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How Do You Prepare Tuna for Sushi?

Updated: Jul 31, 2023



For Edo•Mae (Tokyo) Style Sushi Restaurants, tuna is the definitive fish that showcases their quality, style, and artistry. The selection of tuna is a critical task for sushi chefs when visiting the fish market. It takes center stage in the "omakase," comparable to the main dish in a French or Italian course meal.


Tuna is synonymous with a sushi restaurant, and for sushi chefs, a sushi establishment without Maguro/Tuna is inconceivable. Here are the detailed steps for making tuna sushi, both nigiri, and rolls:


1. Choose the Right Tuna


When referring to tuna for sushi, it generally means Maguro, the tuna with red flesh. There are three main types of Maguro used for sushi: Yellowfin, Bigeye, and Bluefin. In the US and some parts of Japan, Albacore Tuna, known as white tuna, is also used for sushi.


Each part of the tuna has different qualities and prices, with "Red" meat (A, B, C) being the least fatty and Fatty Tuna Belly (Toro) (D, E) being the most prized. D is the Fattiest Tuna Belly (O-Toro), while E is the Medium Fatty Tuna Belly (Chu-Toro). The tail section (C&F) contains the least fat.


Here is a diagram showing parts of bluefin tuna.


Red Meat: A, B, C F

Toro (Fatty Tuna Belly): D, E

Price (high to low): D, E, B, A, C&F




Each part of the tuna has different qualities and prices, with "Red" meat (A, B, C) being the least fatty and Fatty Tuna Belly (Toro) (D, E) being the most prized. D is the Fattiest Tuna Belly (O-Toro), while E is the Medium Fatty Tuna Belly (Chu-Toro). The tail section (C&F) contains the least fat.


Here is a block of tuna, close to "E" in the diagram.



Image from Photozou


2. Cut into Blocks (Saku)


To prepare the tuna for sushi, it needs to be cut into small blocks known as "Saku." The cutting process involves following yellow and black lines on the tuna, resulting in various-looking pieces.



3. Slice Thinly for Nigiri


For nigiri, cut the tuna against the grain at about a 30-degree angle and approximately 1/4" thick. The thickness of the cut significantly impacts the taste of the nigiri. Thicker cuts enhance the tuna flavor, while thinner cuts may diminish it. To achieve the best result, experiment with various thicknesses.


4. Craft Tuna Nigiri


Once the tuna is sliced, you are ready to make nigiri. Assuming you have already prepared sushi rice, use hand techniques to form nigiri.


Also, a video here:


5. Prepare Tekka/Tuna Roll


Cut a single strip of tuna from the Saku, with the length matching that of the Nori. Place sushi rice on the rough side of the Nori, roll it up, and cut it into six pieces.


It should look like this:

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