What Color Is Rainbow Trout Meat? Three Shades Of Trout

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Yummy fish fillet, seasoned with garlic, dill, pepper, and more. Ready to grill.

If you care a lot about your food presentation, I’m sure you have admired the color of rainbow trout, steelhead, and salmon. But what’s the difference? What color is rainbow trout meat?

Rainbow trout flesh varies between white, pink, and orange colors. These disparities depend on habitat and diet, and of course, cooking methods.

Natural Meat Color 

Rainbow trout meat is most vibrant when the meat is raw. Usually, this means the meat has a pink or orange color.

Any variation in trout-meat color is due to its diet and habitat. For example, many people cite catching rainbows with a deep orange or pink color when the trout’s diet is high in crustaceans. This is typical of wild or native rainbows.

However, hatchery fish’s meat is often pale and even white. Lack of color is due to their bland pellet diet. But have you noticed that trout bought at a store is usually pink or orange? Hatcheries use artificial pigmentation, known as anthoxanthin, to color the trout’s meat.

Cooked Meat Color

As you cook rainbow trout, the meat will pale. This doesn’t mean that all cooked trout turns white. It simply means the trout’s vibrance dissipates. For example, the original orange of a wild rainbow will fade, but you will still see the meat’s orange pigment.

How To Cook Rainbow Trout

Various options for cooking rainbow trout include baking, broiling, sauteing, and even poaching.

But my favorite for all trout is grilled. Sprinkle on some salt and pepper, add butter, and wrap it in foil. Bada bing, bada boom, you have a new favorite meal.

Tiny trout sizzle on a campfire.

Want to take it to another level? Do the same thing on an open fire while camping, preferably streamside. Throw in your favorite cool drink, and you will be in heaven. 

Whatever method you prefer, cook the meat to 145 degrees. If you don’t have a thermometer, check the texture. The flesh will flake off the bone when the fish is safe to eat. 

Related Questions

Do Rainbow Trout Have Pink Meat Like Salmon?

Rainbow trout meat can appear similar to salmon, but some significant differences exist. 

Unsurprisingly, salmon filets are much larger due to their substantial size. While rainbow trout meat comes in pink, orange, or white, salmon has vibrant colors. The typical color of salmon meat is red, pink, or orange. 

Again, this color variation is due to diet. Salmon have access to a saltwater diet that is rich in carotenoids. This gives them their pink, red, and orange hues.

Does Steelhead Have Pink Meat Like Salmon?

Steelhead, the saltwater version of rainbow trout, share a similar diet with salmon, so their meat resembles salmon with pink, orange, and reddish options.

Some anglers report an exception to this rule with Great Lake Steelhead. The freshwater surrogate of these steelhead leaves them with either pink or white flesh. 

Can Trout Be Eaten Raw? 

With the proper preparation, you can eat rainbow trout raw. This requires refrigeration for at least 15 hours to kill any potential parasites. 

But this seems risky, and I’m not sure I would try it. Experts recommend only eating raw saltwater fish. Ocean salt kills bacteria and parasites that would otherwise be present in raw fish.

Fresh salmon with tasty herbs and spices on a natural backdrop, room for words.

The good news? Since steelhead are anadromous, they are parasite-free

What Does Rainbow Trout Taste Like? 

Rainbow trout are known for their mild taste that has a nutty flavor. But salmon has a richer flavor that people tend to prefer. So, when trying rainbow trout, you will find it falls between the fishier taste of brown trout and the robust flavor of salmon

Can I Eat A Rainbow Trout’s Skin? 

Many people love eating the trout’s skin, which is made of tiny scales. When grilling trout, the skin can crisp, which makes them a delicacy in the backcountry or campground

Final Thoughts 

Rainbow trout meat typically has a pink, orange, or white color. The vibrance of their meat depends on habitat and diet, with natural trout having the deepest color. 

Though some variation exists between wild and farmed rainbows, I know one thing: Nothing beats a rainbow over the campfire.

David Linsmeyer Avatar


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