Making your own sushi isn’t as easy as it seems, but with a little practice, you can easily enjoy the freshest sushi, in the comfort of your home. Our sushi making tips will walk you through this intimidating process, so you can learn how to really get creative in the kitchen, how to pick out the right ingredients, and how to safely handle raw seafood.
Key Takeaway: When making sushi, be creative! Don’t be afraid to experiment with different combinations of veggies, sauces, and seafood. It’s also essential that you use the freshest seafood possible and only purchase food that’s labeled safe for sushi use. Following proper food prep safety precautions will also be essential.
The Key to Making Sushi
Aside from finding and using the freshest ingredients possible, the key to making great sushi is setting up your workstation correctly. This means preparing the garnishes, veggies, meat, fish, and cooking the rice. All of your prepared ingredients must also remain refrigerated in order to avoid bacteria growth, which can rapidly occur once fresh seafood reaches room temperature.
Using a sharp knife is crucial. The knife should have a long blade designed for cutting sushi rolls and cleanly slicing through fish. We recommend the Yaxell Super Gou Chef’s Knife.
You can read our epic guide on Japanese knives to get more details on the proper knives you’ll need for filleting fish and slicing sushi rolls, here.
Aside from the right type of knives, you’ll also need a large cutting board, one that’s specifically designated for sushi making. This will help to prevent cross-contamination.
If you love spicy mayo or chili sauce on your sushi, make sure you buy a few squeeze bottles, so you can prepare your sauces and have them handy once the sushi is ready.
The following cooking tips for beginners will teach you some great sushi making tips that you can use when you get a craving for fresh sushi, or you can even use them at your next dinner party.
Buying Raw Fish
Only use raw fish if the packaging or the seller specifically states that it’s meant to be served raw. It’s also very important that you ensure the fish is kept cool right up until it’s time to roll the sushi. Keep in mind, there are certain types of fish and seafood that may need to be treated prior to use. Make sure you read each sushi recipe carefully before you jump right in. These recipes should include pretreatment information.
As you’re learning how to make and create your own sushi you may be tempted to try something out of the norm, but for safety reasons we recommend only using fish that you’d commonly find at any sushi restaurant.
Some of the classic choices include the following:
- Gizzard shad
By far, tuna is the most common choice. You can use any type of tuna such as albacore, bonito, bigeye, yellowfin, skipjack, and bluefin.
Salmon is the second most common choice novice sushi makers go with because so many people love salmon and have at least tried a salmon roll at their local sushi bar. However, you must freeze it before use since this type of fish is known to have parasites.
In terms of mollusks, go with scallops or clams. Oysters don’t really go well with the rice used in sushi.
Yellowtail is a type of fish that’s packed with flavor when it’s raw. It’s another common fish you’ll find in a wide variety of sushi rolls and it goes really well with other types of seafood, sauces, and ingredients.
In Japanese, flounder and halibut are referred to as hirame. Both options can complement any roll and they taste good either cooked or raw.
Gizzard shad is a type of bait fish that you’ll either love or hate. However, many people love this fish for it’s unique, yet mild flavor.
As opposed to being served raw, most sushi places tend to flash cook their squid for a few seconds before popping it into a roll. Squid is one ingredient that will really test your love of sushi, but those who have tried it often rave about its mild, yet rich flavor.
All types of bass-like fish, such as snapper and seabass, are commonly found at sushi restaurants. In most cases, just like with squid and salmon, this fish is also treated before it’s served.
Mackerel is an excellent choice for your first attempt at sushi. It’s usually well-received and doesn’t have an overly fishy taste to it, even when served raw.
For the safest sushi options, choose seafood that has been farmed in Japan, Britain, America, Canada, or Norway. These countries are known to have very strict standards regarding quality and cleanliness.
Preparing the Rice
Making the perfect rice is the most important technique to learn and you have to be sure to use the right type of rice. Only use a short-grain, plump rice such as Koshihikari rice. Always rinse the rice before you cook it. For the perfect rice, use a rice cooker, which will keep the rice nice and warm until you’re ready to start rolling.
Choose Your Fillings
When it comes to choosing the right fillings for your sushi, you really can’t go wrong with the classics such as cucumber and spicy tuna, or salmon and avocado. If you want to experiment, think about combining different textures, colors, and flavors. Add a type of crunchy element to the sushi, such as sesame seeds, pickled ginger, or tempura. If you don’t want to, there’s no reason you have to use raw fish. You can also use smoked salmon, or tinned tuna, roasted chicken breast, or cooked veggies.
Keep it Basic
If you find yourself at your local sushi joint a few times a week, then chances are you’re really tempted to try and prepare something super fancy, such as a deep-fried lobster roll, but since it’s your first time making sushi, you’ll want to keep it simple. Once you get the hang of the basics, including rice preparation, rolling, and slicing, then go ahead and tackle a more complicated technique or dish.
On the other hand, don’t be afraid to try some techniques of your own regarding prepping, making the rice, and even rolling. Some cooks believe that it’s first important to create new and interesting combinations that taste amazing, as opposed to perfecting the presentation aspect of the sushi. Do whatever works for you and worry about aesthetics later.
As we’ve mentioned, sushi can be a little tricky to make, especially for those of you who don’t have much experience in the kitchen. In the begining, you can’t expect to make perfect, pro-quality sushi, like the type you’ll find at your favorite restaurant. In fact, in many high-class establishments, some sushi chefs will spend years learning how to make the perfect sushi, from the rice to rolling, to presentation. This isn’t a skill that you can pick up overnight.
These following tips will help to make the sushi rolling process much easier:
- Make sure you keep a clean bowl of water and a damp cloth close by.
- Before you begin working with the rice, dip your hands in the bowl of water. It’s called sticky rice for a reason.
- When you’re creating the bed for the sushi, try to avoid overworking the rice. The rice needs air in order to make good sushi.
- When you’re slicing up a sushi roll, keep your knife blade wet. This helps to facilitate a cleaner cut, so you won’t end up crushing the roll.
- Try to resist that urge to overstuff the roll. This is the biggest mistake beginners tend to make. Putting too much rice in the roll makes it difficult to roll up and can cause the roll to split open. Think less is more.
- If you decide to use a bamboo mat or a tea towel to roll up the sushi, make sure you use gentle pressure. If you press down too hard when rolling, the roll will not come out round.
- When working with seaweed, make sure you keep the shiny side away from you.
- Only make as much sushi as you can eat for that particular meal. Leftover sushi tastes terrible. The rice hardens, the seafood may taste off, and the seaweed can taste soggy, especially if you’ve used a sauce. So, avoid wasting ingredients and plan ahead.