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Smoked Lake Trout

This recipe is designed for a fatty fish of between 5 and 15 pounds, something that can be butterflied or kited and then smoked whole. Lake trout are ideal for this because they are the right size and are very fatty. There are other fish you could use with this recipe: Bluefish, larger mackerel, big brown or rainbow trout, or small salmon such as sockeye or pinks.
Prep Time2 hrs
Cook Time3 hrs
Total Time5 hrs
Course: Appetizer, Cured Meat, Main Course
Cuisine: American
Keyword: smoked foods, trout
Servings: 4 people
Calories: 130kcal
Author: Hank Shaw


  • 1 whole lake trout, butterflied or kited
  • Kosher salt, about 90 grams or 3 ounces, about 1/2 cup
  • 1/2 cup chopped spruce tips or fir, or fresh rosemary
  • Grated zest of an orange or 2 lemons or limes (optional)


  • Salt both sides of the trout liberally. Use the whole 1/2 cup for a fish that, when it was alive, weighed between 5 and 12 pounds. Scale the salt up or down if your fish is larger or smaller, but don't get all hung up on it -- this is an approximation. Sprinkle the chopped spruce tips all over the meat side of the trout. Fold the trout over on itself so it's "back to normal." Put the fish in a closed container and set in the fridge for as many hours as the butterflied fish weighs.
  • Rinse off the cure under cold water and pat the fish dry with paper towels. Let it sit out in a cool, breezy place for a few hours, or you can set the trout on a cooling rack in the fridge for up to a day. This dries the fish out enough to form a pellicle; if you skip this step the smoke will not adhere to it as well.
  • Smoke the trout over whatever wood you want. We used diamond willow in Manitoba, but alder is my wood of choice for fish. Fruit woods and oak are other good choices. Smoke over low heat -- no higher than 225°F and ideally closer to 180°F -- until the fish has been cooked through, which can take as little as 90 minutes or as long as 4 hours, depending on how thick your trout is and how hot your fire is. Either eat the trout on the spot or let it cool and eat it cold. It should keep for a solid week to 10 days if kept cool.


I chose spruce tips as an additional seasoning a) because they were around me in Manitoba, and b) the citrusy-piney flavor cuts the fatty lake trout really well. No spruce tips? Use a combination of rosemary and grated citrus rind and you'll get close. And of course if you want to go a whole different route with the flavors, feel free.


Calories: 130kcal | Carbohydrates: 1g | Protein: 18g | Fat: 6g | Saturated Fat: 1g | Cholesterol: 49mg | Sodium: 45mg | Potassium: 329mg | Fiber: 1g | Vitamin A: 147IU | Vitamin C: 1mg | Calcium: 47mg | Iron: 2mg