The carp is a large, fatty fish that’s ideal for smoking. With the average carp weighing between two and five pounds and measuring 15-22 inches, the smoking process is a lengthy one. Anyone who has had the pleasure of tasting smoked carp will tell you that it’s well worth the wait.
Just a word of caution: Make sure that you know where your carp is coming from. Carp caught in certain waters may contain pollutants and other contaminants. Before you can start smoking the fish, you first need to prepare it. For the best possible flavor, choose carp that has been freshly caught.
Preparing the Carp For Smoking
Preparation is key when smoking carp. Make sure that you clean and gut the fish properly. Along the underside of the carp’s backbone is a dark blood line that should be removed. You can use a spoon to scrape this blood line out. This blood line is what creates that unpleasant “muddy” taste that people often complain about with carp.
To descale the fish, use a descaler or the back of a knife. Next, fillet the carp taking care to leave the skin on. Avoid making the fillets too thin and remove any obvious bones. The most difficult part of the filleting process is removing the hair-like bones of the fish. To get a better idea, visually, of how to fillet a carp, Field and Stream has posted a video demonstrating how to remove the blood line and y-bones.
Once you have cleaned, gutted and filleted the carp, you then need to decide whether you’re going to brine the fish or simply wrap it in plastic wrap with salt and sugar overnight.
If you prefer to wrap the fish, lay out the fillets on a tray or a large plate and coat both sides with a mixture of sugar, salt and pepper. Then, wrap the fish (while still on the plate) tightly with plastic wrap. Make sure that you create a tight seal here to prevent air from escaping. Refrigerate the fish overnight.
Brining the Carp: Our Tips
Brining is a favorite method with smoked carp lovers. Even though carp is still a “fattier” fish, brining will help keep the fish moist and flavorful during the smoking process. The first step here is to prepare the brine. Below is a simple recipe that you can use for your carp.
Brine Recipe For Carp
- 1 gallon of water
- 1 1/2 cups of salt
- 1 1/2 cups of brown sugar
- 3 tbsp. garlic powder
- 6 tbsp. onion powder
Feel free to add other spices and herbs to the brine for added flavor. Once you have prepared the brine, place the fillets in the bottom of a large pot or container and pour the brine over the fillets until they are completely submerged in the mixture. Cover loosely and refrigerate the fish for 24 hours.
Smoking Carp in Your Smoker
- Soak your wood chips one to two hours before smoking. Apple wood, cherry and hickory are great choices and complement the flavor of carp nicely.
- Remove the plastic. If you decided to wrap your fish in plastic wrap, you’ll need to remove the carp from the plastic wrap and allow the fish to sit on a wire rack in the refrigerator for 30 minutes. After 30 minutes, the fish should develop a subtle glazy or shiny appearance.
- Rinse the fish. If you decided to brine the fish, you’ll need to remove the fillets from the brine and rinse them under cool water. Pat them dry and allow them to dry on the countertop for another 30 minutes.
- Now, set up your smoker. Light the charcoal if using a charcoal smoker, and add water to the pan if your smoker has one. The water will help create steam that will keep the fish moist while it smokes.
- You may want to lightly oil your smoker racks to prevent the fish from sticking. Now, place the fish inside of the smoker.
- Smoke the fish for at least 10 hours. The fish will need to reach an internal temperature of 180 degrees F and continue cooking at this temperature for at least 30 minutes before it’s safe to eat.