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What Is The Difference Between Regular And Sushi Grade Fish?

If you are someone who loves sushi and eats it almost every other day, chances are you already know how it is made. Sushi, as we all know, is made with sushi-grade fish, mostly salmon. But what exactly is sushi grade fish, and what is the difference between regular and sushi grade fish?

Here is what I have known. Sushi is made with raw fish, and the label ‘sushi grade fish’ means that the fish is safe to eat raw. While for the regular fish, you can’t just eat it raw. Because they have a high risk of having parasites inside them.

But that’s not it. There’s more to know about sushi grade fish and how to prepare them. Moreover, there are many differences between regular and sushi grade fish. In this article, I'm going to cover everything about sushi grade and regular fish.

What Is Sushi Grade Fish?

According to Food and Drug Administration regulations, sushi grade fish should be flash frozen. Right after catching the fish, the fish is flash-frozen to completely freeze and kill the parasites inside. Since all the parasites are dead, the fish is completely safe to consume raw.

 Although the term ‘sushi grade’ does not automatically mean that the fish is completely safe to eat raw. The term comes from the seafood sellers and the fishmongers to make their food sound attractive. They have no official certifications to use this term.

There are some raw fish safety recommendations, and grocery stores, fishmongers, and seafood restaurants buy from suppliers who follow them since it is in their best interests to sell safe raw fish.

However, you do not need to be concerned about eating sushi-grade fish. Bear in mind that the restaurants always adhere to the Food and Drug Administration's guidelines.

The most important guideline issued by the Food and Drug Administration is the ‘Parasite Destruction Guarantee’ which basically means freezing the fish in order to kill the parasites and decrease the risk of getting sick.

How To Make The Fish Sushi Grade?

You need to catch the fish quickly, make it bleed on the spot, gut it swiftly, and then cool it right on the boat. This strategy is really important.

The Food and Drug Administration has issued guidelines for making sushi grade fish.These are the guidelines:

  • Firstly, make it bleed by cutting a slice through the gills and/or a slice from the tail to the backbone.
  • Gut the fish while you are on the boat. The majority of worms found in fish live in the guts of the animal and subsequently move to the flesh after the fish dies. In most situations, quick gutting prevents this.
  • Get pounds and pounds of ice in your boat to start the freezing process.
  • Freeze and store for 7 days at a temperature of -4°F (-20°C) or below (total time)
  • Freeze until solid at -31°F (-35°C) or lower, then store for 15 hours at -31°F (-35°C).
  • You can kill parasites by freezing them at -31°F (-35°C) or below until solid, and then storing them at -4°F (-20°C) or below for 24 hours.

Although, it is not safe to eat raw unless it’s labeled ‘sushi grade’ or ‘sashimi grade’. This is because the fish must be frozen to at least -4°F to be safe for raw ingestion, and most home refrigerator-freezers do not go that low.

Another thing you need to keep in mind while eating raw fish is freshness. If you don’t treat the fish right after you catch it, it won’t be a good fish to eat raw. You can also check the freshness by its color or the look of it. If the fish looks fresh, it is most probably fresh.

What Types Of Fish Are Sushi Grade?  

If you're making a raw dish, stick with any fish you'd find in a sushi bar. If you've never eaten in one before, this can be a problem. Let's start with the most common raw fish found in a Japanese sushi bar.

  • Tuna: Tuna is always the best choice for sushi. Any type of tuna, including yellowfin, bigeye, skipjack, bigeye, and albacore, will be good. There are a few that are more uncommon.
  • Salmon: Salmon is used widely for sushi. Despite its popularity and widespread use in sushi, this fish has parasite issues. Make sure to flash-freeze it before using.
  • Clams, Scallops, and Abalone: These mollusks are popular choices. Oysters, on the other hand, you should. While Oysters are delicious raw, they do not taste good with sushi rice.
  • Yellowtail: The Japanese call this Jackfish ‘Hamachi’. It is a popular raw fish among many people.
  • Halibut or Flounder: You might have not heard it before, in any sushi bar. That’s because it’s widely known as ‘Hirame’.
  • Squid: Squid is not only a popular fish for sushi, but also popular seafood on its own. Although it is common in sushi, the makers flash-cook it for a few seconds and then serve it, rather than serving it raw.
  • Gizzard Shad: The Japanese call this bait fish ‘Kohada’. They esteem it in some circles. This one has a fishy smell and taste. Though not in a bad way. So it’s safe to eat.
  • Mackerel: you should always prepare mackerels with vinegar before serving in sushi. Mackerels make a great choice. The Japanese name for it is ‘Saba’ or ‘Aji’.

