July 2, 2024

Mesquite Grilled Trout


by Alan Starks

Field Kitchen Manager

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One of my favorite things about Culinary Crafts is the eclectic mix of people here. I work elbow to elbow with college kids and college professors, musicians, attorneys, writers, realtors picking up work on the side, stay-at-home moms who are sick of staying at home, culinary school graduates, beauty school dropouts, and even the occasional bum like me! It’s amazing how friendships form when people come together under the pressure of catering a big event.

Besides the diverse people I’ve met, working at Culinary Crafts has also introduced me to a wide variety of cuisines. I’ve learned to enjoy Indian, Persian, Japanese, Polynesian, and many others. This has been a big deal for me because I’m a lazy cook by nature. If I cooked only for myself, I’d probably live on low-effort dishes like lentil soup or ramen with veggies. But over the years, as I’ve been trained to prep entrees, salads, hors d’oeuvres, and all kinds of delicious Culinary Crafts specialties, I’ve learned to appreciate quality ingredients that have been prepared correctly.

Of all the different jobs I’ve done at events, the most fun has been running the grill. When I started catering, it was intimidating to grill 100 fillets of trout next to 200 rib-eye steaks! Now, it’s one of my favorite parts of the job.

Fish is especially challenging to grill because it’s so easy to overcook. This recipe includes the top tips I’ve learned about making perfect mesquite grilled trout.

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Mesquite Grilled Trout

(Makes 4 servings)


  • 2 fresh fillets of trout
  • 1¼ TBSP olive oil
  • ¼ tsp garlic
  • ½ tsp dill, dried
  • ¼ tsp kosher salt
  • ¼ tsp red pepper flakes
  • 1 drop liquid smoke, optional. (The grilling process should give your fish a great smoky flavor, but if you want even more smoke, you can add this. Just be careful not to overdo it. Liquid smoke is very potent.)


  1. Cut fillets in half. Mix the other ingredients in a bowl and pour marinade over trout. Make sure fillets are evenly coated. Refrigerate until ready to go onto the grill.
  2. Before you cook your fish, use a scraper to remove any old debris from the grill, but don’t use a wire brush—eating tiny wire filings in your food is no fun. After scraping off any loose debris, dip one half of a sliced onion in olive oil, then run the oiled onion back and forth over the grate to finish removing any debris and to give the grate a nice oil layer.
  3. Fill a chimney starter with mesquite briquettes and heat them until they have a coating of white ash. (Alternatively, you can use mesquite lump charcoal.) Spread the hot coals across one half of your grill. Allow the coals to burn down until you reach the right temperature. If you can hold your palm about five inches above the coals for 2-4 seconds before it hurts, that’s the right temperature to start grilling your fish.
  4. When the grate is the right temperature, place your fillets onto your grate directly over the coals. (I always put my fillets skin-side up at first because the side that cooks first (the one facing down) will be the best-looking side, so we’ll serve that side facing up.)
  5. Let your fillets cook undisturbed for 3 to 4 minutes—longer if the fillets are thicker than 1/2 inch.
  6. Carefully flip the fish over and let it continue cooking another 1 to 3 minutes, depending on thickness. Remember that after you take it off the heat, it will continue to cook itself for a while, so don’t wait until it looks completely cooked before you take it off, or it will overcook. Here’s the trick I use: I watch the line that runs down the middle of the fillet. When that line still looks a tiny bit raw but the rest of the fillet looks cooked, that’s when I take it off the grill.
  7. Serve your beautiful mesquite grilled trout “pretty side up” with mango, strawberry, or tomatillo salsa; chimichurri, or a sweet compote.

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