Grilled Trout or Kokanee

5 from 9 votes
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Grilled trout is one of those iconic dishes whether you are in the backcountry or in your backyard. Crispy skin, tender, smoky meat — what’s not to love? A lot, if your trout sticks to the grill. Here’s how to grill a whole trout perfectly every time.

Grilled trout on a platter
Photo by Holly A. Heyser

Grilling a fresh whole trout or kokanee over an open fire is the natural end to a day spent in a beautiful place, where cold, clean water flows and the pines whisper to you as you cast and retrieve, cast and retrieve.

That said, grilled trout is a common backyard staple, too, since you can buy whole, farmed rainbow trout in many supermarkets.

Grilling a whole trout isn’t rocket science, but you do need to know a few things to succeed — and to keep your fish from sticking to the grill.

Flipping a grilled trout
Photo by Holly A. Heyser

Best Trout for Grilling

Any trout that fits on your grill. Seriously. OK, I’m joking a little. What you want for grilled whole trout are fish that are plate sized or just a little longer. The store-bought rainbow trout are raised for this, actually. Wild rainbows are better.

And better than that are wild brook trout. Small browns, cutthroat trout, Dolly Vardens and small Arctic char are good, too. Think single serving.

Prepping Your Trout

  • Gut and gill your trout. This one’s for the anglers, because store-bought trout are sold gutted and gilled. Gills impart an “off” taste to the parts of the fish surrounding them. No need to scale, as trout have tiny scales. If you are grilling a large trout, like a lake trout (mackinaw), you might want to scale it. But I don’t bother.
  • Make sure the fish are approaching room temperature. This will ensure that they are fully cooked at the bone. One of the biggest grilling mistakes is to put cold fish on the grill. Doing this will often result in charred skin and raw meat where it meets the bone.
  • Oil your fish, and your grill grates. This will really help prevent the trout from sticking.

Grilling Trout

  • Make sure your grill grates are absolutely free of debris! You don’t need to scrub them with soap or anything, but you do need to make sure you scrub them down with the wire grill brush once they’ve heated up.
  • You want a hot grill. This isn’t barbecue. This is grilling. High heat. (If you want, I do have a barbecued trout recipe here.)
  • Flip only once. This is vital. Grilled trout is ready to flip when you can easily slip a thin metal spatula (I use a fish spatula) underneath it without more than one or two little places sticking. Flip and finish the cooking on the other side. Basting the trout with some butter or oil at this point really helps keep everything moist.

When in doubt, let the fish cook a bit more than you think. Grilled trout, or really any other whole fish, is actually better a little bit overcooked. It’s the char. We all love a little Maillard reaction. That said, don’t incinerate your fish.

Some people protect the fish with foil, but that’s not grilling. That’s using a grill to steam or bake a fish. Not the same. And trust me, if you follow these rules you will quickly become a grilled trout expert. Like I said, it ain’t rocket science. (I have even more tips and tricks on grilling a whole fish here.)

Trout on the grill
Photo by Holly A. Heyser

You can serve your grilled trout with anything, but I decided to make this a nod to the Alps, where there are lots of trout swimming around in their cold, clear lakes and streams.

So I made some rye spätzle and used a combination of sunflower and roasted pumpkinseed oil, plus some wild greens and a cool vegetable called agretti I happened to have lying around. You can use anything green. A grilled trout is great over a bed of morels, too.

All told, this whole dinner took me about 45 minutes to make. Not a bad way to end a day on the water, eh?


If you’re interested in grilling other types of fish, you might like my recipes for grilled pompano, simple grilled fish with basil, grilled fish on the half shell, or grilled tuna steaks.

Grilled trout on a platter
5 from 9 votes

Grilled Trout or Kokanee

This method works with any whole fish. You can serve your trout however you want, but I served mine alpine style: With rye spätzle and fresh greens, basted with roasted pumpkinseed oil. If you want to replicate this recipe exactly, directions are below. When making the spätzle, it really helps to have a spätzle maker, but you can use a colander with large holes, or even just flick off little bits of batter into the boiling water. You can also use little pasta, like orzo.
Course: Main Course
Cuisine: American, Italian
Servings: 4 people
Author: Hank Shaw
Prep Time: 20 minutes
Cook Time: 20 minutes
Total Time: 40 minutes



  • 4 small trout, or 8 trout if you are big eaters, gutted and gilled
  • Roasted pumpkinseed oil or some other nice oil to coat fish
  • Salt


  • 2 cups rye flour (or whole wheat or spelt or emmer)
  • 1 egg
  • 1 cup buttermilk
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • Some sunflower or other oil to coat dumplings


  • 1 pound various chopped greens (Spinach, lambsquarters, chard, etc.)
  • 3 tablespoons sunflower oil, or some other vegetable oil, or butter
  • Salt and black pepper
  • Malt vinegar or lemon to taste


