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Spices Used When Cooking Or Smoking Trout

Understanding Spices

We have been asked a few times what are the best spices to use when cooking or smoking fresh trout so we though the following blog post would be helpful.

Curing Trout

Curing is a method of preserving food, usually meat or fish, using a combination of salt and sugar. This simple mixture can be rubbed into trout to draw out moisture, kill any bacteria and preserve it for longer. Although you can find ready-cured trout in the supermarket, it’s much easier and cheaper to do it at home. Simply mix coarse sea salt, sugar and lemon zest and spread half of the mixture onto a large tray. Place the trout on top and spread the remaining half of the mixture on top of the trout. Cover with cling film and refrigerate for 12 hours. Once the trout feels firm, brush off the mixture and wash it in cold water before slicing and serving.

To ramp up the flavour, you can add herbs and spices to the curing mixture, such as fennel seeds, coriander seeds, juniper berries and dill seeds and leaves. This recipe for beetroot and lemon zest cured trout makes for a delicious (and beautifully coloured) fish dish—it would look particularly fitting on a Christmas dinner table.

Once you have your cured trout, why not add a little spice blend? Known as a fish’s best friend, Chermoula Spice Blend is a Moroccan spice mix used throughout Morocco, Tunisia, Libya and Algeria. In Tunisia, chermoula is used on salted, cured fish to mark the end of Ramadan.

Smoking Trout (hot & cold)

Smoking is one of the most delicious ways to cook trout. With their small size, even texture and fantastic flavour, it’s the perfect fish for smoking. There are two ways to smoke trout and fish in general: hot smoking and cold smoking. Hot smoking involves fully cooking the fish while adding a smoky flavour. Meanwhile, cold smoking infuses the trout with that same smoky flavour, but using minimal heat. In other words, without cooking the trout. This allows the smoke to penetrate the fish more easily.

Whether you’re hot or cold smoking, you’ll need to cure your trout first. This allows salt and other ingredients to soak into the meat and draw out excess moisture. Simply follow the same curing method in the previous section and add whatever herbs and spices take your fancy—smoked garlic powder, smoked paprika and crushed chipotle peppers will add an extra smoky flavour. This method is known as a ‘dry cure’, but you can also add liquids such as water, juice or beer for a stronger, ‘wet cure’ method.

Once you’ve cured and rinsed your trout, it’s time to smoke it. For hot smoking, simply place your trout in a smoker or on a low-heat barbecue and cook for around 15 minutes. Make sure to close the lid so that the smoke really soaks into the fish. Remember to use a mild wood so as not to overwhelm the flavours. Alternatively, you can cook the prepared trout on planks of wood, either in an oven or on the BBQ. The following planks of wood work really well, Cedar, Cherry and Alder. Learn more about cooking trout on planks here.

If you’re cold smoking, this will take longer but the results are worth it. Simply place the trout in your cold smoker and leave for up to 24 hours. You’ll notice the ends of the tail and other fins will dry up and turn crispy when cooked.

Here is a helpful video on how to smoke trout:

MeatEater Recipe: Smoked Trout

Cooking Trout

If you’re cooking trout whole, it’s best practice to make an incision on the thickest part of the fish on each side to help the heat penetrate and allow for even cooking. If you’re cooking trout fillets, make sure that it has been pin-boned (those pesky long, thin needle-like bones that run along the length of a fish). If it hasn’t, the best way to do this is to use a pair of tweezers to grip the end of each bone and draw it out of the fillet.

Trout is perfect for pan-frying, steaming, grilling and poaching. Steaming is a particularly good way of preparing trout as this method brings out the fish’s full flavour and helps retain the moisture. For a bolder flavour, this recipe for spicy baked southwest trout from Cotter Crunch uses cumin, paprika, garlic powder and chilli powder.

If you’re more into milder Mediterranean flavours, try this recipe for Mediterranean seared trout. You’ll need sweet paprika, garlic powder and ground coriander. Serve with our homemade tzatziki for the perfect summer dish.

If you’re craving South American food, trout is a great choice for ceviche as its oily flesh and subtle taste pair well with the citrusy marinades. This is a fantastic recipe for trout ceviche with avocado sorbet from Great British Chefs.

Baking Trout

To bake a whole trout, simply douse it in olive oil and lemon juice, sprinkle some herbs on top and throw in a few garlic cloves before wrapping it in foil and sticking it in the oven for around 20 minutes. This method also works if you’re using the barbecue or the grill. Want to spice things up a little? Trout tastes brilliant with Indian flavours. Use our tandoori masala for this delicious recipe for grilled tandoori trout by BBC Good Food.

When baking or grilling trout, any barbecue rub will work well. Used across Louisiana, Cajun Blackening Spice Blend is particularly tasty with fish. Dip trout fillets into melted butter and coat it with the spice blend for a crunchy, flavourful crust.

Trout pate

Did you know that you can even turn trout into pate? All you need is smoked trout fillets, cream cheese or creme fraiche, and lemon juice or zest. Simply whizz everything in a blender and serve on toast or crusty bread. Of course, you can always add spices to make things a bit more interesting. Cayenne pepper, paprika and black pepper work particularly well in a pate.

This recipe from Nigella for smoked trout pate is an intense mix with the addition of horseradish sauce. Don’t fancy the heat? This recipe from Cooks Without Borders is a milder version which uses fresh tarragon, chives and dill. Both are divine.

Want to learn more about trout? Our guide to trout has everything you need to know, from what to look for when buying trout to what to serve it with.

Spices or spice mixes can be used to enhance the trout flavour in combination with the above cooking and smoking methods. Choose from strong curry flavoured spices to more subtle Mediterranean spice flavours. Experimentation is always a good approach if have an abundance of trout as a keen trout fisherman. Hopefully we have inspired you some!

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