How do you prepare and cook your trout while backpacking? | High Sierra Topix  

How do you prepare and cook your trout while backpacking?

Have a favorite trail recipe or technique you'd like to share? Please do! We also like reviews of various trail food products out there. The Backcountry Food Topix forum is the place to discuss all things related to food and nourishment while in the Sierra wilderness (as well as favorite trail head eateries).

How do you prepare and cook your trout while backpacking?

Postby SSSdave » Fri Sep 08, 2006 1:05 pm

There are of course many ways to prepare trout. At home with all the cooking utencils and ingedients available, there are many elaborate choices. However in the backcountry fishermen get by with much less due to the need to reduce pack space and weight.

One choice is to use an ordinary modest diameter thin backpacking pot or a wider diameter and heavier frying pan. Of course the heavier pan allows for larger fish in the pan and makes cooking easier. One thing a pan does is more evenly distribute the heat so it isn't just the fish under the burners that gets heat.

Then there is how one has cut up the trout. Traditionalists at home often leave on the head and tail as it certainly allows for a more aesthetic presentation when people sit down for the meal. However few people in the backcountry are going to want to lug in anything more than a 10 or 12 inch diameter frying pan. So a lot of bigger fish simply need to be cut into smaller pieces. What about a pot or pan lid or aluminum foil? Does your usual pot or pan have a handle or do you just use one of those backpacker pot grippers? Who uses a spatula?

Do you fry or bake and if the former how much and what kind of oil and seasonings during the cooking?

Who scales or removes the slime on their trout? Do you do anything special with the spine, bones, fins, or skin? Do you deal with the various trout species differently?

Then of course what about the salt and seasonings after the cooking is done?

I'll post some of my own ways later. ...David

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Postby giantbrookie » Sun Sep 10, 2006 8:12 pm

My preference in campfire legal areas is to barbecue them over coals. I lightly salt the fish then place it on a folding grill over the coals. On some trips with my wife I'd actually take two grills. The grills will accommodate a fish (with head and tail on) to about 15". I leave the head on to eat the cheeks and that little bit behind the eye socket.

Where campfires are not legal, I compromise. I realize a heavier frying pan would be the better choice, but I tend to carry just one cooking pot for all purposes (fish and non-fish meals alike). I carry a lot of oil to avoid sticking, then put the fish in the pot with the oil and some teriyaki sauce. The key here is to use the minimum amount of liquid necessary for the fish not to stick and burn (remember the teriyaki stuff will burn easily, too, because of the sugar in it). Since the cooking pot is not all that big, larger fish have to be chunked in sections. The real big ones get sectioned into 3. Sort of big ones two, and your basic knock em out at every cast brookies can go in whole. The fish is pretty good this way, but I still like my lightly salted bbq fish ("Japanese style") better.

One trip deserves special mention was a trip to Thunder and Lightning Lake I took in 1977 (mainly to bag Cloudripper). Bored with eating lots of little brookies, I decided to get creative. As the fish was nearly cooked in a frying pan, I put some slices of cheddar cheese over it, then poured 151 on them and ignited it. Those weren't bad at all.

Another time, when I knew I was going into mass production brookie territory I decided to make up some black bean sauce with garlic. I think this was a bit overpowering for the fish (not all that bad, though), and I'm amazed I didn't have my pack and camp raided, given how strongly that stuff smelled (slept on food in those days and carried the smelly stuff on my person during the day). Of course the smell was so strong I probably drove all other hikers out of the basin; I don't even think I could smell the horsepoop with that sauce blasting my nose. That experiment lasted only one trip.

I've always wanted to do the red meated golden sashimi with wasabi and shoyu, but still haven't done it yet. There is a fellow I know who regularly does this.
Last edited by giantbrookie on Thu Sep 28, 2006 4:36 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Postby geodylan » Thu Sep 28, 2006 1:35 pm

David, cooking in the backcountry is a big and fun topic for me (it is ususally the reason why my pack is soooo heavy,) so I will try and reign it in here.

When I got married, my wife and I had a nice big check to spend at REI from wedding giftcards and returns. We splurged and bought one of those backpackers ovens. I wouldn't say that it does exactly what it is advertised as being capable of, but it has turned out ot be one of the most versatile pieces of camping gear that I have ever owned. The bottom is an aluminum pan with a non-stick surface. At 10" wide and 1/8" thick, it is big enough to cook for multiple people (2-3 fish depending on size) and the thickness keeps the heat spread and dissipation more along the lines of something you would find in a pan at home. It came with a simmer plate (or burn plate to some) that is now obsolete with my abandonment of using a whisperlite. It has no handle (also nothing to catch fire or melt if exposed to direct flame, so in my book a good trade), so it takes getting used to, but I have found that a bandana or rag folded up works fine with a little practice. The lid is domed to an equivalent depth, mirroring the pan essentially, and has a removable knob/temp gauge enabling great packability. It came with a heat shield made out of fiberglass/asbestos/nasty smelling plastic-resin, that is to be draped over the pan during the operation of baking things, and it does indeed help retain more heat over the lid, but it is rarely used these days. On my last trip, I brought a few different sized alcohol stoves in an attempt to regulate heat more, and somewhat effectively went from full boil to a nice simmer by exchanging stoves. This enabled me to fry up my be-headed and de-finned brookie in a nice rub of chili powder, garlic, onion, salt and pepper. I had butter and oil with me to do the frying. After doing both sides for a minute and a half or two, I exchanged stoves and let it do a "cooler" fry for another 5 minutes with the top on, flipping the fish once. I had not done anything to get rid of the scales (the good part of smaller brookies right?) or the slime. I find that after frying it uncovered, and then doing a little steaming with the lid usage at the end, that the skin separates nicely should you want it that way, and that the bones can be pulled out in one shot with some creative fork usage to help keep the fillets intact. This cooking set up can be seen on my food blog on the mole'chiladas or fine dining at posts.

