Ultimate Guide on How to Smoke Carp Fish

This learning how to smoke carp guide provides you with a delicious, simple way to enjoy your freshly caught fish. It will tell you everything you need to know about making smoked carp, starting from the preparing process, brining, cooking and storing it safely.

Should You Smoke Carp Fish?

Before jumping to the preparing and smoking process, first you should understand the anatomy of the carp fish and if you should smoke carp fish or not.

The carp is usually a large, fatty fish, which makes it ideal for smoking or grilling. In average, they weight between two to five pounds and can measure up to 22 inches of length.

Due to so much meat, the smoking process for the carp fish can be a lengthy one but the taste you will get from the end result, will make worth the wait. And that's because the proportion of meat and fat is very good and as a result, you will get a juicy and very delicious smoked fish.

How to Prepare Carp for Smoking

First, let me tell you that some people don't cook the carp fish as soon as they get it. Sometimes, they bring the hooked fish home alive and let it live on a tub with fresh water with one teaspoon of salt for a few days to clean out the 'mud vein' and have a better tasting fish.

This is an optional step to take and most of the people cook the fish as soon as possible, without waiting a few days. Whenever you decide to smoke the carp, you have to prepare it first.

How to Clean Carp Fish

Once you decide to cook the fish, you should start cleaning it.

Start the cleaning process by removing the scales. Scales of carp fish are easily removed by drawing a back of a knife across the body from head to tail. Basically, the scales are cleaned like you do in any other scale-skin fish.

After you finish descaling and cleaning it, remove the dark blood line along the fish's backbone to eliminate the muddy flavor carp is usually associated with. You can use the knife to cut the line along or just use a spoon to scrape the line out.

Remove the bones and cut the fish into steaks or fillets. This may be the most tricky part of the process for most of the people. It may be difficult to remove the small, hair-size bones of the fish, so I recommend reading this guide or watching this video to better understand how to clean and fillet this fish.

  • Quick Tips: You should avoid making the fillets too thin and also make sure to leave the skin on to prevent the fish from flaking apart during the smoking process.

How Long to Brine Carp Fish for Smoking?

After you have finished cleaning and preparing, now it is time to decide how you should brine the fish.

Brining is an important part of learning how to smoke carp in a safe way. Even though the carp is a fish full of fat, brining will still help to keep the fish moist and flavorful during the smoking process. Down below, you can find a quick and simple brining recipe.

Quick Brine Recipe for Carp

Note: The ingredients below are for 1 gallon of water. You can add or remove ingredients based on how much brine you need for the fish to be covered entirely.

Required Ingredients

  • One Gallon of Water
  • 1 & 1/2 Cups of Canning Salt/Kosher Salt
  • 1 & 1/2 Cups of Brown Sugar
  • (Optional) 2-3 tbsp. of Garlic Powder
  • (Optional) 5 tbsp. of Onion Powder

To make the brine, get all the upper mentioned ingredients and mix thoroughly. Make sure the salt is dissolved before adding the fish.

You can create a more flavorful brine by adding more ingredients like brown sugar and garlic, but avoid unpurified salts like table salt and sea salt to achieve the best flavor.

How long to brine carp for smoking? You should brine carp for 24 hours before putting it on the smoker.

You can safely store the loosely covered container of brine and fish in the refrigerator. To maintain food safety, the temperature inside the refrigerator should be 38°F or cooler. (Source)

Make sure all sides of each piece of fish are evenly exposed to the brine for a more uniform flavor and improved food safety.

Preparing Your Smoker

Begin preparing your smoker during the last two hours of the brining process. The best wood options for carp include applewood and cherry. Classic hickory also works well with the flavor of carp.

Soak your chosen wood in water for two hours. Drain the water, and prepare your smoker as usual. Fish needs to reach an internal temperature of at 160°F. If you need more wood to reach and sustain this temperature, begin preparing it as soon as you drain the first batch.

Start the Smoking Process

Oil the racks in your smoker, and light the wood. Wait for the internal air temperature inside the smoker to reach 100°F.

Monitor temperatures inside the smoker using the external thermometer. Use a long-stemmed thermometer to track the temperature inside the smoker without removing the lid if a built-in, external thermometer isn't provided.

The First Three Hours

Gradually increase the temperature in the smoker to 160 degrees Fahrenheit over three hours. If the temperature rises too quickly, your fish may develop unsavory curds. Cool your smoker by adding small amounts of water to the wood as needed during the first three hours.

