Grilled Trout with Dill and Lemon

How to grill whole trout, stuffed with lemon, dill, and dotted with butter. Easy!

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Photography Credit: Elise Bauer

I once was the proud owner of a fly reel. Just the reel mind you. I was 10 years old and I never did get a fishing rod for that reel. The fishing rod I did have came with its own reel, and was the type with which you used a little bobbing float, and a hook to attach something wriggly.

Hapless in the fishing department, I eventually gifted my gear to my younger brother, and stuck to collecting crawdads, tadpoles, and minnows. Over the years my brother regularly brought home trout (usually steelhead), salmon, and assorted other fish he caught in the American River, a short walk from our house in Sacramento.

Grilled Trout

It was only years later, on a trip to western Montana, that I learned that a fly reel is what is used in fly fishing, which is how one fishes for trout. So now, every time I pass by the fish counter at the market and see beautiful fresh trout staring back at me, I think of fly fishermen, standing in their waders in the shallows of either the Madison or American rivers, casting for a bite.

Trout is, one of the most delicious fish you can eat, and not only is it relatively inexpensive (for fish), it’s really easy to cook. It’s usually sold deboned, and with head and tail.

Trout does have rather delicate skin. So rather than grilling it directly on the grill grates, the best way to ensure that the fish holds together and results in a beautiful presentation, is to create an aluminum “boat” to hold the fish, and place that boat on the grill. Keep the boat open, and cover the grill so that the trout absorbs some of the smokiness from the grill.

Grilled Trout with Dill and Lemon Recipe

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  • Prep time: 10 minutes
  • Cook time: 8 minutes
  • Preparing the grill time: 15 minutes
  • Yield: Serves 2

Assume one trout per person.

These directions are for grilling trout. If you don't have a grill, you can easily prepare the fish in an aluminum boat in the same way and bake in the oven at 350°F until done.

Ingredients

  • Olive oil
  • 2 trout, boned (also called "butterflied") and cleaned, head and tail still on (or headless if you want)
  • Salt
  • Pepper
  • 6 paper thin slices of fresh lemon, seeded
  • Several sprigs of dill (or basil, tarragon, parsley, any tender fresh herb)
  • 1 teaspoon butter, cut into small cubes

Method

1 Prepare your grill for direct high heat, with one part of the grill cool.

2 While the grill is heating, make one or two "boats" with heavy duty aluminum foil. Double or triple layer the foil and make 1-inch rim around the edges. Coat the bottom of the boat generously with olive oil so that the trout does not stick while it is cooking.

3 Rinse the trout with water and pat them dry. Open up the fish and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Add lemon slices to the inside of the fish in a single layer. Top with sprigs of dill and dots of butter. Close the fish over the stuffing. Brush both sides of the fish with olive oil. Place fish in the aluminum foil boat(s).

4 Place fish boats on the hot side of the grill. Cover and let cook for 3 minutes. The oil and the juice from the fish will get bubbly. Move to the cool side of the grill. Cover and cook for 3-5 more minutes, until the fish are just cooked through. You can peek inside the fish for doneness. Once opaque, the fish should be removed from the grill.

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Links:

Whole Grilled Trout - trout grilled directly on the grill grates, from Hank Shaw of Hunter Angler Gardener Cook

Pan Fried Lemon Garlic Brook Trout - from Spicie Foodie

Brown Butter Colorado Trout - from Marla Meridith

Whole Baked Trout with Herb Salsa - from View from Great Island

Grilled Trout

Showing 4 of 8 Comments

  • L.D.

    Why do they prepare trout with the head on? It might appear professional but I really don’t find it appealing. Is it just me or what?

  • Sandy S

    Elise, once again your photos are killer. The one with the trout on the platter is just perfect! Oh My! I am so hungry for grilled trout with lemon and dill! Of course your story (and Kos’ above!) have me wishing for fresh trout that has just been caught. Oh how I would love to be trotting down to the river to do a little fishing! As it is, I have my fingers crossed for some reasonably fresh trout at the market. I’m thinking they will go well with either a little seasoned rice or perhaps your zucchini fritters. Wish me luck with my catch!

  • Mark

    I’ve always cooked my fish whole, minus the innards, of course. Once cooked, simply lift the tail / backbone. The meat of the fish will fall away with a little gentle encouragement from the tines of a fork.

  • Shannon

    Sorry if this is a dumb question, but how do you actually EAT the fish? As in, how to you get all of the bones out after it’s cooked. A coworker recently gave me a trout he caught (also from the American river!) cleaned like this and I don’t know what to do with it once its cooked. Thanks! :)

  • kos

    I love the fact that Trout is well known (and eaten) in USA and Europe. Here (Poland) they are probably different genus but still Trouts. The best one I’ve had in my life was in Polish Bieszczady mountains. There is an artificial lake created by a dam in which is one of two in entire Poland open water Trout farms. Actually it is kind of academic so also very obsure. On holiday I went there and saw little sign in obscure place that said “Selling fresh trout 12-14 (that is 12 to 2PM)”. It was just 3 minutes walk from my holiday home so I went there and I wasn’t disappointed. The janitor just asked me if I wish to have big or small Trout (obviously I wished for big). Next he went on a boat. Paddled to the middle of the lake. Fiddled with landing. Went back and presented me with two enormous (like 1kg each) ALIVE Trouts in a shopping bag. Next I went to my holiday house with Trouts wiggling in bag. As for a short time I was wandering what to do with alive Trouts the host proposed that he will carve the fish for us. He just had cut it alive and took out its intestines. Next I’ve put it on grill with little salt and few lemon slices placed in the belly. And it was the best Trout I’ve had since it was so extremely fresh.

    Once (and it was like 15 years ago) I’ve bought a Trout for grill from an old lady who was selling Trouts for toursts to grill. Everyday she sold only like 10 of these and went home so her husband must have fished them. Nevertheless she sold them grill-ready-made with special herbs. The herb was (Sweet Flag or Calamus – I’ve translated from Wikipedia) and it was the best spice for sweet water fish I’ve ever tasted!

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