Sushi is one of those types of food that you either love or hate. There’s no in-between. People who enjoy sushi in all its varying forms will tell you it’s because of the flavor explosion your taste buds experience from the first bite. Combinations of ginger, wasabi, vinegar and a host of other herbs spice up the fish to provide you with a host of assorted flavors.
Anyone who has ever prepared a sushi platter at home will tell you, it’s important to use the correct type of fish. Since the fish is consumed raw, it’s crucial to use only sushi-grade fish. What is sushi-grade fish and how is it different from regular raw fish? Keep reading as we take a closer look.
What Does Sushi-grade Mean?
Sushi grade, also commonly referred to as sashimi-grade, are terms that refer to fish deemed safe to eat raw. It’s important to understand that not any raw fish can be used to make sushi.
Fish vendors and suppliers use the term “sushi or sashimi-grade” to indicate which fish can be consumed raw. This label refers to the freshest, highest quality fish. Always check for labels that have been assigned a Grade 1 rating as these have been inspected by wholesalers and deemed as the freshest and most suitable for sushi grade.
What is Different About Sushi-grade Fish?
Sushi-grade fish differs from other fish in that it’s fresher and least susceptible to bacteria and parasites. Since sushi-grade fish is specifically intended for raw consumption, it’s managed differently to avoid potential transference of bacteria.
Generally, sushi or sashimi-grade fish is caught quickly, bled immediately on capture and gutted very soon after. Fish intended for sushi is frozen thoroughly, usually at 0°F for 7 days. It can also be flash frozen at -35°F for at least 15 hours. This is done in accordance with FDA regulations.
Can You Use Any Fish to Make Sushi?
The answer here is a resounding NO! Just because sushi is made from raw fish, doesn’t mean that any raw fish will do. When you’re shopping for your sushi platter, it’s important to visit a Japanese market, sushi bar or fishmonger that specializes in fresh fish.
Bear in mind that most fish products aren’t handled with the intention of being used for raw preparation. This makes these products susceptible to containing or transferring bacteria or parasites.
What is the Best Fish for Sushi?
Since some types of fish are more susceptible to parasites than others, it’s crucial to familiarize yourself with different fish species that could pose a potential health risk. Always keep in mind that you’ll be eating this fish raw, and the wrong type could have serious health consequences. We’ve listed a few of the most common types of fish used in raw sushi or sashimi preparations.
While salmon is a popular choice for sushi, it’s important to keep one golden rule in mind. Always opt for farmed salmon. Aquacultures raise salmon on parasite-free diets and regulate their environments. That means these fish are safer to eat.
Wild salmon, on the other hand, spend a great deal of their lives in freshwater which leaves them at greater risk of contracting parasites. These parasites remain in the meat and can be accidentally consumed.
Since tuna is highly resistant to parasites, it’s one of the few fish species that’s considered safe to eat with little to no processing. There are however some tuna steaks that aren’t sushi grade. It’s always advisable to confirm with the vendor or fishmonger if the fish is sushi grade.
Some of the more common tuna types that are sushi-grade include the following:
Many restaurant menus often list yellowtail under its Japanese name, Hamachi. It’s important to know that Yellowtail can have high mercury content. This means that while it’s safe to consume, it should be done so in moderation.
Read More: 35 Fun and Tasty Sushi Filling Ideas
Commonly referred to as tai or suzuki, sea bass is ordinarily treated with vinegar before being served. As with yellowtail, this fish also has a higher mercury content and should also be consumed in moderation and as fresh as possible.
If you’re a sushi lover, then you’ll know this fish as saba or aji. As with sea bass, this fish is treated in vinegar before being served on your favorite sushi platter.
Flounder is a general name covering the entire flatfish group which includes halibut. The Japanese name for this family of fish is Hirame.
Also Read: Is Seafood Considered Meat?
Ordinarily, fish farmed in aquaculture aren’t likely to have contracted parasites. So they’re generally safer to consume raw. It’s essential to refrain from eating any freshwater fish raw as these are susceptible to a variety of different parasites. While freshwater fish might appear clean on the outside, parasites can remain alive inside the fish.
What Is the FDA Regulation for Sushi-grade Fish?
There aren’t any actual guidelines or specifications in place to establish if a fish is sushi grade. The Food and Drug Administration “(FDA) has regulations in place to ensure that raw fish intended for raw consumption is handled correctly.
Commonly referred to as “Parasite Destruction Guarantee,” there are three important regulations that need to be applied to raw fish intended raw consumption. They are listed as follows:
- Raw fish must be frozen and stored at an ambient temperature of -4°F (-20°C) or below for a total of 7 days. Fish should not be unfrozen and refrozen.
- All fish intended for raw consumption must be frozen at an ambient temperature of -31°F (-35°C) or below until solid and then stored at -4°F (-20°C) or below for 24 hours.
- Freezing at an ambient temperature of -4°F (-20°C) or below until solid and then storing at a temperature of -31°F (-35°C) or below for 15 hours.
These processes need to begin as soon as the fish has been caught as parasites continue to live in the fish. Low temperatures are needed to keep the fish suitable for sushi-grade use. Fish need to be caught fast, bled and gutted as well as flash frozen within 8 hours of being caught. This procedure is crucial in assuring the raw fish you’re purchasing is sushi grade.
Is It Safe to Eat Sushi from A Supermarket or Grocery Store?
While it’s always healthier to get your fresh fish from a specialty fishmonger or sushi bar, that might not always be possible. Depending on the area where you live, the only access you have to raw fish might be your local supermarket. Is this fish safe?
For the most part, sushi in supermarkets and grocery stores poses no health risks. When you’re buying fish to make sushi, always follow some of these guidelines:
- Check the label for the sushi or sashimi-grade marking.
- The label should be marked as Grade 1 as this will indicate the freshest fish, specifically packaged for raw consumption.
- Make sure to check the expiration date.
- Raw fish for sushi can be eaten up to three days after purchase.
How to Keep Sushi-grade Fish Fresh After Purchasing
Once you’ve managed to find the right fish for your sushi platter, it’s equally important to transport, store and correctly prepare the fish to avoid potential food-borne illnesses.
Here are a few tips to keep your fish fresh till it’s time to enjoy.
- If you’re buying sushi-grade fish from the supermarket, always buy the fish last. Having the fish in the bottom of your cart while you do another hour of shopping creates the risk of potentially having bacteria in the fish.
- Always transport your fish on ice – place some ice in a cooler box for the ride home.
- Refrigerate or freeze the fish immediately.
- Thaw frozen fish in the refrigerator to limit the risk of contamination.
- Always keep your work area and hands as clean as possible.
- Never leave the prepared sushi out on a counter. Place it in the refrigerator until serving time.
Related Read: How Long is Sushi Good For?
With its delicious flavor burst, a sushi platter or two is the ideal meal to serve at your next dinner party. Understanding the criteria for finding the right type of fish will ensure that you and your guests can consume the sushi with peace of mind, without the risk of exposure to bacteria or parasites.
Try to find a high-end fishmonger or sushi bar in your area from which to purchase your sushi. With the handy tips we’ve offered, sushi will soon become a staple on your dinner menu!