Air temperatures inside the smoker need to reach at least 225 degrees Fahrenheit for the fish to achieve an internal temperature of 160 degrees Fahrenheit. The minimum 225 degree temperature must be achieved within eight hours, and must be sustained for 30 minutes to ensure the fish is safe to eat.

After reaching an air temperature of 225 degrees Fahrenheit, watch the thermometer for 30 minutes to ensure the temperature remains steady for the recommended length of time.

(Optional Smoking Method) Using Smaller Smokehouses

To safely smoke larger batches of prepared fish in a small smokehouse, use dowel rods or stainless steel rods to hang the fish vertically inside the smokehouse. When smoking whole carp in the vertical hanging position, keep the fish's stomach open during the cooking process.

If you are using a traditional smokehouse, monitor the temperatures inside with a long-stemmed thermometer inserted through an exterior wall. The thermometer should be placed in the coolest part of the smokehouse to accurately measure the temperatures.

How Long to Smoke Carp Fish

Smoke the fish for eight to ten hours, and check the thickest part of the largest piece of fish for an internal temperature of 160 degrees Fahrenheit. Check the thickest part of the fish in the coldest part of the smokehouse to easily decide whether the remaining fish is at the right temperature.

Eight Hour Time Limit

Generally, you need to gradually increase the temperatures in your smoker to reach the minimum recommended cooking temperature of 225°F. If the internal air temperature hasn't reached 225 degrees after eight hours, remove the fish and finish the cooking process in a conventional oven.

The internal temperature of the fish also needs to reach recommended temperatures within eight hours. Fish with an internal temperature lower than 160 degrees Fahrenheit must be removed and cooked in a conventional oven to reach the recommended internal temperature to prevent spoilage.

So, How Long to Smoke Carp Fish? You should smoke carp fish for 8 hours or until it reaches an internal temperature of 160°F.

How to Store Smoked Fish Safely

As I said in the beginning of this article, I will tell you everything you need to know about the smoking carp fish, starting from preparing, brining, smoking and then storing it safely.

As you all know, fish is a very delicate food and if you don't store as it should, it can poison you. In order for you to store it safely, you have to take a few steps.

After completing the cooking process, cool the smoked carp completely. After you make sure the fish is cool, wrap each piece in paper towels and store it in a lidded container in the refrigerator for up to 14 days, or freeze the smoked fish to store them for up to four months.

Quick Summary on How to Smoke Carp

  1. Prepare the fish by descaling and cleaning it.
  2. Cut the carp into medium side fillets with skin on.
  3. Brine the fish for 24 hours on a mixture of 1 gal. water, salt & brown sugar.
  4. Prepare the smoker and choose what type of wood to use; Apple Wood, Hickory or Cherry.
  5. Put the brined carp in the smoker when the smoker reaches a temperature of 100°F.
  6. During the first three hours, increase the smoking temperature at 225°F.
  7. Smoke the carp for about 8 hours or until it reaches an internal temperature of 160°F.
  8. Remove from smoker and you can serve it immediately.
  9. Store leftovers in the refrigerator for up to 14 days by wrapping each piece in paper towels. Or completely freeze it to store it for up to four months.

About Kendrick

Kendrick is an outdoor cooking enthusiast, living in Kansas. He loves to share his passion about outdoor cooking with everyone on various Social Media platforms (Read More)

4 thoughts on “Ultimate Guide on How to Smoke Carp Fish”

  1. I’m going to give this method a try, the brine is in the fridge right now and will add the fish in the morning so I can start smoking early the next day. I’m going to cut the carp into sections/steaks about four inches long. I tried another recipe the other day with skin on fillets but they got leathery. I hope to get the moist smoked carp I used to get down on at the fish shop on the Mississippi River.

    Will give another report when finished

  2. The taste is great, I think I erred in removing the top fin as the meat ended up pulling away from the back bone and partially down the ribs. I think if I leave the top fin on it will keep the top of the fish sealed and a even more tender smoked fish. Damn that means I have to go fishing again, Drat.

  3. Is 180degree internal temp too high? The suggested minimul internal temp for fish according to the USDA is 145 degrees. At 180 degrees the fish dry out really bad, doing fellets to that temp would leave shoe leather. My last batch of sectioned carp at 180 was very dry. I used another recipe that suggested 160 degrees and it was much better.

    Why 180 degrees, even hamburger, pork and chicken only needs to go to 170 degrees.


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