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Smoked Steelhead Trout – Buttery Goodness!

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If you have not tried smoked steelhead trout, then you have been missing out on one of the most buttery and delicious tasting fish available. It looks a lot like salmon, but it seems to have more fat between the layers of meat, and, for this reason, it is perfect for smoking low and slow.

Unlike every other recipe on the internet and elsewhere for smoking steelhead trout, there is no real need to brine it or any other lengthy process to make it taste good.

A little of my Texas style rub on the surface, which can be applied the night before if you like and onto the smoker grate for a couple of hours, renders a fish that will wow you with flavor, moisture and tenderness.

Abi makes a great watermelon salad that goes really well with the fish, and I have included the recipe below for your enjoyment.

Helpful Information
  • Prep Time: 10 minutes
  • Cook Time: 2 hours
  • Smoker Temp: 225°F (107°C)
  • Meat Finish Temp: 135°F (60°C)
  • Recommended Wood: Alder and/or Apple
What You’ll Need
Prepare the Fish

Remove the fish from it's container or wrapper and rinse it well under cold water.


Lay it on the cutting board skin side down.

As a safety precaution, make sure all bones are removed. If you run your fingers lightly along the top of the fish, you can feel them sticking out just above the surface. If you find one, pull it out with clean needle nose pliers.

It is also a great idea to let everyone know to be watchful for any bones you might have missed.

Brush olive oil all over the top and sides of the fish.


Sprinkle Jeff's Texas style rub  all over the fish.


If you like, you can place the seasoned fish into a large lidded container or zip-top bag and place it in the fridge overnight or until you are ready to put it on the pit.

Smoke the Fish

Set up your smoker for cooking at 225°F (107°C) using indirect heat. If your smoker uses a water pan, fill it up.

When the smoker is preheated and ready to go, place the fish on a piece of parchment paper and onto the smoker grate.

The parchment paper will help in the removal of the fish from the grates and make sure it doesn't stick.

Note: Do not use wax paper.

Keep light smoke going for at least an hour and monitor the temperature of the fish in the thickest part using an instant-read digital thermometer such as the Thermapen.

Finish and Serve

The fish is done when it reaches 135°F (57°C) and that is the perfect time to get it out of the heat and stop the cooking process.


Brush a little melted butter onto the top of the fish if you like, cut it into pieces and serve immediately.

How to Make Abi's Watermelon Salad
  • ¼ seedless watermelon, thinly sliced
  • ½ red onion, very thinly sliced and separated
  • 1 large navel orange, segmented
  • ¼ c of feta cheese, crumbled
  • ½ c fresh cilantro, chopped
  • Extra virgin olive oil
  • Coarse black pepper
  • Coarse salt

Layer watermelon, orange segments, and red onion on a plate. Add the crumbled feta. Cover and chill if not serving immediately. Just prior to serving, drizzle with olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Top with chopped cilantro.

4.4 from 19 votes

Smoked Steelhead Trout - Buttery Goodness!

If you have not tried smoked steelhead trout then have been missing out on one of the most buttery and delicious tasting fish on the planet.
Prep Time10 minutes
Cook Time2 hours
Total Time2 hours 10 minutes
Servings: 4



  • Rinse the fish under cold water, then pat dry with a paper towel.
  • Brush olive oil onto the top and sides of the fish.
  • Apply 1 TBS of my Texas style rub to the top of the fish.
  • Set up your smoker for cooking at 225°F (107°C) with indirect heat, and if your smoker uses a water pan, fill it up. Use a light-tasting wood for smoke such as alder or apple.
  • When the smoker is ready, place the fish on a piece of parchment paper and onto the smoker grate.
  • Smoke cook the fish for about 2 hours or until the internal temperature reads 135°F (57°C) in the thickest part.
  • Remove the fish from the heat and bring it into the house.
  • Serve immediately.

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Recipe Rating


  1. 5 stars
    So far, I have just made the watermelon salad. It is so good! This is going to be a weekly, summer salad! Thanks you Abi!

