BBQ trout is easier to make than grilled trout or smoked trout, although all are good. Slow and low with your favorite seasonings, fillets, whole trout and butterflied trout all work.
The coolest thing about BBQ trout is that you can play with the flavors, and it can be done on any sort of grill or smoker.
Barbecuing a trout necessarily is slow and low, hopefully with lots of smoke involved. That said, it still shouldn’t take you more than 2 hours to make BBQ trout, where proper smoked trout takes several hours more. You can find my smoked trout recipe here.
And to be clear, this is not grilled trout. This is barbecued trout: The fish is getting indirect heat, ideally smoke, and the process is gentle.
Best Trout for BBQ
Any species of trout or char will work for barbecued trout, but I prefer larger rainbows, browns, cutthroats or smallish pink salmon. A big kokanee would work well, too.
Regardless, you will want a fish at least 12 inches long, and ideally about 18 inches long. And while you can certainly make BBQ trout whole, or just headless, and in the case of very large trout fillets, I really like to butterfly my trout first. (Here are my instructions on how to butterfly a fish.)
the reason is because the trout is almost boneless and the meat is opened up for seasonings and smoke — and it cooks faster than a whole fish. Easier to eat, too, since you simply lift off the meat from the skin.
Making the Best BBQ Trout
Once you have your fish, you will want your grill hot, but not overly so. Nothing hotter than about 225°F. I use a pellet smoker for this, but any grill will work. Barbecued trout is cooked with the cover down.
A good tip is to oil the skin of the fish, so it won’t stick to the grates. This is important with a delicate fish like trout.
Use a pair of spatulas to lift the BBQ trout off the grill grates and onto a baking sheet. Serve it hot or cold, as a centerpiece or flaked into a salad or sandwich. It’s especially good in trout dip.
After that, flavors are up to you. You will want to salt or brine your fish first, then apply whatever flavoring you like. A simple brine would be 1/4 cup kosher salt and 1 quart of water, for maybe 2 to 4 hours. You can then do a spice rub, or a barbecue sauce when the trout is cooking.
I decided to take my BBQ trout in a Japanese direction. I soaked the trout in soy sauce, patted the fish dry, then slicked it up with some sesame oil, then sprinkled the Japanese spice mix togarashi all over it. I can tell you it is out of this world good, either by itself or flaked over simple steamed rice.
This same technique can be done with similarly oily fish, such as bluefish, mackerel, whitefish, grayling, and small jacks. It’s also good on catfish, for those of you who live inland.
Barbecued Trout or Kokanee
- 1 large trout or kokanee, filleted or butterflied
- 1 cup soy sauce
- 1/4 cup toasted sesame oil
- togarashi to taste
- Soak the trout in the soy sauce for 2 hours in the fridge. Remove, pat dry (do not rinse) and then slick up the fish with the sesame oil on both sides. Sprinkle the togarashi on the meat side.
- Barbecue the trout over a smoky fire at about 225°F for about 1 hour. It's done when the meat flakes off the skin easily, so start checking at about 45 minutes. Serve hot or cold.
Barbara Tighe says
Made it, turned out wonderful! Did not have your togarashi seasoning. But did have a mix that I make that works great for BBQ ing. I smoked the fresh caught trout for about an hour fifteen minutes. Low heat 250. I was only able to marinate for an hour and a half. But it was enough time all together. Thank you for all the time you took to share your recipe.
Hank Shaw says
Luke: Yes, fillet them.
Charlie: I do not flip the fish.
ken mcbroom says
Can’t wait to try this recipe on some small channel cats.
justin brodersen says
Smoking trout or kokanee doesnt take hours if you know what your doing.ive smoked many trout and salmon.simple smoking with cotton wood is the best.
Hank Shaw says
Justin: Of course you can do it shorter, but the cooler and longer you can go, the more smokey flavor you get. Just a personal preference.
I cannot wait for this cookbook
Charlie Clasen says
Greetings Hank, Do you flip the fish of just leave skin side down on grill? Thanks, and it looks great,
Luke Gleaves says
Hank, if you’re doing this with catfish, you you recommend filleting them? I can’t imagine butterflying one (but then again, I’m not particularly creative).
Joe jarrett says
LAST year, My younger friend, and I went out for a quick sojourn
on the Arkansas River a couple of miles from my house. Using small BLUE Fox’s he quickly caught a 16 & 18 in bows.
He BBQ the larger, after filleting it real slow.
Bacon strip, lemon juice, salt/pepper + a dab of butter. OMG all wrapped in foil.
Jim Wallingford says
Oh man. I’m a huge togarashi fan on wings. Never thought to do it on smoked fish! Definitely trying this one out!
Ron Murray says
what ways do you have to pan fry and , B.B.Q, Mackrel
What wood you suggest? Alder? Apple? Oak?