  • If you are going to make the spätzle, do them first. Mix all the ingredients together in a bowl. Bring a large pot of water to a boil and salt it well. Fill the spätzle maker with the batter, which will be goopy and sticky, and run it over the boiling water. Do this is batches, skimming off the spätzle as they float to the top. Put the finished spätzle onto a baking sheet and coat with a little oil. Set them aside.
  • To grill the trout, coat them in oil and salt them well. Set them out at room temperature for 20 minutes, while you make the fire for the grill. Make very sure of two things: 1), that your grill grates are spotlessly clean -- foods stick to gunk on the grill, not the grill itself; and 2) that the grill grates are very hot. Right before you put the trout on the grill, wad up a piece of paper towel and, using tongs, wipe down the grill grates. Put the trout on the grill.
  • Let the trout cook until they are nicely browned, even charred a little bit. How long? At least 5 minutes, and maybe up to 10, depending on how hot your grill is. As they cook, paint them with the roasted pumpkinseed oil, or some other good oil you like. Use a metal spatula -- I highly recommend using a fish spatula because they are very thin and flexible -- and test to see if the fish comes away easily from the grill. It will when it's ready. If it still wants to stick, let it cook a little longer. When you are ready to turn the fish, slip the spatula under the fish and, using your other hand to steady it, flip the trout. Do this only once. Grill on the other side until the trout comes away from the grill easily, again, about 5 to 10 minutes.
  • When you flip the trout, start the greens in a large sauté pan set over high heat. Add the chopped greens and sauté for a minute or two, until they wilt. Add the spätzle and stir-fry them for a couple minutes. Turn off the heat and sprinkle salt and black pepper over them.
  • To serve, put some of the greens and spätzle on everyone's plate, then a trout. Drizzle a little of the roasted pumpkinseed oil over everything, then splash everything with a little freshly squeezed lemon or malt vinegar.


You can also butterfly your trout to remove most of the bones.

Keys to Success

  • Make sure the fish are approaching room temperature. This will ensure that they are fully cooked at the bone. One of the biggest grilling mistakes is to put ice cold fish on the grill. Doing this will often result in charred skin and raw meat where it meets the bone.
  • Oil your fish, and your grill grates. This will really help prevent the trout from sticking
  • Make sure your grill grates are absolutely free of debris! You don't need to scrub them with soap or anything, but you do need to make sure you scrub them down with the wire grill brush once they've heated up.
  • You want a hot grill. This isn't barbecue. This is grilling. High heat. 
  • Flip only once. This is vital. Basting the trout with some butter or oil at this point really helps keep everything moist.


Calories: 258kcal | Carbohydrates: 46g | Protein: 12g | Fat: 4g | Saturated Fat: 2g | Cholesterol: 48mg | Sodium: 751mg | Potassium: 920mg | Fiber: 9g | Sugar: 4g | Vitamin A: 10790IU | Vitamin C: 31.8mg | Calcium: 200mg | Iron: 4.6mg

Nutrition information is automatically calculated, so should only be used as an approximation.

Tried this recipe? Tag me today!Mention @huntgathercook or tag #hankshaw!

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About Hank Shaw

Hey there. Welcome to Hunter Angler Gardener Cook, the internet’s largest source of recipes and know-how for wild foods. I am a chef, author, and yes, hunter, angler, gardener, forager and cook. Follow me on Instagram and on Facebook.

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Recipe Rating


  1. Foolproof deboning trick: Once the fish is cooked and transferred to a plate, lift the tail, and reach under with a fork or other implement and gently release the meat/skin right where it meets the tail. Continue lifting the tail and you should be able to pull the whole backbone and rib bone structure out (gravity should make the meat stay down, but use a fork if needed). Flip over and do the other side. Boneless.

  2. I think I overdid the “high heat” on my Mt Lassen (also planted) trout. I was using charcoal atop a small layer of leftover coals from the last cook. The fire looked a little ferocious, but then I remembered your admonition about heat and went for it.

    The skin on a 14″ trout was fully burnt in about 2-3 minutes a side, and I avoided painting it with oil for fear of just flaring the fire up higher.

    I had to finish it with indirect heat, but the meat still turned out great. The skin? Immolated. Next time, I’ll aim for a little bit lower “high”.

  3. Do you think it would turn out well to cut a fish in half lengthwise (like butterflying a chicken) and grill the halves separately. One half of the trout we got would feed the two of us so I don’t want to cook it all at once.

  4. Anyone got a good answer to Shaun’s question? De-boning small trout is difficult if not impossible…

    1. Once the fish is done, if you lift by the tail and gently persuade the meat to come off, you can lift the whole backbone and rib bones right out from the lower side. Flip over and do again. Boom boneless.

  5. Where did you find agretti seeds? I have had it when I was with my family in Santorini, it trully is a treat. I would love to grow it here. Great simple recipe for trout, heading to the mountains this weekend. Hopefully my boys and I will be able to catch a few.

  6. Re taking the gills out, I was taught, early on, a complete gutting process with trout up to something over twelve inches, First cut from vent to just ahead of gills. Then insert knife crosswise under the jaw and cut forward, releasing from rest of fish. Grab that forward end, and pull back toward tail. Gills, guts and all come out with that one pull. All you have to dp then is scrape the blood under the backbone. It is such a simple procedure, but maybe I have made it sound complicated. Hope someone tries it.

    Ah, but I love them trouts!

  7. Thanks for the trout recipe – love catching them, but finding tasty not so boring ways to prepare it has been a challenge. Any methods you’ve found to be successful for dealing with the number of bones?

  8. I love trout, so this is great information! My daughter turned me onto your site, and we both love it. Keep ’em coming, this is stuff we want to know.

  9. Thanks for the tip to cut the gills out of the trout. I have not been doing this to date so have not been getting the best put of my trout.

  10. Ditto the yes, yes, and yes! I do slash the sides and stuff the cavity with thin lemon slices and fresh herbs.

    Last weekend we cooked a whole largemouth bass that I marinated with the recipe for sichuan fish from your cookbook, along with the basil vinaigrette from another of your recipes (cannot recall the name ATM). Turned out so good that it never left the cutting board – we ate it on the spot. 🙂

    And I want that little grill you’re using there!

  11. Yes, yes, so much yes!! This is my absolutely favorite way to cook trout– thanks for sharing your tips. I like to stuff the cavity with fruit and herbs. I don’t know there is a better meal than freshly caught trout. I’ll have to try the greens and spaetzle combination.