Hi all of r/Sushi and beyond:
After lurking and posting on this sub for many months, I have come to one conclusion: People don't know what "sushi-grade" actually refers to or think that "sushi-grade" is a terminology that is regulated. So here is my 2 cents on this (Source: Have worked in the industry many years and eat poke on a daily basis and am still alive :P)
"Sushi-Grade" is not a standardized term given for a specific quality, grade, or cut of fish. In fact, it is no more than a marketing tool to describe fish which is safe to eat raw.
The FDA requires MOST fish species to be frozen in a home freezer environment for 7 days, blast freezer environment for a couple of days, or nitrogen/ammonia freezer for 24 hours to kill parasites that may be living in the fish prior to raw consumption. This means that frozen fish in the grocery store is actually safe to use for sushi.
Farm-raised salmon and Tuna are generally parasite-free, with tuna actually being exempt from the FDA freezing requirements due to its lack of parasites. Tuna in a sushi restaurant can be truly fresh, cut right from the fish, whereas mackerel or snapper have to be frozen first. This also means that most sushi salmon is Atlantic, farm-raised. Generally, unless you see "Sockeye" or "wild" on the sushi listing, it is farm raised. BELIEVE ME, if you saw raw wild fish, you wouldn't want to eat them either without pre-freezing.
HOWEVER: Parasite destruction is NOT EQUAL TO bacterial destruction and food safety. If you have a cut of fish that has bacteria from mishandling, improper temperature storage before freezing, or from contaminated cutlery, then you still run the possibility of getting sick. This means that having good knowledge of temperature storage is vital to making fresh sushi at-home without illness.
TL;DR: Sushi-grade is not truly a quality indicator, instead buy frozen fish and prepare with safe handling procedures in place, or use raw tuna without the need to pre-freeze. When in doubt, use frozen. It tastes fine and I'd rather save money and be safe. Go to a true sushi bar outside of the US if you want freshest of the fresh non-frozen fish.
I walked on to the local store with the best reputation for fresh and natural (if expensive) food. Being in Colorado, this is about as good as I can do for fish without the extensive search for a stand alone butcher/monger that I plan to do later. I just wanted to learn some information about what they offer, so here's what I asked him and how he responded...
- How long has this [salmon] been thawed?
"About 4 hours. We sell these cuts fast enough that they're rarely 24 hours thawed."
- Has it been frozen since the boat to your store?
"We get it 'fresh' and thaw it here" (I assume he means frozen on the boat, but forgot to ask for clarification...)
- Can I use this for sushi, even if I have to freeze it for a week?
"This fish wouldn't be good for sushi. They process and sort the fish by quality before sending it here, and the fish we receive for display doesn't have the right nutritional content, texture, purity, etc., besides the parasite and bacteria concern."
He then mentioned the cuts that are pre-sliced, frozen in small packages, and sold as sushi grade in a nearby freezer. I saw these already and they cost 4x as much or as more. I wasn't about to dish out that cash for some marketing on a cardboard box without asking questions. It was $17 for enough yellowfin tuna to serve two people nagiri sushi.
I'm looking to make my own (probably mediocre but whatever I live in Denver) sushi. I just want to know if this info is BS or if it's really true that using fish over a butcher counter at the local expensive-organic-stuff market is a mistake. I was under the impression that if the fish was frozen since the boat and was only thawed for 4 hours, I could eat it right there from the display even if it was salmon.
The $17 package of yellowfin tuna was pretty mediocre, for the record.