable smoke like these ones for smoking fresh sausages, turkey breasts were even of had some fun smoking corn (here is my smoked wild turkey with oak/pastchaio shells!)

It’s a fast, portable oven with smoke. The turkey I stuck a probe in to make sure it was hitting internal cooked temperature (for turkey I do wet brine)

Which Portable Smoker to Use

I touched on this the above but here are a few other options below.

Links to Buy (buying through these links supports the site and doesn’t cost you squat).

Camerons Large Stove Top Smoker (large is a good size)

I wrote a bit more about other portable smokers here too.

How to Get the Right Saltiness in the Trout

With meat curing, there is a modern method called equilibrium curing or brining. This is basically working out the percentage of salt to the weight of the meat.

I have a rather popular calculator at the top of the page it’s used for dry curing meat such as dry cured bacon or braesola.

0.5% to 1% would be about the amount of salt if you were to measure it, but with equilibrium curing you really need accurate digital scales to one decimal place or ideally to decimal places (scales like on this page)

If you on read more about equilibrium curing meat I read about it here.

If you want to cold smoke a trout, I have a post (long) all bout the basics of cold smoking here.

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