Crappie is a popular freshwater game fish that have become more widespread in restaurants. They are fairly large fish for their type and provide a surprising amount of meat when cleaned and prepared properly.
They also provide seafood fans with diverse and mild meat that’s useful in many meals. One of the best things about these fish is their widespread nature in various parts of North America. That makes it easy to catch, clean, and cook them, particularly when on fishing trips.
Anglers may find the crappie a staple food when out on extended fishing adventures. In this article, we’ll examine the nature of the crappie, including its taste, texture, and overall look.
Then, we’ll talk about other important facts, such as where you can find them and how to cook them. Lastly, we’ll include frequently asked questions and recipes for cooking this delicious fish.
What Is Crappie?
Crappie is a panfish that falls into the sunfish family. They’re one of the biggest panfish in the world and make up the most significant part of the sunfish family.
Most anglers consider the crappie to be one of the tastiest freshwater fish, though bluegill and even perch are widely eaten.
Crappie is interesting because they have varying diets that may affect their taste based on the region where you catch them.
Furthermore, they are typically focused primarily on North America, including the United States and Canada, which makes them a delicacy in other regions.
Unlike other commonly eaten fish, crappie is found most commonly in ponds, lakes, streams, and rivers. They’re not as prominent in the Great Lakes as other species, though they can be found in these lakes.
Most caught crappie are around 5.5 pounds or so, with the biggest ever caught being 19-inches long.
What Does Crappie Taste Like?
Crappie has a reasonably mild taste that lacks the potent fishiness common in other species. That makes them very popular with those who usually don’t like seafood, as does their rather sweet taste.
Those who enjoy a fishy flavor may find crappie bland, however. Like other fish, crappie often absorbs the flavors of other ingredients around them.
For example, adding lemon or honey to a crappie meal will give it an even richer flavor. Crappie are also reasonably easy to filet and prepare, which makes them easier to cook for many amateur anglers.
Crappie also changes in taste slightly based on how they are cooked. Pan-fried crappie will absorb your frying oil or sear well to create a crispier and sharper flavor.
Baked crappie typically becomes softer and even more absorbent to create a more tender and decadent meal.
What Does Crappie Look Like?
Living crappie has a smattering of silver and brown spots across their surface, though this may vary depending on the fish. People often catch crappie well over 12 inches, with some even approaching two feet.
Crappie meat is light red with a mild fishy flavor and aroma. When cooked, crappie is similar to cod or other whiter fish because its flesh whitens up and becomes much softer.
Baked crappie, in particular, becomes so soft as to be nearly crumbly. That helps separate it from other similar fish, which may have redder flesh when cooked.
As a result, a plate with crappie may have crumbly flesh scattered across its surface. This whiter look also makes crappie a helpful option when preparing and cooking fish sticks. It isn’t as white as cod, though it is typically reasonably light.
What Texture Does Crappie Have?
Cooked crappie should have a fairly pleasant and flaky feel when appropriately prepared. Fresh crappie flakes beautifully and leaves a delicious filet on the plate. If you notice a mushy texture with your crappie, it was probably frozen and thawed.
Mushy frozen fish is a common issue many gourmets experience when eating out or preparing fish at home.
If you’re a regular fisher, try to prepare your crappie soon after catching them to avoid this mushiness. The longer you freeze them, the mushier they become.
Types Of Crappie?
Crappie come in two different species, including the white crappie and the black crappie. The white crappie is the widest spread of these two types.
It lives throughout the Great Lakes, Hudson Bay, and throughout the Mississippi River Basins up towards Ontario, South Dakota, and Texas.
The black crappie is far more limited in scope, though it does find a home throughout the eastern United States and Canada.
Neither of these fish is endangered or even threatened, and it provides anglers with a real challenge when trying to catch them in ponds, lakes, rivers, or streams.
Is Crappie Healthy? Or Dangers Of Eating Crappie?
Crappie is considered a very healthy fish because it doesn’t have a lot of fat and is typically filled with various vitamins and minerals. Like many fish, it is rich in omega-3 fatty acids, though other fish do have more.
