Sushi rice should be at room temperature

Do You Eat Sushi Hot Or Cold?

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I have lived in Japan for several years and learned many things about sushi. The Japanese take their traditions seriously, and you can see this in their food. The quality of raw fish used in sushi is top-grade, and they take care to ensure each ingredient is fresh.

My friends often ask me ‘Do you eat sushi hot or cold’ and I feel many non-Japanese sushi lovers often wonder about it.  So here’s my answer – Sushi rice should be at room temperature, not hot nor cold. If it is hot, it will difficult to handle and if it is cold, it will be too chewy to eat.

Raw fish should always be cold because they are frozen as soon as they are caught to retain freshness and prevent the growth of bacteria, parasites, and viruses. If there are vegetables in the sushi, they should be at room temperature and taste fresh.


What Does Hot Or Warm Sushi Indicate?

If your sushi is warm, it indicates that it has been sitting on the shelf for a long time. The restaurant or store probably does not have an in-house chef to prepare fresh sushi for every order. I would suggest that you avoid eating sushi that was left outside at room temperature for more than 4 hours, as it may not be healthy for you.

Some people believe that refrigerating warm sushi can kill the bacteria and make the sushi safe for consumption again. However, this is not true . If the raw fish inside sushi feels warm to touch, I would suggest that you throw it out without risking your health. Once the fish is contaminated with bacteria, refrigerating again cannot fix it.

If the sushi served to you is hot, it is probably due to cooked or fried filings. Frying fish or vegetables masks the real flavor, making it difficult to understand whether the fillings are fresh or not. I suggest that you avoid restaurants that use fried fish and vegetables inside a sushi roll. 

What’s the ideal temperature for storing sushi-grade fish?

According to the regulations set by the Food and Drug Administration, raw fish should be stored at a temperature of -20°C (-4°F) or below for at least seven days. The restaurants often follow a technique called flash freezing where raw fish is stored at a minimum temperature of -35°C (-31°F) or below for at least 15 hours.

If you are planning to make sushi at home, you must always buy raw fish from a trusted fish seller who gets fresh supplies of seafood daily. Don’t hesitate to ask questions to the seller about how the fish was handled during transit. Make sure the fishmonger knows the difference between regular fish and sushi-grade.

Once you get back home, store the frozen raw fish inside the freezer section of your refrigerator, until you are ready to consume it. Farm-raised salmon and larger tuna are exceptions because these types of fish are fed parasite-free food. The FDA recognizes them as safe from parasitic infection even without super freezing.

Related article: How To Choose Salmon For Sushi?

Does the fish turn warm once it’s thawed?

You will need to thaw the frozen fish before making sushi. To do so, keep the fish contained within a sealed bag inside the refrigerator overnight. The fish will defrost slowly at a cold temperature while maintaining the taste and texture.

However, thawing frozen fish in a refrigerator may take longer. If you are running out of time, place the fish inside a plastic bag and seal it properly. Now take a bowl of cold water and submerge the fish into it. Put a plate or some weight to ensure that the fish stays submerged completely. I prefer this method as it evenly thaws frozen fish in about an hour.  

Alternatively, you may hold the plastic bag containing frozen fish under a tap and let cold water run over it. This method will thaw the fish more quickly than placing it inside a bowl of cold water.

Make sure you never use warm or hot water for thawing as the outer edges may become vulnerable to bacterial infection while the inner section remains frozen. Trying to warm the fish in a microwave to bring it to room temperature can also make it unfit for raw consumption.

Thus, sushi-grade fish thawed in the right manner will still be cold when used in making sushi rolls. At most, it can come down to room temperature due to the time spent in sushi preparation and serving. If the fish is too warm, it should ring a warning bell about quality immediately.

How to handle sushi rice and fillings at home

Sushi tastes best when you use freshly prepared sushi rice. If the rice has been sitting in the refrigerator for a long time, it can have a chewy texture. I suggest that you start making sushi rice an hour before dinnertime. It takes about 20-30 minutes to cook short-grained rice to perfection.

Once cooked, spread out the rice in a large and flat dish to cool down quickly. You may keep the rice tray under a ceiling fan to speed up the process. Let the rice cool down to a temperature that is easy to handle before you season it with a mixture of rice vinegar, sugar, and salt.

Other fillings such as cucumbers, avocados, and carrots should be at room temperature and taste fresh. The Nori should also have a crispy texture. If the sushi has been sitting for long, the Nori will turn soft and soggy, which indicates that the sushi is not fresh. Read my previous article, if you are looking for different sushi roll fillings.

Is warm sushi safe to eat?

If the sushi rice feels slightly warm, that’s a good sign. It means the restaurant serves fresh food. However, if the raw fish feels warm, that probably indicates the sushi is not freshly prepared. While it is safe to eat sushi made 4 hours ago, there’s no way of finding out how long it has been sitting outside. So, you will still be risking your health.

What if you bought takeaway sushi that was cold when you got home, but you forgot to eat it immediately? It may still be safe to consume after 3-4 hours. However, if the weather outside is hot and humid, the chances are that the fish may spoil sooner.

I would suggest that you use your sense of smell and taste to determine whether the sushi is safe to eat or not. If the fish smells fishy or the sushi rice has a chewy texture, you should throw it away without thinking twice.

5 Good Sushi Eating Habits To Stay Safe

If you are new to sushi eating, it may be tough for you to tell fresh sushi from slightly stale ones. Here are a few tips to ensure that you stay safe when eating out at a sushi restaurant.

#1. Always eat sushi at an exclusive sushi restaurant or bar that has good customers reviews online. Avoid places that serve all kind of oriental dishes.

#2. Don’t get tempted by the “all you can eat sushi” offer because, in reality, you can’t get high-quality sushi at a throwaway price.

#3. Asking the server if the fish is fresh may be rude, but you can always ask him to recommend what he thinks is the best sushi to eat.

#4. Consider eating sushi in a restaurant that serves good quality sashimi. The place should not smell fishy at all.

#5. Prefer eating sushi in sushi bars where the chef prepares the dish right in front of your eyes. It is not only a visual delight, but the sushi also tastes extremely fresh at such places.

Related Questions

How long does sushi last in the refrigerator?

Sushi containing raw fish can stay fresh in a refrigerator, but it should be consumed within 24 hours to prevent the risk of bacterial contamination. If sushi is left outside for more than 4 hours, it becomes unsafe for consumption.

How long can I store sushi-grade fish in the freezer?

Fatty fish like tuna and salmon can be stored in the freezer for 2-3 months. However, you must ensure that the fish is sushi-grade and the ideal temperature is maintained throughout the transit. Once thawed, you must consume the fish immediately.

Can I store sushi rice in refrigerator?

Yes, you may store sushi rice in the refrigerator for 2-3 days, but the texture will not be the same. If you wish to use leftover sushi rice from last night, let it come to room temperature or warm it slightly. I will still recommend you to use freshly prepared rice to get the most out of your sushi experience.

Related article: How To Use Leftover Sushi Rice (Besides Making Sushi)?

The Final Words

It is normal to feel intimidated when you are trying a new cuisine for the first time. If you are unsure of something, don’t feel shy to ask the server or chef. Takeaway sushi will always have an expiry date so check it before paying at the counter.

When eating out, make sure the sushi rice is at room temperature or slightly warm. The fish should ideally be cold, room temperature is acceptable, but it should not be warm or hot. I hope this information helps you savor delicious sushi without risking your health!


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