Timothy Woods
Published by Timothy Woods
Last Updated On: April 5, 2022

In the US, carp has something of a reputation for unpleasant eating, even though it is considered a delicacy in many other countries.

Smoking it is one of the ways to make its mildly flavored, pink flesh tasty. Here we provide some expert advice for smoking carp that will titillate your tastebuds in an unexpectedly delicious way.

Quick Summary

  • Medium-sized carp are better for smoking than the biggest ones.
  • Proper preparation of the fish from the moment you land it is vital to ensure the best flavor.
  • Brining is essential to keep it moist, season the meat and prevent albumin curds from forming as the fish heats up in the smoker.
  • Soak the wood chips for a couple of hours in water before putting them in the smoker.

Fire up the smoker, gradually bring the temperature up to 100°F, and place the carp filets on the pre-oiled racks.

Using a thermometer, monitor the temperature in the smoker and slowly increase the heat over eight hours up to 225°F. The internal temperature of the filets must be kept at a steady 160°F for thirty minutes.

Choosing The Right Size Carp

Top view of raw fresh carp fish

There are several kinds of carp. Grass carp grow rapidly, reaching almost four feet long and weighing more than forty pounds.

In Thailand, a British angler caught an Asian carp that weighed two hundred and thirty-two pounds, or one hundred and five kilograms, but this was a record [1].

Common carp can grow to one or two feet long and weigh between one and eight pounds on average, but they can reach thirty to forty pounds.

They are omnivorous fish that feed mainly on plants but will also eat insects, fish eggs, mollusks, and crustaceans. They are bony with large thick scales and a long dorsal fin [2].

All carp have a high oil content, and fans say that the taste is similar to that of salmon. The fish’s high fat content makes them ideal for smoking.

When selecting a carp for smoking, it is better to use a smaller, younger fish than a river giant because it needs to fit in your smoker and also because the taste is less likely to be muddy.

From The River To The Smoker

Chef cutting carp fish in kitchen sink

Ideally, you should fish for carp from clean, unpolluted water, which largely prevents a muddy taste. Any fish that lives in a dirty, contaminated river will taste bad, not just carp.

Contrary to popular belief, carp aren’t bottom feeders, and their meat can have lower pollution levels than other game fish.

Follow these simple preparatory steps to make sure the carp will taste good:

Step 1: Kill the fish immediately with a blow to the head, slit the gills and let it bleed out. Carp spoils quickly, so it’s best to gut and gill them shortly after catching them [3].

Step 2: Pack the carp in ice as soon as possible. This restricts any remaining blood flow into the meaty parts of the fish that you want to smoke.

Step 3: Clean the by washing off the slime and skinning rather than scaling it. Scaling it is tricky because the scales and skin are so thick.

To skin the fish, insert a sharp knife point under the scales above the tail and cut through the skin down to the head along the backbone.

Step 4: Make a short cut along the stomach. Lifting the loose skin with some pliers, peel it away from the spine, starting from the tail.

Step 5: Fillet the fish in the usual way, making sure to get as much meat off the bones as possible. You don’t have to debone the fillets, but check out this video if you want to see how it’s done [4]. It’s often easier to pick out the bones while eating the fish.

Step 6: Remove the bloodline from the backbone with a knife or spoon. The bloodline gives it a muddy, oily, intensely fishy taste.

Step 7: Soak the fish in a covered container filled with brine in the fridge for twenty-four hours, making sure the brine covers them completely. To make the brine, you add one and a half cups of coarse salt to eight cups of water in a pot.

Bring the water to a boil, stirring to ensure that the salt dissolves completely. If you want, you can add some flavorings such as garlic powder, brown sugar, or onion powder to the brine [5].

Step 8: Remove the fish from the brine, rinse it off if you want to lessen the saltiness a little, and pat it dry using a paper towel.

Smoking The Carp

A smoker outdoors and a top of raw carp in marble tabletop

It takes pretty much the same amount of time to smoke carp as it does to smoke salmon – between eight and ten hours after you’ve put it into the smoker. However, preparation of the smoker and the woodchips takes about two hours.

Step 1: Soak wood chips of your choice for two hours in water. Applewood, cherry, and hickory work well for carp.

Step 2: Light the smoker and insert a fireproof dish containing water to keep the fish moist. Coat the smoking racks with olive oil to stop the fish from sticking.

Step 3: Place the wood chips into the smoker and wait until the temperature inside the smoker hits one hundred degrees Fahrenheit.

Use an external thermometer with a long stem to track the temperature, so you don’t have to keep opening the smoker. Some smokers come with a handy built-in thermometer.

Step 4: Arrange the carp fillets on the smoking racks.

Step 5: Over a period of three hours, slowly raise the temperature inside the smoker until it reaches one hundred and sixty degrees. The temperature must not rise too fast, or the fish will develop curds [6].

Step 6: Gradually increase the temperature further until it hits two hundred and twenty-five degrees Fahrenheit.

To be properly done, the internal temperature of the fish must reach one hundred and sixty degrees Fahrenheit and stay there for at least thirty minutes, so you need to monitor the heat with your thermometer.

Step 7: Remove the carp fillets from the smoker when flaky and golden brown.


Smoking carp is one of the best ways to savor this delicious fish. Proper preparation of the fish before smoking is essential.

It isn’t difficult, but it does take eight to ten hours in the smoker and some patience. If you prepare the carp according to the steps we have outlined, you can impress family and friends with a delicious meal.


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