Smoked Steelhead Trout

I love surprises. But really, who doesn’t.

A friend of mine does fly fishing and every once in a while he calls to see if I am home and then comes to drop off one of the fish he caught. So, a few days ago, I received a call and then 30 minutes later I had a fish to clean.

I do not know much about fish, besides buying them at a fish market or supermarket and cooking them. I don’t fish and therefore I don’t clean them or filet them. This is the third fish he has dropped off and I am starting to get better at preparing them. I feel I need to get a lesson from someone though – I know I could do a far better job.

My friend told me the fish was a steelhead trout. After a bit of research online, I discovered that rainbow trout and steelhead are the same fish. Steelhead are just a larger and mature version of the rainbow trout. This fish is in the same fish family as salmon and does have a similar taste, especially when smoked.

Above is the fish I got to filet! This recipe for smoked fish is great with store bought trout of salmon as well.

I used a dry brine this time and it is so easy to do. Cover the fish with the brown sugar/salt brine and place in the fridge for 8-12 hours (I did it overnight). Rinse the brine off and let the fish dry so a pellicle can form on the skin. The pellicle keeps some of the moisture in the fish and enhances the smokey flavour.

Smoke for 5 hours at a gradually increasing temperature, starting at 100F and increasing it 20F every hour. Look at the finished product!! Man did the fish taste incredible!!

Print Pin
4 from 1 vote

Prep Time 30 minutes
Cook Time 5 hours
Total Time 5 hours 30 minutes
Servings 4 fillets
Author Steve Cylka


  • 2 pounds of steelhead trout fillets
  • 6 cups of brown sugar
  • 1 1/2 cups kosher salt
  • 2 tbsp garlic powder
  • 2 tbsp onion powder
  • 1 tbsp ground black pepper
  • 2 tsp cayenne pepper


  • Mix the brown sugar, salt and seasonings together. Rub the dry brine all over the fish. Place the fish in a bowl making sure the fish is totally surrounded and covered in the dry brine. Place in the fridge overnight (8-12 hours).
  • Rinse the fish thoroughly and place in a cool dry place of 2-3 hours to allow a pellicle to form on the outside of the fish. A fan can be used to speed up the process.
  • Smoke for 5 hours at a gradually increasing temperature, starting at 100F and increasing it 20F every hour. The fish needs to have a minimum internal temperature of 140F.
  • Enjoy!



About Steve Cylka

Steve is the author of The Black Peppercorn. He is a recipe developer and food photographer. His recipes have been featured on websites like Bradley Smoker, Times Picayune, Buzzfeed, and Basil & Salt. He has also authored and co-authored a couple cookbooks.


  1. Hey Steve, that looks and sounds awesome! Beautiful color on the outside.

    I used to saltwater fish all the time when I lived in Texas, but not much here in Wisconsin. Been thinking about it though!

  2. I have never done my own fish before … Yours looks great!

  3. That’s a beautiful fish and the smoked product looks just perfect. Great job!

  4. That fish has a perfect finish! Looks wonderful.

  5. The contrast between the smoked exterior and the juicy interior of this trout looks great!

  6. Steve … You have been nominated for my NEW Food Stories Award for Excellence in Storytelling. Check out my site for the details (foodstoriesblog dot com).

  7. Steve, that is one amazing looking smoked fish. I have just started to get into the groove using my smoker and want to try salmon in it, but now I want to get a hold of a tout and try it also though I doubt any I would do would be as gorgeous as this one.

  8. Yum, Steve! Looks great. Fish is a great, refreshing menu item as it begins to warm up!

  9. Steve, this is spectacular! I love trout and I know I’d love your smoked version!

  10. Oh my goodness this is incredible. My dad was a huge fisherman so I`ve actually had steelhead. So good. I love trout myself. This one and rainbow are my faves. And oddly I adore small mouth bass. So good. We grew up fishing like crazy. Brings back so many wonderful memories.

  11. I can still smell that smokey flavour and so can the kids. Not only do we get to enjoy reading your blog, We have been lucky enough to get a sampling!!! Thanks so much!

  12. Looks good. Steelhead are actually rainbow trout that have been to the ocean and then return to the streams they came from to spawn. Store bought trout will have a whiter meat, but wild steelhead will have an orangish color to the meat because of their ocean diet.

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