Sushi lovers, let’s talk about that beautiful raw salmon we love so much in nigiri and rolls. I know you might be wondering, is raw salmon safe to eat in sushi? What about bacteria and parasites? Can’t raw fish make you sick?
Totally understandable questions! Here’s the deal: Raw salmon is commonly used in sushi, but it must be handled properly to avoid any health risks. The good news is, with high-quality fish and proper prep, you can enjoy raw salmon sushi safely and deliciously.
According to food safety experts, certain precautions are recommended when eating raw fish like salmon. Many sushi restaurants use flash-frozen salmon that is safe to eat raw. Freezing or curing salmon before eating it raw helps kill any potentially harmful bacteria and parasites.
When making sushi at home, look for fresh, sushi-grade salmon. Make sure to freeze it for at least 7 days at -4°F or cure it properly with salt and sugar before using. Follow basic food safety guidelines too.
Now that we’ve covered the safety basics, we can dive into just how amazing raw salmon can taste in sushi when treated right! Let’s explore what makes for mouthwatering raw salmon sushi.
Raw Fish Requires Precautions
First, a reality check. Raw seafood can harbor bacteria and parasites that cooked fish does not. Things like:
- E. coli
- Hepatitis A
- Parasitic roundworms
Not great stuff! So yes, take precautions when eating raw salmon and other sushi fish.
The good news? By following certain guidelines, you can minimize the risks and eat raw fish more safely.
Sushi Restaurants Use Flash Frozen Salmon
Ever wonder how your local sushi joint prepares raw salmon safely? In many cases, they use fish that has been previously flash frozen.
Flash freezing fish deeply at ultralow temps like -76°F kills bacteria and parasites. The process happens so fast that large ice crystals don’t form, preserving quality.
So that buttery slice of salmon sushi may very well be from a previously frozen fillet, yet still taste incredibly fresh!
Proper Freezing and Thawing Helps
When preparing raw salmon at home, take the extra step of freezing it first for optimal safety.
The FDA recommends freezing at -4°F or below for 7 days minimum to kill parasites. But freezing for even longer, like 4 weeks, provides an extra buffer.
Always thaw frozen fish gradually in the refrigerator, never on the counter. This maintains quality. Give it about 5 hours per pound.
Curing Salmon Also Works
Aside from freezing, salmon destined for raw sushi consumption can also be prepared by curing.
Curing involves covering the fish in a salt, sugar, and liquid solution for several hours or up to 2 days. This process essentially “cooks” the salmon while infusing flavor.
The salinity and acidity of the cure kills bacteria and renders the fish safe to eat raw.
Seek Out Quality Sushi-Grade Salmon
Start with the highest quality fresh salmon possible from a trusted fish market or supplier. Sushi chefs look for:
- Bright reddish-orange color
- Firm, resilient flesh
- Clean smell, no fishiness
- Consistent marbling
Lesser quality salmon is risky to eat raw. Always inspect fish thoroughly before purchasing.
Practice Proper Handling and Storage
Follow food safety guidelines when working with raw fish:
- Store fish on ice or refrigerate immediately after buying.
- When refrigerated, use within 2 days max.
- Avoid cross-contamination by keeping fish and surfaces clean.
- Work quickly while preparing; don’t leave fish sitting out.
- Discard fish with an unpleasant odor.
Understand There’s Always Some Risk
Raw seafood always carries some degree of risk. But you can greatly reduce the odds of illness by:
- Selecting only sushi-grade salmon
- Freezing or curing fish before eating raw
- Following strict storage and handling procedures
Take these precautions and you can safely enjoy the gorgeous flavors of raw salmon sushi!
Should You Freeze Salmon Before Eating Raw in Sushi?
Now that you know raw salmon needs to be handled carefully, should you freeze it first before eating it in sushi?
Freezing is an excellent additional safety precaution that also enhances the flavor and texture. Here’s what you need to know:
Freezing Kills Bacteria and Parasites
Dangerous bacteria like salmonella are big risks with raw seafood. However, freezing fish properly kills bacteria.
Freezing also kills any parasites that may be lurking in the flesh. Parasites are rare, but possible in fish like salmon. Better safe than sorry!
FDA Recommends Freezing First
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recommends freezing fish for raw consumption first.
For salmon, they recommend freezing at -4°F or below for at least 7 consecutive days to eliminate parasites. Some entities even freeze for a full month to be extra safe.
Flash Freezing Is Ideal
Commercial flash freezing is even better than home freezing. Flash freezing rapidly brings the temperature down to -31°F or lower in minutes.
This prevents large ice crystals from forming that can damage cells. The result is frozen fresh sushi-grade fish that eats like it just came out of the ocean!
Freezing Improves Texture
Freezing also ruptures cell membranes in salmon to give it a soft, velvety texture. Think of defrosted salmon sashimi that melts in your mouth!
