The Oceangoing Steelhead Trout

Steelhead trout is the oceangoing version of rainbow trout. Like Pacific salmon, the steelhead spends its adult life in the ocean and returns to the river of its birth to spawn.

In California, steelhead are a protected species, and only anglers get a chance to taste them, but large quantities of commercial steelhead are imported from the Olympic Peninsula of Washington, where they are caught by Native Americans using gill nets.

Less Expensive Than Salmon

In the market, steelhead is sold dressed (whole, with entrails and gills removed) and in fillet and steak form. Steelhead is usually less expensive than salmon. The meat is the same red to orange color and the flavor similar, although steelhead is milder because it has less fat after its trek upstream. Steelhead can be substituted in all salmon recipes and is excellent poached, grilled, broiled and baked with a stuffing such as an oyster-based filling.

Because steelhead is about to spawn when caught, about half the fish landed are females with eggs. Any market selling steelhead probably has the large red-berried steelhead roe, with which an easy-to-make Red Caviar can be prepared. Each egg sac must be intact when you begin.


2 gallons minus 2 cups cold water

2 cups salt

2 pounds steelhead or salmon roe, usually 1 or 2 egg sacs

Prepare 2 identical saltwater solutions, each with 1 gallon minus 1 cup water and 1 cup salt. Gently place roe in 1 solution and let stand 15 minutes. Drain in large colander. Run warm water over eggs and shake so that sacs break apart. Immerse separated berries in second solution 10 minutes and drain. Refrigerate several hours. Caviar improves with aging in refrigerator up to 1 week, although it can be eaten immediately. Makes about 1 pound.

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