Sushi grade fish basically is very fresh fish, free of parasites so that it can be eaten raw.
Sushi grade fish basically is very fresh fish, free of parasites so that it can be eaten raw. There are no (inter)national guidelines, laws or standards on ‘sushi grade fish’. But there are guidelines for destroying possibe parasites hidden inside raw fish.
How do you know fish is without parasites?
The American FDA (Food and Drug Administration) offers these guidelines for destroying possible parasites in raw fish.
The fish should be frozen in one of the following ways:
These guide lines only apply to fish that is less than 6 inches (15 cm) thick. If the fish is thicker, it cannot be guaranteed that the freezing process eliminates all parasites.
In general the FDA recommends to cook fish before consuming it. The heat kills more of the possible parasites than freezing does. So if you want to be really really safe, you can’t eat any kind of raw fish. That is of course no good if you want to enjoy raw fish in sushi or sashimi!
Just so you know: there are no guarantees. But freezing the fish in one of the above descibed ways is the best solution for eating raw fish.
Click here for the complete FDA guidelines on destroying possible parasites in raw fish.
Here’s an FDA fish table showing which fish pose possible parasite risks.
Sushi grade fish sold in stores is usually clearly marked as ‘sushi grade fish’, despite the fact that it’s a marketing term without any precise meaning. Nevertheless, it’s probably the best you can do if you buy fish for sushi or sashimi at your local store.
If you can’t find any at your local store, I recommend that you get the freshest fish possible and freeze it in one of the ways described above. If you live in the United States or Europe you can order sushi grade fish online. It will be delivered frozen at your doorstep.
There are several ways to tell if fish is fresh. For best results use all these tests.
Eyes – the eyes should be bulgy round and clear with deep black pupils. Cloudy looking eyes are a sign of decay. Don’t buy a fish with cloudy looking eyes.
Smell – the fish should smell like sea air. If you get a strong smell of fish it’s no good.
Flesh – the flesh should be firm with a shiny skin. The flesh springs back when you press it, and does not feel sticky when you touch it.
Gills – the gills should have a bright red color. They tend to turn to a dark red brick color when the fish is old.
Note: if one or more of the above conditions are not met, don’t buy the fish!