I have also used this set up to first fry the fish, and then add water and couscous during the covered portion (with rehydrated veggies and mushrooms or pinenuts and raisens/cranberries) that results in a tasty meal, especially with curry powder as part of the frying spices. As was the case during my last trip, the "oven" proved essential and made for a day of feasting and comfort by acting as frying pan, kneading board for pizza dough, oven for the pizza, and then warming tray that doubled as heat retaining device for the food not actively being consumed and as a lap warmer. Sadly, the temp readout of the knob has stopped working, but given the crudeness of the design (it has three words: warm bake burn, and they appear just like that, one after another without a real clue for gradient) and the familiarity I now have with the workings of the unit as a whole, it will not stop any further cooking while camping adventures.

I hope a few more folks out there respond to this one. I too am curious to hear what others do. Maybe they are keeping their ways secret because of hopes to publish their delicious recipes at a later date (kind of doubt it though) maybe some are withholding info for fear of seeming plain. If that is the case, I should admit that my favorite way to do fish freshly caught, is as when I was a kid sitting around a fire at lake Oroville. Wrapped in foil, with salt and pepper, squeeze of lemon and maybe a touch of garlic. Throw it on a grill above the flames if you can, or put it directly in the coals and go fishing one more time during the same day for the same fish, while trying to retrieve it intact from the flames. I fondly remember going to bed much more than stuffed, after eating ALL of the fish that I caught during the day and prepared this way.

Hope they bite good for ya'
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Postby giantbrookie » Thu Sep 28, 2006 4:33 pm

geodylan wrote:I had not done anything to get rid of the scales (the good part of smaller brookies right?) or the slime.

You present a very good argument against "ultralight" backpacking. I hope I run into you at some alpine campsite someday. Regarding scales, the scales of most trout are so fine they do not detract from the texture/edibility of the fish, whereas for many other types of fish you certainly want to scale them because the scales are much coarser and are like eating little plastic disks. I find the cooked crunchy skin of trout quite appealing. It is nice when it is all browned and drenched in olive and fish oil from frying or when it is all crispy and delicious from BBQ'ing it over the coals.
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Postby mountainLight » Fri Sep 29, 2006 7:52 am

When backpacking i usually try to carry a bit of olive oil with me for the trout. I like to pan fry them. But the one thing not mentioned which is a must for us for the past few years is wild onions. Usually they can be found near the outlet or inlet of lakes or in other marshy areas. Just follow your nose. Pick a few of those (if you like onions of course) shop them up and add them to the oil, then take the green tops of the onion and stuff them in the body cavity along with the usual salt and pepper. Man it is good that way. Wild onions are a bit spicier than traditional green onions and it adds some zip to the meal.
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Postby Phil R » Mon Feb 12, 2007 2:12 am

We carry a small backpacking non-stick pan, some flour, seasonings, and oil. We have to cut the fish in half to fit into the pan, but it works fine. I vary the seasonings I add to the flour depending on how I am feeling.

I own an Outback oven, but have only carried it when we had a pack animal along. It does work well and can save weight on fuel if used properly.
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Postby gary c. » Mon Feb 12, 2007 1:01 pm

Maybe some of you can help me. My problem so far when it comes to most things is too much heat focused in one spot. I'm sure it's caused by the type of stove I have(Pocket Rocket). Is there anything that I can do to make frying a little more practical or is a different stove the only cure?
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Postby cmon4day » Mon Feb 12, 2007 4:50 pm

The easiest way to cook your trout is to wrap them in aluminum foil and throw them onto some glowing coals from the fire. About 5-7 a side and they are done. Fast, easy, and they taste goooood.

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Postby markskor » Mon Feb 12, 2007 5:26 pm

Yes, tin foil over a fire works well, except if you are above the "no campfire" altitude most of us usually are.
A few years back, I broke down and spent $110 for a 10-inch titanium fry pan...~5 oz...Merry Xmas to me.
Add a little oil, some fresh wild onions, some spices, and some Ritz Cracker stuffing...add a small packet of lemon juice....all cooked in foil packets over my 20-year-old trusty MSR XG...(heavy yes, but it has to be good for something).
Damn fine eating.
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Postby freestone » Mon Feb 12, 2007 8:01 pm

Put a small amount of water into the frying pan and poach, then season with salt, lemonpepper and olive oil to taste. I recommend this method for small trout caught in the creeks. The big Rainbows and Goldens in the alpine lakes...their meat is tough and mushy. I recommend you release them back into their meager priceless habitat.
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