Here are some things to know about sushi-grade fish. Believe us, it matters.
If you're going to be eating something raw, you probably want to make sure that you won't get sick from it. Granted, this can mean different things for different foods. After all, when was the last time you saw someone overly concerned about eating raw apples?
Anyone who's had high-quality sushi or sashimi will know that there are few foods better to enjoy raw than fresh fish. However, it's also completely understandable to be concerned about the quality of sushi fish, especially if you're making it at home. This is especially true if you live in a landlocked state like Colorado. Despite Denver's robust sushi scene, it can be easy to raise an eyebrow when you're hundreds of miles away from the nearest coast.
To that end, let's take a look at a few things you should know about sushi-grade fish, especially if you plan to make sushi at home. With a little bit of mindfulness when shopping, you can completely negate any risks that could plausibly stem from eating raw fish. If you're not careful, however, then ...
It's Time for the Gross Stuff
DISCLAIMER: If you've got a squeamish stomach, it's probably best to skip this part. As much as it probably feels like a tonal faux-pas to talk about the gross stuff right before talking about the appetizing part of sushi, it's important to know what happens if you don't pay attention to safety when eating raw fish.
If you get sick from eating raw fish, it's likely going to be because of parasites. The exact type of parasite (and the risk that it poses) can vary from species to species of fish, but they're all bad news. Given that the three most common forms of parasites you can risk from eating improperly handled fish are anisakis, tapeworms, and seal worms, you probably want to exercise some degree of caution around anything that can introduce unwanted worms to the menu.
Symptoms of a parasite can range from persistent nausea to fatigue and complete loss of appetite. Nastier parasites like cod worms can even require pretty hefty doses of medication to deal with–there's a reason why you don't see cod on a sushi menu!
That said, you can effectively eliminate your risk of parasites from fish by following a few basic best practices. In the event that you're making sushi at home, this can mean the difference between a magical evening and a miserable one.
Here's What to Look For
While the exact regulations for selling raw fish can vary slightly from state to state, the consensus is that the FDA's national guidelines are a solid indication of whether or not something is safe to eat. To that end, these guidelines require that different types of fish are frozen below certain temperatures in order to ensure that any potential parasites are killed off. As these temperatures can reach as low as -30°F, freezing your sushi fish at home isn't always an option as most normal freezers won't go that low.
It can be difficult to tell if the fish you've bought meets these criteria, and some supermarkets will simply use the term sushi-grade to upsell regular fish–charging more for fish that's effectively the same as the unmarked stuff. As a result, it's sometimes just better to ask your grocer directly. If they're not able to confirm the conditions in which the fish was kept, you should probably look somewhere else if you plan on eating it raw. Finding a reliable supermarket for sushi-safe fish can be a bit exhausting, but it's not something that you want to shortcut if you plan on trying sushi or sashimi at home.
Of course, you can always skip a lot of these considerations by just eating your sushi at a restaurant. Any sushi that's sold at a restaurant is required to meet these standards.
When in Doubt, Go for Tuna (or Salmon)
Tuna is more resistant to parasites than just about any sort of fish, meaning that it's considered to be the safest option for any sort of sushi, which includes serving it sashimi or poke-style. If you're ever concerned about serving sushi fish at home, then opting for farm-raised tuna is always an option. Almost any sort of tuna, which includes skipjack, yellowfin, albacore, or bluefin can safely be eaten raw, which is also why you see it featured in so many poke options!
Farm-raised salmon is also considered a safe bet, as farms carefully monitor their food and water to ensure that it's free of parasites.
As noted above, anything served at a sushi restaurant should be considered safe to eat. That means that even if you're a little nervous about eating raw fish in a landlocked state like Colorado, you still have plenty of amazing dining options!
What are some of your favorite types of fish to eat raw? Sound off in the comments.