It also has high levels of phosphorous and selenium, ingredients otherwise hard to find. Crappie is also fairly lean, with minimal fat throughout their body. Crappie also lacks the salty taste that some people may dislike from saltwater fish.
As a result, they’re naturally lower in sodium than saltwater fish. Crappie, like most fish, does have a potential for mercury poisoning, particularly in areas where industrial facilities operate.
However, the crappie is considered fairly safe because it has very low levels of this potent mineral. Try to limit yourself to no more than 1-2 crappie dinners a week to avoid this problem.
How Do You Eat Crappie?
Crappie is always eaten cooked and rarely used with sushi or other similar raw-meat dishes. You can cook crappie in several ways, which we’ll discuss later, including pan-frying them.
Typically, you serve crappie as the main dish with side meals, such as rice or asparagus, with the fish. When properly cooked, crappie should be very tender and easy to cut with a knife and fork.
Toppings like tartar sauce, mayo, or even ketchup may add to crappie’s flavor. Some may even use hot sauce or other similar toppings to give their crappie a sharper taste.
How Can I Store Crappie?
Score crappie in your refrigerator for up to three days before throwing it out. Preserved crappie may be kept longer, such as if you can or jar up crappie in preservative oils.
Try to throw out any canned crappie after its expiration date or no more than six months after preparing it. Avoid leaving crappie out in the open for longer than a few hours to avoid potential bacterial spread.
Can You Freeze Crappie?
Crappie can be frozen for several months until they should be thrown away due to freezer burn. Wrap your fillets in freezer-safe paper and then place them in a freezer-safe bag, labeling the bag with the freezing date.
Leave them in your refrigerator overnight when thawing and never refreeze thawed food to avoid the danger of food poisoning and spoilage.
How To Tell If Crappie Is Bad?
You can quickly tell if a crappie is bad simply by looking at its flesh and giving it a smell. If you see obvious signs of mold spreading throughout your fish, throw it away.
You may also see browning throughout the otherwise white flesh which indicates spoiling. If your crappie has a very sharp smell that turns your stomach, you should also throw them away.
Fish tends to go bad fairly quickly and produce a very sharp smell, and crappie is no different. Never eat spoiled fish or you run the risk of severe food poisoning.
Crappie Vs. Bluegill
Crappie and bluegill are frequently compared due to their similar taste and texture. Bluegill has a slightly sharper flavor with a firmer and flakier texture.
By contrast, crappie has much softer meat with a milder taste than some may find bland. However, bluegill is much smaller than crappie and provides far less meat when cleaned and prepared.
Crappie is also tougher to catch, which some anglers prefer because it challenges their skills. Both of these fish are quite good, though bluegill might have a slightly better taste.
How Do You Cook Crappie?
Like all fish, crappie needs to be cleaned and prepared before you cook it. This process removes the dorsal fin, head, innards, and ribs and lets you lay the crappie fillets flat on the prep surface for easier cooking.
Filleting the meat includes cutting it away from the body without leaving the backbone and tail. Crappie can then be prepared in several ways, including on a grill, in a smoker, with an oven, or even with a frying pan.
Many people add sauces to their crappie to boost their flavor, particularly those who want a more potent and decadent meal.
Nutritional Value Chart
|Crappie Nutritional Value Per Three Ounces
Quick Table: 3 Crappie Fish-Related Recipes
|Calories Per Serving
|Total Preparation Time
|Crappie Fish Cakes
The simplest and tastiest way to prepare this meal is simply to pan-fry the fish on your stove. This method is an excellent option for those who want a quick meal or anyone who loves fish and chips.
Start by placing 12 crappies in a baking dish and pouring buttermilk over the top of the fillets. Let them soak in the fridge for at least two hours before mixing cornmeal, flour, baking soda, salt, pepper, garlic powder, and cayenne in a separate bowl.
Mix fish in this topping and place them in a heavy skillet coated with vegetable oil on the bottom. Fry your fillets until they are brown and carefully check the internal temperature until it’s at least 145 degrees Fahrenheit.
