Ask someone if they eat carp and you may get mixed reactions! Vilified as a “muddy” fish, carp is actually delicious if prepared properly. Pan fried fish is often the most popular method of cooking fish. But if you know how to smoke carp fish, you’ll be in for a surprise. It’s a lengthy process, taking up to eight hours, but the results will be worth every minute!
Your mates (and yourself) will love the flavors which are sublime! Preparation is key to the perfect carp meal. Get this process right and you’ll be eating flavorful carp that’s moist with tender flakes.
Don’t get put off by the time it takes to smoke your carp. Cooks around the world know a properly prepared meal is worth every minute for the ultimate gastronomic experience. So, let’s find out more about the carp fish and how to prepare it for smoking. The smoking process will be explained clearly so the outcome is a flawless smoked carp.
Table of Contents
- 1 What You Need to Know About the Carp Fish
- 2 The Ways You Can Eat Carp
- 3 Cleaning, Scaling and Filleting Your Carp
- 4 To Brine or Not to Brine
- 5 How to Smoke Your Carp to Perfection
- 6 FAQs
- 7 Final Thoughts
What You Need to Know About the Carp Fish
The carp originated in Asia and was introduced to Europe & North America. A freshwater fish with large scales, it likes to live in the muddy bottoms of ponds, rivers and lakes. It eats both plants and insects. Often, if you sit on the banks of a river, you’ll see signs of water being agitated. This could mean the carp is rooting for food. This style of hunting for food increases the turbidity of the water.
Carp grows rapidly and can live to 40 years. Being a large fish, fishermen can expect an average length of 14 inches. But they can grow to more than 39 inches and weigh up to 49 pounds. You can believe the fisherman who claims his fish is “this wide” when he stretches his arms a meter apart!
Carp fish is farmed for food. It can produce large numbers of eggs which hatch with a good success rate. Its original introduction to North America in the late 1960s was to curb the growth of toxic aquatic plants and pest organisms. However, it has resulted in disturbed natural water ecosystems making the carp an unpopular fish in many areas.
The Ways You Can Eat Carp
Despite its bad reputation, the carp is eaten all over the world. In China it’s commercially produced while in many countries it’s caught from the wild. It’s found on the Christmas meal menu in many Central European homes. Hungarians use it in their Fisherman’s soup while fried carp is popular in the Czech Republic.
If you’re wondering how all these people can eat fish that tastes like mud (which is not necessarily true), let’s talk about their real taste. Carp is an oily fish with lots of meat on them. Fans of the carp will tell you the flavor is similar to salmon. But to get the most out of the flavor unique to this fish, it’s back to the preparation – starting at the time it landed on the hook.
Cleaning, Scaling and Filleting Your Carp
Anglers will tell you to put the carp straight onto ice when it’s reeled in. This will keep the flavors whole by minimizing the blood flow to the rib meat. Once you’re home with your catch, you can start preparing it for cooking.
As with any fresh whole fish, you’ll need to scale and gut it. Scaling can be a difficult process and it’s done by running a knife down the body from the head to the tail. Once the large scales are removed, rinse the body in water.
Remove the bloodline along the backbone. This reduces the muddy flavor associated with this fish. Use a sharp knife or spoon to scrape out the vein. One last word on the muddy taste. Fish caught in clean water with clean vegetation limits the chances of having a fish with muddy flavors. This applies to all fish, not just the carp.
You can fillet your fish without removing the guts. This means less mess all round but be careful not to pierce the body cavity while filleting. Using a sharp knife, cut into the meat behind the gills. Slice to the backbone and ribs, drawing your knife down towards the tail. Do this on both sides of the fish.
While most fish can be cooked with the skin on, you can choose to remove the skin off your filleted fish. Lay the fillet down on a board, flesh up. Slide your sharp knife between the skin and the meat & lift the flesh off while cutting the skin off.
Quick Tip: Most cooks find the fish stays in one piece when cooked with the skin on.
Watch this video to give you more tips on cleaning and scoring your carp
To Brine or Not to Brine
If you want to keep the flavor and moist texture of your carp, then brining is essential. This process is simple. Bring 8 cups of water and ½ cup of coarse salt to the boil while stirring the mix. Once the salt is dissolved, turn off the heat and add another 8 cups of cold water. When completely cool, add the fillets, making sure they’re completely covered. Place in the refrigerator for 24 hours.
If you’re an adventurous chef, you could add brown sugar, onion powder and/or garlic powder to the brine mixture. Pepper and other spices can also be used.
When you remove the fillets from the brine, rinse under cold water to get rid of excess salt. Pat dry with a paper towel. Now your carp is ready to be smoked.
How to Smoke Your Carp to Perfection
Remember – with any meal you’re cooking, preparation is always key for the ultimate taste. Your next step is to prepare your smoker.
If you’re familiar with using a smoker, you know the wood type enhances the flavor of the meat or fish you’re cooking. For carp, I suggest you use either hickory, maple or cherry. Applewood is another option. Place the wood in water to soak for 1 to 2 hours.
To reach the optimal internal temperature of 180°F for the fish, make sure you have enough wood prepared to sustain this temperature. Once lit, wait for the temperature of your smoker to reach 100°F. Place the fillets onto the oiled racks.
As you’ll be needing to watch the temperature closely, a long-stemmed thermometer will be useful. You don’t want to keep removing the lid of the smoker. This will cause your smoker’s temperature to drop. For the first three hours, you want to bring the temperature up to 160°F. This is a gradual process to avoid the fish drying out too quickly.
In order for the internal temperature of the fish to reach 180°F, your smoker needs to eventually reach 225°F within eight hours. To ensure the fish is perfectly smoked and safe to eat, a temperature of 225°F needs to be sustained for 30 minutes. This will keep the fish’s internal temperature at a constant 180°F.
You may be wondering how essential these precise temperatures are. If you want to avoid spoilage and enjoy the fabulous flavor of a well-smoked carp, then temperature is important. Timing is also important. Reaching 225°F and maintaining the internal temperature of the fish at 180°F for at least 30 minutes must be done within eight to ten hours.
If you’re battling to get the temperatures right towards the end of eight hours you can still salvage your meal. Remove the fillets and complete the cooking process in a conventional oven. When your fish is ready, enjoy with a fresh garden salad and your favorite bread dribbled with olive oil.
How can I store smoked carp?
As with any food item, it’s important to store your fish correctly for safe consumption. Any leftovers may be wrapped in paper towels or plastic wrap and placed into a sealed container. You can keep them in the refrigerator for up to two weeks. Smoked carp can be kept in the deep freeze for up to four months.
Does smoked carp taste better after a few days?
Some chefs swear by serving their smoked carp a few days after cooking it. The flavors are known to be enhanced while being stored.
Is carp a good fish for healthy eating?
Yes! It’s full of nutrients. It has anti-inflammatory properties. It’s good for the heart and supports the digestive system. The Omega-3 oils protects the heart and lowers inflammation within the body. The fish’s antioxidant properties aid the body’s immune system. It has a high protein content and low saturated fats.
Eating smoked carp is a favorite meal for many foodies. You can impress your guests by adding this to your menu while entertaining. Smoking may seem like a laborious process. But every cook knows some of the best meals are the result of spending time and attention on the food.
By now you know carp doesn’t need to taste muddy and that it’s actually a fish worth eating. Learning how to smoke carp to perfection means you’ll be enhancing its unique flavors. Following my guide and preparing the carp properly will result in a moist and flavorful fish.
Have you got any comments or suggestions you would like to add? Please feel free to add to my comments section. I would love to hear from you!