Carp taste like tilapia, only cleaner and better! They are also much less fishy than whiting. I compare it to these fish because they can be bought in most supermarkets so many Americans have had them.
In fact carp are one of the most commonly eaten freshwater fish around the world. Everywhere except for the US that is…
I’m not entirely sure why we in the US don’t see carp as edible. It may be because we have such an abundance of red meat and chicken, or because we have easy access to salmon (which is pretty dang good).
I have spent a number of years living in Asian countries where I ate carp quite often. Honestly, it tastes really good. It’s comparable to any other white fish I have eaten such as tilapia. In fact I’d say carp taste cleaner than most farmed tilapia.
Why Carp is Good Eating
For one, carp are big fish with a lot of meat on them. Most carp caught in the US will average somewhere around 10 pounds. Some carp can grow to over 40 pounds!
If you have ever caught and eaten a trout, then you know that the ratio of meat to everything else is usually pretty small. An average trout of say 12 inches will only have enough meat for a few bites. But a small carp of 5 pounds can feed two or three people.
Carp eat a variety of things from vegetation to crawfish to mussels. The best tasting carp will be ones that have spent their life in clean water lakes with an abundance of crawfish and insects.
What Might Make Carp Bad Eating
Since common carp eat just about anything, they spend a lot of time sifting through the silted lake and river bottoms. This can effect the taste of the carp to have a slight muddy taste.
The best way to reduce the muddy taste in a carp is to bleed it or fillet it immediately after killing it. If you don’t do this, the blood will stay in the meat, giving it a muddy taste.
Another thing people don’t like about carp is how boney they are. A fillet of carp will still have a number of Y-bones in it. However, these are easy to remove after the fish is cooked.
Tasty Species of Carp
There are many species of carp around the world. However I’m going to give an overview of the most common carp in the US, and how they taste.
Eating Common Carp
The common carp is the one most people think of when they hear the word carp. They have dark olive/brown backs with beautiful golden sides.
Other than their color difference, they look pretty much the same as the Koi you might find in a garden pond.
Their mouth is on the underside of their head and eat mostly off the bottom. Their diet is made up of the widest range of foods as far as carp go.
Common carp may not be the best tasting carp, but they still taste great. Many people in the southern US, love to both catch and eat common carp.
These carp aren’t native to the US. In fact they were brought here as a food source by many early settlers. As the pioneers moved west, so did the common carp. So we originally brought them here for food, but somewhere along the way we stopped eating them and they became forgotten.
Eating Grass Carp
Grass carp (aka white amur) are often stocked on ponds and canals as a means of weed control. As their name suggests, grass carp eat mainly vegetation. They were brought to the US in the 1960s and stocked in ponds to keep down the grass, weeds, and algae.
If you live in an area with a large population of Asian immigrants then you might even be able to find grass carp for sale in the grocery stores.
Like the common carp (or any fish for that matter), the taste will greatly depend on the quality of the water they were harvested from. If they were raised in a muddy fish pond, then they’re probably going to taste a little muddy…
However, if they are caught in clean water, and raised on natural greens, then they will have a very clean taste.
Eating Big Head Carp
Big head carp are a little on the funny looking side if you ask me. They have big mouths on the front of their head like grass carp, but their eyes are located far down the sides of their heads and even below their mouth line.
Big head carp are filter feeders. They swim through the water with their mouths open filtering out plankton and other food.
These carp are actually one of the favorite menu items in Asia. The cheek meat in particular is considered a delicacy.
These carp can also be found for sale in Asian grocers and they taste amazing!
Eating Silver Carp
The silver carp is another Asian carp that was brought to the US in the mid 1900s. Since then, the silver carp have escaped and spread through Midwest rivers like a wild fire. They are probably the biggest nuisance fish in the US.
Silver fish have the terrible trait of jumping 5 to 10 feet out of the water when scared. This means that when a motor boat is driving up the river, silver carp will be jumping all around, sometimes landing in the boat, or smacking people in the face. It may sound funny, but that’s a 20 to 30 pound fish hitting you at 30+ mph!
Since these carp reproduce in such great numbers, they are popular with fish farms in Asia. Being that these carp are also filter feeders, they taste great as long as they weren’t farmed in a muddy fish pond.
How to Prepare Carp For Eating
Since it isn’t popular to eat carp in the US, you probably won’t find it in your grocery store. But if you have any Asian markets near you, you can try those.
For most people, the best way to get a carp for eating is to go fishing. Besides… fishing is the fun part!
If you want to learn how to catch a carp check out this page, How To Catch Carp!
1. Kill The Carp
You can kill carp by hitting them hard on the head with a rock or a fish bonker.
2. Bleed It
If you aren’t going to fillet the fish right away, then it’s important to bleed it out. If you don’t bleed it out, the blood will remain in the meat and give the fish a muddy taste.
To bleed a carp, cut out the gills and put it head down in a bucket of water for around 10 minutes.
3. Scale The Carp
Scaling the carp is optional. It depends on whether you want to eat the skin or not. If you don’t want to eat the skin, then don’t worry about scaling it. Just fillet the meat off the skin.
To scale the fish I like to use the back edge of my knife blade. Just scrape the scales off from the tail towards the head.
With the scales out of the way, it’s a little easier to fillet.
4. Fillet The Meat Off
There are many ways to cut up a carp. But to keep things simple, fillet it just the same as you would a trout.
Cut down right along the edge of the spine from the head towards the tail. Then cut right along the ribs from the back down to the belly, carefully separating the meat from off the rib bones.
I recommend watching a few YouTube videos about it. It’ll be much easier to understand by watching it.
And there is another video showing a more complex way of doing it, but at the same time you keep a lot more meat!
5. Cool The Fillets
Keep the fillets cool until it is time to cook them. You can put them in a cooler of ice, or straight into the fridge or freezer.
6. Cook The Carp
There are many recipes out there for carp. Most of the recipes will be from the Asian continent. So if you like Chinese food, then this is good news for you!
Here is a website I found that has a list of shared carp recipes. The website is CookPad.com
More on Carp
If you would like to learn more about carp and their history, then read on, or check out my other pages about what carp eat, how big carp get, or how to catch carp.