Written by: J. Vigotsky
Raw fish can carry dangerous foodborne illnesses like Salmonella and Vibrio vulnificus. As a result, it’s best to use higher-quality “sushi grade fish” if you’re not cooking your fish. But what exactly makes fish sushi grade? This post will answer that as well as cover where to find it, how it should look, and how you should handle it.
How Does Fish Get Labeled “Sushi Grade”
Since there are no official standards for sushi grade fish, labeling is the responsibility of the vendor. The Federal Drug Administration provides detailed fish handling procedures that include steps to destroy parasites. However, the FDA has nothing to do with the sushi grade labeling.
Where to Get Sushi Grade Fish
When it comes to buying sushi grade fish, trust is extremely important. Ideally, you’ll want to get all your fish from a vendor you’ve worked with before. If that’s not an option, make sure you’re buying from someone who comes highly recommended. Ask other local restauranteurs or read online reviews to get a feel for different vendors.
How Sushi Grade Fish Should Look
It’s great to have a fish vendor who you trust completely. But knowing what fresh sushi grade fish looks and smells like will give you even more of a leg up. The fish should smell like seawater and never have an overly “fishy” odor. Its eyes should be clear and mildly bulging. Gills should be red, scales should be intact, and flesh should firm. Finally, the fish shouldn’t feel too slimy when you touch it.
How to Store Sushi Grade Fish
When you go out to buy sushi grade fish, make sure to bring a cooler with ice. This is because transporting fish on ice helps reduce the chance of foodborne illnesses. When you get the fish back to your kitchen, refrigerate or freeze it immediately. When it’s time to thaw the fish, always do so in the refrigerator. Thawing frozen fish on the countertop can result in its temperature reaching 40°F, which makes it prone to dangerous bacteria.
Raw Fish Protocol
When you have to handle raw fish, it’s best to do so with gloves. Keeping your tools and food prep area clean will help reduce the chance of spreading foodborne illnesses. And as always, thoroughly wash your hands both before and after dealing with sushi grade fish.