In this blog article, I’m going to be sharing with you one of the fastest, easiest ways to clean and process Asian carp. Before I get started though, you might want to check out the video version of this article, as it may explain things better. I’ve made several videos and written a book about why Asian carp are one of the most nutritious and delicious fish in the world. But along with the unique challenges of catching the silver and bighead Asian carp, the next big task is processing them. This is also perhaps the #1 deterrent that keeps people from utilizing these fish more frequently, which, as natural resource experts all agree, is key for reducing the population of this destructive, invasive species.
Now if you don’t mind eating fish in a manner requiring picking out (or around) the bones after cooking it, such as eating whole rainbow trout or other fish with small, delicate bones, then there is no issue whatsoever. Just cook the fish any which way you desire and eat and pick away! The bones can be removed quite easily after cooking. However, if you desire a boneless fillet, as many Americans are accustomed to, you’ll have a little more work to do. The silver and bighead carp have two rows of intricate “Y bone” structures which requires a special technique in order to get completely boneless fillets from them. There are lots of great videos on this subject out there, and I’m going to be making one myself in the near future, so stay tuned for that.
The process I’m going to share here requires a meat grinder and is very simple. If you’re a deer hunter who makes a variety of products from your ground venison, then this will all be very familiar to you. Let’s get started.
Step #1 – Bleed Out
No matter what method you use for harvesting Asian carp, a vitally important part of processing and eating them, or any fish for that matter, is to bleed the fish out immediately after it’s caught. Bleeding out a fish produces a clean, pure-tasting fillet and greatly improves the quality of your meal. To properly bleed a fish out, simply bop it on the head, right between the eyes, with a club of one kind or another to immediately dispatch the fish. After that, cut the gills, and put the fish on a stringer to bleed out in the water as completely as possible for at least 15 minutes or longer. After the fish is bleed out, you can then put it in a cooler, live well, or leave it on the stringer if either of those is not available, and if the water is nice and cool.
Step#2 – Fillet
I prefer to fillet my fish right in the field after I bleed them out in order to cut down on the weight that I have to pack out of my fishing locations. However, if you’re in a large boat and have a big live well or cooler, you can simply leave your fish whole and fillet them at home.
Filleting an Asian carp is initially the same as most any other fish, and it’s very similar to filleting Alaskan cod. I make my initial cut at the dorsal fin and cut right down the backbone to the tail area, then cut around the head, about halfway down the ribcage, and then meet up with my first cut. I wash my fillets off, put them in a cooler, and when I get home I soak the fillets in salt water for a few hours, or overnight to draw out any remaining blood in the fillet.
Next, I skin the fillet trim away the dark meat on the other side, which is the slow-twitch muscle fibers of the fish that are used for long-distance swimming. This dark meat tends to have a strong flavor, so it’s good to remove as much of it as you can. To easily do this, just fold the fillet in half and slice the dark meat right off.
Step #3 – Grind!
Again, for this method, you’ll be using a meat grinder, which is a super-easy way of processing the Asian carp to turn it into boneless fish patties, tacos, burgers, sticks, nuggets, cakes, and all kinds of other delicious recipes. Simply run the whole, skinned and trimmed fillets through a grinder with a small, or “fine” grinding plate. I recommend running the fish through twice for optimal breakdown and blending of the bones, which also adds extra calcium to the finished product. After grinding the fillets thoroughly, simply season and shape the ground fish however you desire and start cooking!
If you’d like to find out more, check out my book, Eat the Enemy, Turning the Asian Carp Invasion into Health Delicious Cuisine. It’s a complete guidebook to catching and cooking the Asian carp, including 50 mouthwatering recipes. Click on the image below to order today.