You can then serve this as a main dish, particularly for kids, as it creates a meal fairly similar to processed fish sticks but much healthier.
Try to serve this meal with a side of French fries or even a baked potato. Potatoes and fish just go together perfectly, especially if you flavor them with parsley, garlic, or even seasoning salt. Mashed potatoes also make a great addition to this excellent meal.
Total Preparation Time: 1 hr
This Midwestern favorite may not be as healthy as other crappie dishes, but it provides a delicious range of flavors that many kids and adults will love.
You start out by sauteing onions, peppers, celery, and garlic over medium heat until they soften enough to cook further. You then add fish, eggs, breadcrumbs, paprika, may, parsley, hot sauce, lemon juice, salt, and pepper to that mix until they’re well combined.
The fish itself should be diced or shredded to ensure that it mixes easily with the rest of these high-quality ingredients.
Now, create patties from this mix and season them with salt and pepper before cooking them on a skillet for several minutes.
Brown each side of the patty and check the internal temperature to hit that 145-degree threshold. Doing so ensures that they’re safe to serve.
These fish cakes work well as either a main dish (the average person should eat 2-4 with ease) or as a side to a larger meal.
We strongly suggest serving them during Lent if you’re Catholic or when you’re out on a fishing trip with your buddies, as they give you plenty of protein.
Total Preparation Time: 20 min
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If you’re a regular fisher who wants a quick and tasty crappie recipe, try out this one! It uses a delicious beer batter that is simple to prepare in your fishing cabin and uses the angler’s favorite drink as an ingredient!
This meal also fries up pretty easily to create a dish that just about anyone will love.
Start by placing the flour, beer, paprika, salt, and egg in a bowl to produce a batter that you’ll use to coat your fish.
Dry the crappie with paper towels, add a little salt to the top of each fillet, and then dip each fish fillet in the batter. Make sure to coat each side when cooking with this recipe thoroughly.
Now, fry your fish in an oil-coated pan, browning each side of the fish and removing it when it hits the 145-degree temperature threshold.
This meal goes perfectly with potato chips, which you will likely find around your fishing cabin. However, fried potatoes also serve well with this delicious fish dish.
While we admit that this recipe is not the healthiest, it’s a good one if you want to cheat a little bit on your diet or have picky eaters.
Most kids will love a beer-battered fish recipe because it’s fried. Don’t worry: the beer’s alcoholic content is cooked away and is perfectly safe to serve to children.
Total Preparation Time: 30 min
Frequently Asked Questions
Why Is The Mercury Risk Lower For Crappie?
Freshwater fish like crappie typically have a lower mercury risk than saltwater fish in general.
However, crappie are also not bottom-feeding fish, which lowers their mercury exposure because this element sinks to the bottom of water sources.
That said, any fish is likely to have some mercury in it, though the crappie is one of the safer fish of its type.
Does A Crappie’s Freshwater Nature Change Its Flavor?
The fact that crappie comes from freshwater rather than saltwater does affect its flavor in several ways. Saltwater fish will have a much saltier taste than freshwater fish and often have more potential contaminants.
Freshwater fish like crappie also have a less potent “fishy” flavor, which is great for those who want a milder taste but not good for those who love the fish taste.
How Many Crappies Do I Need To Eat?
Even though crappie is pretty big for its family, you may still need to prepare at least two crappies per person when eating this fish. Fish flesh is typically much lighter and less filling than red meat, which makes it harder to feel full when eating less.
However, the amount that you can eat will vary based on your taste, so make sure you experiment a little before preparing your crappie.
Are Freshwater Fish Safer To Eat?
Freshwater fish may be safer to eat than saltwater fish because there is usually less pollution in freshwater and fewer contaminants.
However, freshwater fish near industrial areas, such as crappie caught near Detroit or Chicago on the Great Lakes, may have even more pollutants than saltwater fish. As a result, it is important to limit how many fish you eat to keep yourself safe.
Watch this video to learn more about a crappie fried fish recipe that the chef created during the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic while in quarantine.
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