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Dry Cured & Smoked Steelhead Trout

thirdeye

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Although there is nothing I enjoy more than catching and smoking my own fresh caught trout, skin-on steelhead is my favorite store bought species. My Sam's Club carries it and it's an excellent quality. Steelhead has about the perfect fat content, and the fillets are very even on thickness. I use it for home canning too..... lightly smoked or with seasonings. I use a dry cure and wrap the pieces in clear wrap. The cure turns to a syrup after the first hour, then following the cure I rinse, re-season and move (unwrapped) to the spare fridge for 18 hours. Here are some photos of todays smoke.

This is the steelhead going into my Big Chief box smoker this morning. I'm burning Pitmaster's Choice pellets with two small splits of cherry. The seasoning is cracked black pepper and roasted garlic powder.
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This is roughly 75 minutes into the 90° cold smoke, then I ramped up the box to 140° for an hour.
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Here we are at about 3 hours.... the tail piece was already done, the internal of the remaining pieces is in the 130°'s. The smoker is now running at 160°.
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The finished product, the internals are in the low 140°'s. I like to rest it overnight in the fridge, the color will bloom and the time helps the flavor and texture.
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xray

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That looks awesome! Very nicely done.
 

jcam222

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Looks great. I’m definitely going to make some time to catch some Ohio steelhead on the rue spawning run this fall. Usually I release them all but I’m going to keep a couple for this.
 

thirdeye

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Looks great. I’m definitely going to make some time to catch some Ohio steelhead on the rue spawning run this fall. Usually I release them all but I’m going to keep a couple for this.
On the lower Snake River in Idaho there is good steelhead angling, and I only say that because some fisherman don't count fish landed, but keep count of fish that strike or are hooked and then do a 'long distance release'.
 

thirdeye

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Thanks for all the kind words. With the exception of cheese, I've smoked fish longer than anything else. 99% is trout, salmon and steelhead. I got a Little Chief smoker box in 1973, then a Big Chief later on. I couldn't even guess how many pounds of fish have gone through them over the years.
 

thirdeye

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I keep my smoked fish on the moist side, so it benefits from an overnight rest in the fridge before slicing. Here is a slice I had this morning...
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SmokinAl

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That looks awesome!
Our Sam’s has steelhead too, but it’s so expensive, and I usually buy farmed salmon for my lox. But may have to try at least one steelhead. They really look so good, I think I would just like to grill one for dinner. Love that crispy skin!!
Al
 

thirdeye

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That looks awesome!
Our Sam’s has steelhead too, but it’s so expensive, and I usually buy farmed salmon for my lox. But may have to try at least one steelhead. They really look so good, I think I would just like to grill one for dinner. Love that crispy skin!!
Al
I paid about $8.50/lb and their Atlantic salmon (also skin on) was $8/lb. It's higher in fat, good when canning or smoking and has a great flavor. Sometimes if I buy 2 sides I grill the tail sections. Try some, just so you can say you did.
 

thirdeye

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What ratio of salt, sugar & #1 cure are you using for the dry cure?
This is the recipe for the dry cure I use. This makes enough cure for about 10 pounds of fish:

thirdeye's Dry Cure for Trout and Salmon

1 cup Mortons kosher salt (if you use Diamond Crystal, you will have to use more as it has larger grains)
2 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
2 cups firmly packed brown sugar
2 teaspoon ground ginger (I prefer to grind this myself in my mortar and pestle from cracked ginger)
1-2 teaspoons ground white pepper
½ teaspoon pulverized bay leaf
On a cutting board, sprinkle a little of the salt onto the chopped garlic, and mash to a paste with the point of a knife. In a small bowl, combine the garlic mixture with the remaining salt, the sugar, ginger, pepper and bay leaf. Mix this very well. Extra can be stored in the freezer in a zipper bag. It takes about 30 minutes on the counter to soften enough to use.

90% of the fish I smoke are skin-on. I smoke them skin down and never turn. I have hung them from the thick end, which gives them a very traditional look.