  2. 3 stars
    Wow, first time smoking Steelhead and boy oh boy I am glad I read the comments. I am not sure where the 2hrs @ 225º recommendation comes from because 50min @ 200º took a 1lb filet well past 145º internal temperature. Had I decided to check a bit later, I might have jerky. The filet was still delicious, but I am left thinking how great it could have been if I just started the cook a bit later.

  3. Jeff, I know you said that there’s no need to brine with this recipe. Do you think it would affect the outcome if you did? Also, is there no need to let the fish dry and form the pellicle prior to smoking?

    1. Bruce, you can always brine things like this and it never hurts. Brining is not as necessary with things that are not as lean and sometimes I skip this step if I don’t feel it’s necessary or I’m short on time. The same with allowing the fish to dry and form a pellicle. I sometimes skip this step with the steelhead trout since it has so much more buttery fat between the flakes but it’s a great idea to do it if you have the time. I will update this recipe to include this information.

  4. 5 stars
    I cooked this last night, and I thought it was amazing! I didn’t read the comments like I normally do and ran into an issue. I didn’t check the temperature until an hour and a half into the cooking. It was already150 F. Thank goodness Steelhead Trout have more marbling than Salmon. It was still nice and juicy. I did use Abi’s Watermelon Salad with it and now have a new summer salad recipe too.

  5. 5 stars
    I’ve been smoking steelhead instead of salmon for years now. (Unless the Copper River salmon is in season — that’s my ultimate in the trout/salmon family.) Usually source it at Costco. I used to use the regular rub and still do occasionally, though it is a sweeter finished product. After experimenting with the Texas Style rub a while back I did a “taste test” at our annual family reunion. The Texas Style version was preferred by about 70/30 so that’s my go-to now. Great recipes as always Jeff! Thanks!

  6. For salmon fillets I mix 70% brown sugar and 30% salt. Coat the fillets and marinate for at least 4 hours to overnight. Then quickly rinse fillets, pat dry, set on baking rack and let dry for at least 2 hours. Put in smoker using smoke tube with hickory chips or pellets. About an hour. Check for doneness. If need more cooking I turn on smoker or finish off in the oven. Always comes out great.

  7. 3 stars
    Rather than commercial rubs i would prefer to see seasonings i can put together. I don’t even know what is in these seasoning packets.

  8. 5 stars
    Used this recipe as long as we have been going to Costco. Always a crowd pleaser. I usually go to 140F, but not a degree more. Pecan rub seems to also fit the bill. Been following you forever… always happy to see what you send to me to try, and you have never let me down!

  9. 5 stars
    Used this recipe twice now. It is my go to meal when my daughters best friend is over. She won’t eat fish at anyone else’s house. It’s so good that the teen girls are the leftovers in middle of night. It is an almost war over who gets leftovers the girls or my husband. Thank you for the recipe.

  10. Winter in Maine brings an abundance of fresh water smelts from ice fishing. Any good recipies for smoking these?

  11. 5 stars
    I made this a couple weeks ago for some friends and it came out awesome. I’m not a big fish eating person, but this sounded good and a co-worker of mine loves steelhead so I thought I would give it a try. Between the fish and the Watermelon Salad, dinner was a huge success. The fish was perfectly done in only 1 hour so be careful to check on it, the thickness is a big factor on cook time.

  12. I have not used this recipe yet, but I have done a lot of salmon and some sea trout on my Big Green Egg. I will be trying this recipe soon.

    One preparation step not included in your method is to check the fish for small, white, flexible bones. Depending on how your seatrout or salmon was cleaned, these may or may not be present along the bottom, thinner part of the filet (sort of like ribs) or along the center of the thicker part toward the top. You should be able to feel them sticking out of the flesh, if you can’t see them.

    They are easily removed by grasping them with a needle nose pliers and gently pulling straight up. I prefer to use one of the pliers that have a 90 degree bend at the end, but a normal needle nose will do just fine.

    If you don’t remove them before cooking, let your diners know that they may be present.