Do You Really Need to Freeze Salmon Before Making Sushi?

Hey foodies! If you’re a sushi lover like me, you may have wondered – do I really need to freeze salmon before making sushi? I totally get it. Who wants to wait around for fish to freeze when fresh sushi-grade salmon is waiting for you at the store? But before you whip up a homemade sushi roll, there are some important safety steps to take.

Let me walk you through the scoop. Freezing salmon for at least 7 days kills any nasty parasites that could make you sick. I know, not fun to think about. But curing salmon in a salty mixture works too! Once frozen or cured, the salmon is safe to eat raw in sushi and tastes delicious.

Now, you can sometimes get away with using a fresh fillet from a reputable fishmonger or local sushi joint. But to be on the safe side, I recommend freezing or curing that salmon first. Trust me, it’s worth the wait to avoid biting into something extra squiggly.

Alright, now that we’ve got the safety stuff out of the way, let’s talk about how freezing and curing makes for mouthwatering sushi! Stick with me as we dive into the secrets behind tantalizingly tender sushi salmon. There’s a whole world of flavor waiting for us!

Freezing Salmon Kills Parasites and Bacteria

Raw salmon can sometimes contain nasty little critters like worms and parasites. Freezing fish for an extended time kills them off, along with dangerous bacteria.

According to the FDA, salmon should be frozen at -4°F (-20°C) or below for at least 7 days to eliminate parasites. Extending the freezing time to a full month provides an extra safety buffer.

So if you plan to eat that beautiful salmon fillet raw in sushi, first freeze it for optimal safety. It gives you peace of mind knowing there’s nothing wiggly inside!

Curing Also Works to Prepare Safe Sushi Salmon

Now, you don’t necessarily have to freeze salmon to enjoy it raw if you cure it instead.

Popular curing methods involve covering salmon fillets with salt, sugar, spices, and herbs for several hours. This process draws moisture out of the fish while infusing tons of flavor.

The salt also kills any lurking parasites and bacteria. So curing makes for safe and tasty sushi salmon too.

Sushi Restaurants Use Flash-Frozen Fish

Ever wonder how sushi restaurants can serve up raw salmon so quickly? They use fish that’s been flash-frozen, a rapid freezing method.

Flash-freezing happens at ultra-low temps like -76°F (-60°C) to preserve freshness and quality. So the fish at your favorite sushi joint is likely frozen, even though it tastes amazingly fresh.

Fresh, Unfrozen Salmon Carries Some Risk

Okay, so what about using fresh, non-frozen salmon from the seafood counter or fishmonger? It’s definitely possible, but comes with a little more risk.

Unless you know exactly where the salmon came from and how it was handled, parasites could be present. Your local sushi restaurant likely has trusted suppliers though.

However, for homemade sushi, go the extra mile and freeze or cure your salmon first. Better safe than sorry!

Freezing & Curing Also Enhances Flavor

Beyond just safety, properly freezing or curing salmon before eating it raw enhances its flavor. Here’s how:


  • Ruptures cell membranes to tenderize fish
  • Concentrates umami flavors
  • Yields soft, buttery texture


  • Draws out moisture to firm up texture
  • Infuses salmon with spices, herbs, sweetness
  • Provides contrast of flavors

So you not only get delicious sushi salmon, but super safe seafood. It’s a win-win!

Follow These Tips for Freezing Salmon

Alright, convinced on freezing salmon for sushi? Here are some tips and tricks:

1. Start With Sushi-Grade Fish

Look for fresh, sushi-grade salmon at the fish market. Sushi chefs look for thick, firm fillets with vibrant reddish-orange flesh.

Make sure the fish smells ocean-fresh, not fishy or ammonia-like. Pass on qualquer fish with dull, brownish hues.

2. Freeze Salmon ASAP

Freeze salmon ASAP after bringing it home for maximum freshness. Wrap it tightly in plastic wrap so no air touches the surface.

Don’t bother thawing before freezing. Pop it straight into the freezer.