This tender, buttery texture makes frozen-then-thawed salmon ideal for sushi.
Enhanced Flavor Too
In addition to texture, freezing concentrates flavors in salmon through cellular breakdown.
Frozen salmon takes on a richer, more savory umami taste. Aging the frozen fish further enhances its flavor.
So freezing both improves the safety AND quality of your sushi salmon!
Pro Tips for Freezing Salmon at Home
Want to freeze salmon at home before eating it as sushi or sashimi? Here are some best practices:
Start with Fresh Sushi-Grade Fish
You want the best quality salmon possible, like what sushi restaurants use. Look for:
- Bright, glistening coloration
- Firm, clean-looking flesh
- No unpleasant odors
Lesser quality fish is not suitable for eating raw when thawed.
Freeze the salmon as soon as possible after bringing it home. The quicker it’s frozen, the better it retains freshness and flavor.
Make sure no air reaches the fish. Wrap the fillets well in plastic wrap so they are fully enclosed.
You can also vacuum seal the salmon in freezer bags to remove excess air.
Get the fish as cold as possible, ideally -4°F or lower. Set your freezer to the coldest temperature.
If your freezer only goes to 0°F, freeze the fish for longer than 7 days as an extra safety buffer.
Mark the Date
Label your frozen fish with the date. This ensures you freeze for the recommended duration before thawing and eating.
Once frozen, keep the salmon well sealed and surrounded by cold air in your freezer. Avoid temperature fluctuations.
Thawing Frozen Salmon for Sushi
Thawing frozen fish improperly can lead to a soggy, dangerous mess! Use this method:
Thaw in the Fridge
Never thaw frozen fish at room temp. Instead, let it slowly thaw in the refrigerator over 24-48 hours.
Keep it wrapped or in a container to catch drips as it defrosts.
Once thawed, pat the salmon fillets dry with paper towels. This prevents a mushy texture.
Let it air dry for 10-15 minutes too to allow moisture to evaporate from the surface.
Use Within a Couple Days
Cook or eat the thawed salmon within a day or two for absolute best quality and safety.
The fridge preserves it for now, but bacteria can still grow over time.
Discard if Slimy
Throw out the fish is if smells unpleasant or has visible slime. This is a sign of spoilage.
Safely thawed salmon will smell fresh and look firm, shiny, and appetizing.
Curing Salmon for Sushi
Aside from freezing salmon, curing it is another great option to prep it for safe raw sushi consumption.
What is Curing?
Curing involves packing salmon fillets in salt, sugar, and liquids for several hours or up to 2 days. This essentially “cooks” the fish and infuses flavor.
Benefits of Curing Salmon
Curing offers several benefits:
- Kills bacteria like freezing does
- Infuses lots of flavor
- Firms up the delicate texture
The result is incredibly tasty, melt-in-your-mouth salmon that is safer to eat raw!
Typical Cure Recipe
A basic wet cure recipe is:
- 1 cup salt
- 1 cup sugar
- 1 quart water
Mix the ingredients until dissolved. You can also substitute in some sake, mirin, or other liquid for flavor.
To cure salmon fillets:
- Place fish in a glass dish skin-side down.
- Pour the liquid cure over the fillets until submerged.
- Weigh down if needed to keep below surface.
- Refrigerate 6-48 hours.
- Rinse, pat dry, and use.
Frequently Asked Sushi Salmon Questions
Here are some common questions when it comes to safely eating raw salmon in sushi:
Is it okay to eat fresh, non-frozen salmon raw in sushi?
It’s generally not recommended. Freezing offers an additional safety buffer against bacteria and parasites. Stick to frozen or cured salmon in sushi for optimal food safety.
Can I use frozen salmon from the grocery store?
Yes, as long as it was solidly flash-frozen at ultra-low temperatures and properly thawed, pre-frozen salmon works wonderfully in sushi!
How long does salmon sushi last in the fridge?
Freshly made sushi with raw salmon should be eaten within 24 hours max for food safety. The raw fish leftovers should also be discarded or cooked after 24 hours.
Does freezing change the taste of salmon?
Freezing can mute the flavor slightly at first. But within a day or two of thawing, the salmon regains its signature taste – even better than before!
Is it safe to make sushi when pregnant?
It’s best avoid raw fish when pregnant because of parasites. Cooked rolls or vegetarian sushi are safer options. Check with your doctor for their recommendations.
Enjoy Delicious Salmon Sushi Safely
While raw fish does require caution, you can still enjoy scrumptious salmon sushi safely by:
- Seeking out high-quality sushi-grade fish
- Freezing or curing salmon prior to eating raw
- Practicing proper food handling and hygiene
Take these important precautions, and you can eat raw salmon sushi worry-free knowing it’s safe and delicious!
Let me know if you have any other questions on preparing salmon for sushi. And feel free to share your go-to sushi salmon recipes!