Smoking Fish - Rainbow Trout
Have a look at The Art of Smoking Fish for an in depth look at smoking fish.
Rainbow Trout, my Ruff, Snook, Mackerel, Trevally, Small European Carp
- Weber Barbecue (57 cm)
- 16 Barbecue Briquettes (Heat Beads)
- 2 Hickory chunks
- 1 Drip Pan, Water
15 - 30 minutes
- 4 - 6 whole Rainbow Trout, 20 - 25 cm long
- 4 kg of Cooking Salt
Firstly, bone the rainbow trout by slitting the underside of the fish open from the gills to the tail. Using scissors, cut through the back bone just behind the head and carefully lift the back bone and rib cage free. Then cut through the back bone at the tail end. Check for any remaining rib bones and remove them.
Salt the fish inside and out and allow them to stand covered in the salt, in the refrigerator, for 4 - 6 hours. Salt is important to the preservative process. There is too much water in the fish's flesh and some of it must be removed. Curing accomplishes this. Also the little extra salt in the flesh helps retard bacterial growth.
Wash off the salt and pat the fish dry. The drying process is fairly important, as fish that are too moist will end up being steamed, rather than smoked. Though still edible, you wont end up fully appreciating the quality, taste and flavour of smoked fish.
Always use the indirect method when using a Weber to smoke food. Indirect fires are transformed into smoke-cooking fires by adding just one or two chunks of Hickory to the coals on each side of the Weber. The more flavour you require, the more Hickory chunks you add.
Lower temperatures are created inside the barbecue by using less fuel. Using only 8 barbecue briquettes on each side creates an excellent temperature for smoking small fish. For this type of fire, 16 barbecue briquettes are used and lit on one side (as shown in the left picture). Once the briquettes have had time to ash over (about 40 minutes), transfer half of them (8 - eight) to the other side of the barbecue (as shown in the right picture).
Position the drip tray, and if need be, fill with a small amount of water. Place the grill on the barbecue, then add the Hickory chunks to the heat beads, one per side.
Its a good idea to leave the lid off for a little while when adding the Hickory. This allows it to catch fire. Once it is burning, replace the Weber lid, and it will start to smoke intensely. With Webers, its important to use chunks of smoking wood rather than chips or sawdust, as the chunks last longer and require less attention, resulting in a better smoke flavour.
You will need to brush or spray some oil onto the grill, so as the fish does not initially stick to the grill during the course of smoking. You will also need a large cake pan to use as a drip pan. The drip pan is important to keep the direct heat away from the fish, to force the smoke to spread throughout the Weber, and to catch the drippings which could flame up if they fell onto the coals below.
I also make a habit of filling up the drip pan with a small amount of water. The heat from the briquettes against the pan will heat up the water, causing it to steam. This will keep any foods being cooked from drying out to quickly. It also prevents the pan from getting too messy with all the fat and oil that can drip down, making cleaning of the pan that much easier.
Place the fish on the oiled grill and close the lid. Make sure that the top and bottom vents are partially open, so as to allow the briquettes to continuously smoulder the Hickory blocks, rather than completely extinguishing them. You can leave the fish splayed on the rack or fold them closed. If smoking fish whole, I think closing them gives a better appearance, but splaying them gives them more surface area through which to absorb the smoke, hence a smokier flavour. It is all a matter of personal taste. If you splay them it is better to leave them that way when you serve them. The skin will crack open when you fold them closed after you smoke them. On the other hand, if you serve them splayed you might as well have filleted them in the first place.
As the fish smokes keep an eye on the grill. If you see the smoke thinning out, replenish the wood. Smoke-cook the fish in the Weber with the lid on, for 15 - 30 minutes, or until the flesh flakes when tested. Once the fish is cooked, remove the fish and close all the vents on the Weber, both top and bottom, so as to suffocate the briquettes. Once cool, these briquettes can be re-used for your next Weber barbecue.
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