Difference Between Regular And Sushi Grade Fish

Sushi-grade salmon is flash-frozen on the boat shortly after capture and kept at -4°F or lower for at least 15 hours. Regular salmon may or may not have been frozen, and it is most likely not frozen while on the boat, leaving it vulnerable to parasites.

Regular salmon, like most fish, is vulnerable to parasites in the freshwater environment in which it lives. Unless it's grilled, boiled, or fried. Eating it raw is a recipe for food poisoning.

You need to thoroughly clean and gut sushi-grade fish like salmon, before flash-freezing it at -40 degrees Celsius to kill parasites. The flash-freezing process is a cutting-edge freezing technology that has no negative impact on the quality, freshness, or taste of the fish.

Things To Consider Before Buying A Sushi Grade Fish

Even though you will see the labels on sushi grade fish, you should always double-check before buying it. Because there are no official standards for grading the fish for sushi. Here are a few steps you can consider before buying a sushi grade fish.

The Right Place

Just like you do when buying meat, always choose the best place for buying fish too. Go to the fishmonger or market that is the most reputable in your area. Look for markets with knowledgeable staff that can help you choose the best fish.

Always keep that in mind to go somewhere where they have regular shipments and have some kind of a partnership with seafood restaurants.

The Right Questions

Do not hesitate to ask questions to the seller. Know where the fish came from. Ask them how they handle it and if it is properly frozen.

If the fish was processed at the store, inquire whether they sanitized the equipment to avoid cross-contamination from non-sushi grade fish. If the color of the fish does not seem quite fresh to you, ask them why that is.

Pick What’s Sustainable

You should be a responsible consumer when it comes to seafood. Always choose sustainability over gluttony.

Before purchasing sushi grade fish or any other type of seafood, make sure you are up to date on regional information. There are many environment-friendly restaurants or markets that you can visit.

Be Sensible

Smell and touch the fish before buying it. The fish should always smell like the ocean. When you touch it, you must feel the softness. It should not be flaky.

Since you are going to serve it raw, you should go for vibrant colored fish. This will make your sushi more appealing. And if you have any doubt regarding the fish quality, just don’t buy it.

Here are some things you should look into before buying a sushi grade fish :

  • The fish must smell like sea water. Avoid fish that smell like spoilage.
  • See if the fish has slightly bulged and clear eyes.
  • The fish should have red gills.
  • Touch the flesh and see if it’s firm enough.
  • The scales must be cut out from the whole fish.
  • While the flesh should be soft, it should not feel slimy when you take it in your hand.

How To Keep The Sushi Grade Fish Fresh?

When you are done buying your desired and perfect sushi-grade fish, you will still want to take extra care of it when you reach home. This will reduce the risk of getting sick since you are eating it raw. If you want to use it immediately, then freeze it as fast as you can. Refrigerate it if you plan to use it later.

Thaw frozen fish in the refrigerator to keep it from reaching the danger zone of 40 degrees Fahrenheit (4 degrees Celsius). Keep your work area, tools, and hands clean while preparing the fish to ensure that your sushi grade fish is as sanitary as possible before serving your sushi rolls.

There has always been a big confusion about sushi grade and regular fish. Most people don’t even know that the term ‘sushi grade’ is not even legitimate.

I hope this article gave you an insight on what is the difference between sushi grade and regular fish. You can now easily pick a sushi grade fish to make the perfect sushi!

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Author Ferdi
Written by Ferdi Vol
Ferdi Vol has been working for a grocery store for the last few years and he knows all the ins and outs of running a grocery store. He's also got great tips about what you need to know as a customer, from getting the most out of your money to knowing where everything is in the store! Ferdi loves sharing his passion with others via his blog on how to have an awesome shopping experience at your local grocery store.
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