By Spencer Durrant | TMTB Managing Editor
February 7, 2018
If you know how to cook trout — the right way — a night on the river turns into a trip to the grocery store.
I’m a big fan of hunting. Always have been, always will be. It’s a great conservation tool, and it’s the best way to put healthy meat on your dinner table. Done right, it can be cheaper than buying a year’s worth of meat at the store.
A lot of anglers hunt, both big and small game, but it’s surprising how few know how to cook trout, let alone catch, keep, and kill them on a regular basis.
Even more surprising is that anglers don’t grasp the ecological benefits of responsible, selective trout harvest (much in the same manner that big game harvest is permitted in most of the world).
Consider these words from Tom Hazelton from Hatch Magazine:
Fish are good food. No, not the grocery store’s dry-skinned bug-eyed farm-plumped rainbow trout, or the translucent, tasteless tilapia fillets, or the ethically-risky origin-unknown salmon. Instead consider these eight-to-ten-inch wild brown trout, lean and cold, delicious and nutritious, legally and ecologically sustainable. More than sustainable. On some streams, taking a few home is arguably ecologically beneficial.
On some streams, of course. It’s probably too obvious to mention, but not all fisheries can sustain catch-and-keep and not every angler can keep every fish they catch. Moderation in all things.
Because while food is the point, it’s not necessary to fill the freezer.
Now that the requisite ethical debate of killing trout is over, let’s dig into the meat of this post: how to cook trout.
99% of the trout I keep for food are big enough to fillet, but not so big that a standard pocket knife can’t do the job. I only make an exception here for kokanee salmon and lake trout.
Filleting fish is less work than gutting, and if your significant other doesn’t love the idea of a fish sans head and tail in the oven, fillets are the way to go.
I also feel they’re easier to season, marinade, and serve alongside other food than a gutted fish.
Seasoning and Marinade
Telling someone how to cook trout only works to a point; seasoning and marinade is that point.
Given that I’m a perennially broke trout bum, I eat a ton of fish. On the rare occasion I share, folks usually make some comment about, “not liking that fishy taste.”
So if you want to mitigate the fishy taste, the following seasoning recipe is one I’ve used for years to convince folks who think they don’t like fish that they actually do:
- Garlic powder
- Chopped onions
- McCormick Grillmates Chipolte Bacon seasoning
- Black pepper
Sprinkle a fair amount of garlic powder on the fillets. This helps pull the fishy taste from the meat. Then use the rest to balance out what sort of flavor you want. I tend to go heavy on the chipotle bacon, but that’s just me.
If you’re less concerned about the fishy taste and want a good marinade, I suggest:
- Sawtooth Skyline Red Wine
- Crushed garlic
- Chopped onions
Fill a bowl with a fair amount of Sawtooth Red (this wine has a fly fisherman on the label, and an Adams embossed on the stopper. While I don’t drink, I’d say this is a must-have wine for anglers who like wine-based meat marinades), and the crushed garlic and onions to the desired taste. Fewer onions and less garlic means more of the wine’s natural flavors come through.
I’m a fan of the grill. Who isn’t? If you’re planning on grilling your fish, I’d suggest wrapping the fillets in tin foil before throwing them on the grill. Trout fillets tend to be a bit too thin and flaky to go right on the grill.
If you don’t have a grill, lay the fillets on tin foil spread across a cookie sheet (you won’t have to wash the sheet!). I put a bit of olive oil beneath the fillets to help reduce how much of the meat sticks. Preheat your oven to 450, cook for about 10 minutes, and enjoy!
Spencer Durrant is a fly fishing writer, outdoors columnist, and novelist from Utah. His work has appeared in Field & Stream, Hatch Magazine, TROUT Magazine, Sporting Classics Daily, and other national publications. He’s also the managing editor of The Modern Trout Bum. Find him on Twitter/Instagram, @Spencer_Durrant.