Now there’s a fish you may not have considered smoking – the classic carp fish.
But this type of fish is not one generally eaten, let alone smoked, you may be thinking.
The secret, as with all good food, is in the preparation. By following this guide, you are sure to be surprised at how good carp can taste.
The only thing this guide doesn’t help you with is how to catch the fish. For that, you are on your own!
Should You Smoke Carp Fish?
Absolutely yes! (Otherwise, this guide would be pointless). But you need to be patient, smoking this type of fish takes time.
A common misconception is that because these freshwater fish live in the mud, they taste like mud. That was a family member’s complaint.
But the reason for that is if fishers do not practice a secret of pre-preparation to preserve the flavor of carp.
As soon as they catch the carp from the river, they fail to pack it into ice immediately.
That little trick limits the blood flow into the meat over the rib cage and shoulders, the parts we want to eat. The blood then goes into the bloodline and the bits with the bones in it, the bits we don’t eat.
Freshly fished, ice-packed carp is the start to a mudless-tasting meal.
How to Clean Carp Fish
This guide explains how to clean the outside of the fish. But it is also important for your carp to be clean from the inside. If you fish carp from a clean body of water, this will also keep it from tasting muddy.
- Cleaning carp is much the same as cleaning any other type of fish such as salmon or trout. It starts with washing slime off the fish. The skin of the carp is quite tough, so it’s easier to skin it rather than try to scale it.
Use a sharp-pointed knife and press the point under the scales at the top of the tail. Continue from the tail to the head, following the backbone of the fish to free the skin. Then make a small cut on the stomach and loosen the rest of the skin.
- Use a pair of pliers to lift the skin, starting on the spine at the tail end.
- Cut free any meat that is stuck to the skin with a sharp knife. This may be tough to do, but this step will be worth the time and effort.
- Now make fillets by cutting along the backbone to the stomach along the carp’s ribs. The ribs are quite dense, so they are easy to feel. Use a thin knife so that you can keep it close to the backbone to get all the back meat. Pull your knife through from the head to the tail to separate the meat from the ribs. Flip your carp over and fillet the other side.
- The next step is to remove the dark bloodline from the carp’s backbone. This is important to do to get rid of the muddy taste that carp have been associated with. You can cut it out with your knife or use a spoon to scrape it out.
- You may have some bones in your fillet, but these can be left to maximize the size of the fillet. If you really can’t bear the thought of bones in your fish, then you can remove them. Work through the fillet, feeling for any small bones, and remove them with a tweezer. Locate the bones from the head-side of the fish, and pull them out. The bones are also easier to locate once the fish is cooked.
From a 6 pound fish, your piece of fillet should be about the size of two slices of bread.
To watch how to clean/fillet a common carp;
How Long to Brine Carp Fish for Smoking?
Smoking carp is a process that requires patience, it takes about the same amount of time to smoke salmon. Brining is part of the process and needs to be done 24 hours before you plan on smoking your carp fillets.
Even though carp is a fatty fish, the brining process will help keep the flavor and texture. This easy brine recipe can be used:
Brine Recipe Ingredients:
- One gallon of water
- 1½ cups coarse salt/kosher salt
- 1½ brown sugar
- 3 tbsp garlic powder
- 6 tbsp onion powder
- Bring 8 cups of water and 1½ cup salt to a boil while stirring. Add any of the other optional ingredients, depending on the flavor you like. Stir until they are dissolved. Turn off the heat and add the remaining 8 cups of cold water.
- Place the fillets in a large pot or deep dish and pour the brine over the fillets. Make sure that the fillets are completely submerged in the brine. Cover the container loosely and refrigerate for 24 hours.
- If you want to remove the salt water, rinse the fillets under cool water. Pat them dry with a paper towel and get ready to smoke ’em!
Preparing Your Smoker
It will take about 2 hours to prepare your smoker before you can cook your prepared fillet.
Soak your chosen wood chips in water for at least two hours before you start your smoker. Good wood options for carp are hickory, cherry, or applewood.
Turn on or light your smoker, and place a small fire-safe dish of water inside your smoker. This will help keep the fish moist on the grill.
When the internal temperature of the smoker is 165°F, you can start the smoking process. If you don’t have a smoker, you can make your own at home. Here are some we have made before
Start the Smoking Process
- Lightly grease the smoker racks or grill grates with olive oil. This will prevent the fillets from sticking to them.
- You need to track the internal air temperature of your smoker during the smoking process. If your smoker does not have an external thermometer, use a long-stemmed thermometer. This thermometer helps so that you don’t have to remove your smoker’s lid.
- You can regularly add a handful of wood chips to increase the temperature in the smoker. Do this over three hours so that a sudden rise in temperature does not create curds in the fish. You can cool your smoker by adding small amounts of water to the wood.
- Smoke the fish at an internal temperature of 160°F. You need to make sure that the smoking temperature of the smoker reaches 225°F. Keep this temperature constant for 30 minutes so that you cook the fish well and it is safe to eat.
- If your smoker does not get hot enough, you can transfer your fillets to a conventional oven. Then complete the cooking process.
How Long to Smoke Carp Fish
Carp needs to be smoked for 8 to 10 hours. You can place your fillets in the smoker when the smoking temperature is around 100°F.
Add wood to raise the smoking temperature to 225°F for at least 30 minutes within the first six hours.
Maintain the smoker so that the fish cooks at an internal temperature of 160°F for the rest of the time.
When the fish turns golden brown and flaky, you can remove it from the smoker – it is ready to eat!
How to Store Smoked Fish Safely
You can keep smoked carp in the refrigerator for up to two weeks, and in the freezer for up to four months. It just needs to be properly prepared to store.
When the fillets have cooled after cooking, you can wrap each piece in a paper towel or plastic. Place the fillets in a sealed container and refrigerate or freeze.
Then look forward to enjoying flavorful fillets on another day.
I hope you enjoy this tasty fish! Just make sure you serve it with some crispy fries!
Author: Charlie Reeves
Hi, I’m Charlie, I am head taste tester at Simply Meat Smoking! I love it grilling, smoking, and getting out in the yard with the kids! The family also love to test all my recipes (especially my EXTRA CRISPY pulled pork, smoky pork loin, and ANY SEAFOOD I grill)
You will usually find me playing with the kids, perfecting my brisket bark, or sipping beers with boys around the fire. Can’t wait to share all my delicious smoking and grilling adventures with you!
You can read more on our About Us page.
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