The cure time is based on the thickness of the fillet, not the weight. You notice I list a range of time, this is to accommodate different thickness as well as personal preference for flavor. Some folks like a stronger and slightly saltier flavor. Time in the cure for salmon is 8 to 12 hours for an average salmon fillet, and some readers have reported they prefer 16 hours for a thick salmon fillet. A steelhead fillet will be thinner, so 6 to 8 hours works fine. Trout vary in size so the range of time is from 3 to 6 hours. With respect to cure time, disregard the length of the fillet, base it on thickness. Keep a log of your cure times and thickness so you can repeat a procedure you like. NOTE: For skinless fillets, sprinkle a layer of the dry cure on the top side as well. Skinless fillets will cure in about half the time because the cure is working from both sides. My personal cure times are usually around 3.5 hours for trout, 6 or 7 hours for steelhead, and around 8 hours for salmon.

Prep: Take a piece of plastic wrap at least 6 or 7 inches longer than your fillet and lay it out on your counter. In the center of the plastic, sprinkle a layer of cure about 1/8" to 1/4" deep onto the plastic wrap, making sure the layer of cure is a little longer and wider than your fillet. (You will be using the extra plastic on the ends when wrapping the fillet). Place one fillet on top of the cure (skin side up), then fold the sides up and then the ends, leaving the seam on top. No need to add cure to the skin side. The wrapped fillets can be stacked. (I put them on a shallow tray just in case one leaks). Put the fillets into the fridge to cure.

How The Cure Works - The moisture and oils in the fish will liquefy the dry cure and make a syrup which will cure the fish. After curing, rinse the fish very well under cold running water, rubbing gently to remove the syrup. I spend about 1 minute on each fillet rinsing and lightly scrubbing with my fingers. Blot dry with paper towels and put on a racks, then season with black pepper, garlic pepper, garlic powder, Montreal Steak seasoning, or whatever you like. Stay away from a rub with a lot of salt in it. Then air dry until tacky, at least 1 to 2 hours OR put back into the refrigerator for a minimum of 4 to 6 hours. Resting overnight (12 to 18 hours) is my preferred method. Following the resting time, you can give the fillets a "shine coat" of oil by lightly brushing or spraying olive oil on them. A light coat is all that is needed, and the shine is especially nice on thinner trout fillets that may not have the higher oil content that salmon does.

Smoking: Since this cure does NOT have a curing agent like Cure #1 or Tender Quick, I make sure my smoking time is 4 to 5 hours. And I make changes for the outside temperature. On this batch I went 75 minutes with the top lid blocked open for some cold smoke. Then allowed the smoker to ramp up to 140°, then 160°. In the fall or winter my smoker will not get hot enough so at 4 hours if the fish internal temp is 130°, I move it into a 180° oven until it reaches 140° internal. The wife of a friend likes very lightly smoked fish, so he smokes a few pieces for about an hour, then finishes the cook in the oven. Allow the fish to cool on the counter, then move to the fridge unwrapped. You want to avoid condensation, so give them several hours to cool before covering or wrapping.
 

Bearcarver

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Looks Great, Thirdeye!!
Nice Job!!
Like.

Bear
 

uncle eddie

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Looks about perfect to me! When I go fishing at Sam's Club, I always fish for steelhead trout.
 

cmayna

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Looks great! It's been a long time since I've done any steelhead. Something I must consider doing. Is your big chief equipped with it's original element? If so, have you ever considered replacing it with an adjustable and higher rated element?
 

thirdeye

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Looks great! It's been a long time since I've done any steelhead. Something I must consider doing. Is your big chief equipped with it's original element? If so, have you ever considered replacing it with an adjustable and higher rated element?
I replaced the element and pan about 15 years ago, but it looked just like the original. I wasn't aware there was an adjustable element.
 

cmayna

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The element I use in my big chief is from a Proctor Silex single burner, 1,000 watts. A little bit of work but when you have some down time.......... It might make doing your steelhead just a little bit easier.
 

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