This post is not for the squeamish. If you don't like seeing your food in the shape of the original animal, this is not for you (I know you're out there). However, if you want to know about the easiest way to cook and debone trout, read on.
We had a fantastic day fishing with some friends Saturday. The kids caught lots of fish. Mom put lots of worms on hooks, swapped lures out, fixed snagged lines, helped the little one cast, unhooked fish, and finally got to throw my own line out a few times. As luck would have it, I only brought one to shore that was a bit too small, so he got to go back. However, there were plenty of other fish caught, and you know the rule, "you catch it, you clean it" so that left me with exactly zero fish I had to clean :)
So after you clean your trout, there's a variety of ways to prep it for cooking and cook it. I'm all for easy, so here's how I do it:
Step 1, lay the cleaned fish on the cutting board.
Step 2, get a sharp knife and cut the head off. Dispose of the head properly. Do NOT put the pile of heads up the hill behind the bush where your daughter will go that night to take care of business and put her hand in the pile of fish heads in the dark. Nobody needs that kind of panic. Put them farther away from camp than that! (Yeah, mom, I know, you didn't know I'd be using that bush.)
Step 3: Get a piece of foil and lay your fish on it.
Step 4: Season the outside and inside of the fish. Lemon pepper is good. I'm really liking RealSalt's organic season salt on my fish lately.
Step 5: Wrap the fish up in the foil and seal the ends.
Yes, it still looks like a fish. Except it now looks like a fish wrapped in foil. See the fins with red arrows in this next picture? Those will all come off after it cooks--they're actually a good indicator of doneness, kind of like a turkey timer. The tail will stick to the skeleton and you won't have to worry about that either. Hang on, you'll see how it's done.
Step 6: put all the little fish packets on the grill. Or in the oven, or over the coals, or whatever heat you have.
Step 7: cook them about 10 minutes per side. This will depend on the size of fish and the heat of your coals. Don't get distracted like I did and overcook them. Well, actually it didn't hurt them much, the skin just stuck to the foil so they weren't as pretty.
Step 8: AFTER the fish is cooked, pull those red arrowed fins out the direction of the fin lines and they'll pull their little bones out with them. If they don't come out easy, the fish needs to cook longer. If they fall apart as they are pulled out you cooked it a bit too long (like mine).
Step 9: After pulling out the fins, lay the fish on your plate (I just left this in the foil--we weren't ready to eat yet) and locate the vertebrae.
Grab the vertebrae at the neck with one hand and use your fork to knock the fish down onto your plate with the other hand (tough to get a picture of that).
If your fish isn't overcooked, it comes apart from the bones a little nicer than these pictures show. Keep pushing the meat down with your fork and lifting the skeleton until you reach the tail which should leave a nice fillet of fish on your plate. Flip the fish still attached to the skeleton over and repeat with the other side. If you do this right, it leaves very few if any bones in the meat.
Season however you want at this point and eat it. You can separate the bones from any extra fish and put the meat in foil and reheat it in the oven the next day. Happy fishing!