3. Use an Ultra-Cold Freezer

Aim for -4°F if possible, or the coldest setting in your freezer. Most home freezers only get to about 0°F. In that case, extend the freezing time.

For ideal freezing, use an ultra-low freezer at a sushi restaurant or fish processor. SomeEntities rent out freezer space too!

4. Freeze for 1-4 Weeks

The FDA recommends freezing for 7 days minimum. But freezing salmon for 1-4 weeks ensures any parasites are dead.

Lean towards longer freezing times if your fridge only gets to 0°F. And mark the date!

5. Thaw Properly in the Fridge

Always thaw frozen fish gradually in the refrigerator, never on the counter. This maintains quality.

Leave wrapped fish on a plate to catch drips. About 5 hours per 1 pound of fish should do it.

Tips for Curing Salmon for Sushi

Curing gives salmon a firm texture and punch of flavor. Follow these tips to cure fish safely.

1. Use Ultra-Fresh Fish

Don’t cure old, funky salmon! Start with the highest quality, sushi-grade fish possible from a trusted vendor.

Make sure it looks and smells fresh. Immediately cure upon bringing it home.

2. Mix A Wet Cure

A wet cure has liquid added and coats all surfaces of the fish. The typical wet cure mix is:

  • 1 cup salt
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 quart water

Mix until salt and sugar dissolve. Substitute some water with sake or mirin (rice wine) for flavor.

3. Coat Salmon in Cure

Place salmon fillets skin-side down in a glass baking dish. Pour the wet cure over to submerge.

If needed, weigh down fish with a plate so it stays fully covered. Refrigerate for 6-48 hours.

4. Rinse and Pat Dry

Once cured, rinse the fish well under cold water. Pat dry thoroughly with paper towels.

Drying ensures the texture stays firm instead of getting mushy. Let it air dry for 15 minutes too.

5. Slice and Serve

The salmon is now ready to slice up for homemade sushi! Serve it immediately for the freshest flavor and texture.

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Frequently Asked Questions About Freezing Salmon for Sushi

Still have some questions about all this salmon freezing and curing business? Here are answers to some common FAQs:

Is it okay to use fresh, never-frozen salmon for sushi?

It’s possible, but not recommended. Parasitic infections are rare, but a risk with fresh salmon. Freezing kills any parasites and bacteria for safer raw consumption.

Can I make sushi from frozen salmon I bought at the store?

Yes, definitely! As long as it was flash-frozen solid at ultra-low temps like -31°F, previously frozen salmon works great. Just thaw gently in the fridge before use.

Do I really need a super cold freezer to freeze fish?

Commercial flash-freezers get much colder than home freezers, usually at least -31°F. But you can still safely freeze fish around 0°F. Just freeze longer – try 1-2 months to be safe.

Does freezing salmon change the taste?

Freezing can mute subtle flavors a bit at first. But after thawing, the fish regains its flavor. Aaging frozen fish 12-24 hours in the fridge helps too. The tender texture also improves!

How long does cured salmon last in the fridge?

Cured salmon keeps well refrigerated for 5-7 days. The salty cure helps inhibit bacteria growth. Store it wrapped tightly or submerged in cure liquid.

Ready to Make the Safest, Tastiest Homemade Sushi?

I hope this guide gave you some peace of mind on how to safely prepare raw salmon for sushi. Freezing or curing helps eliminate risks while enhancing the flavor.

While it takes some extra time upfront, you can then enjoy delicious homemade sushi knowing your salmon is top quality.

The tender, umami-rich texture of properly frozen or cured salmon is so worth it. Not to mention you avoid any worries about unwanted extras in your sashimi!

Let me know if you have any other sushi salmon questions. And don’t forget the wasabi and soy sauce for that authentic Japanese sushi experience. Now get rolling!

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Bill Kalkumnerd
Bill Kalkumnerd

I am Bill, I am the Owner of HappySpicyHour, a website devoted to spicy food lovers like me. Ramen and Som-tum (Papaya Salad) are two of my favorite spicy dishes. Spicy food is more than a passion for me - it's my life! For more information about this site Click

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