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What To Look for in Fresh Fish? (Sushi/Seafood)

Do you know what to look for in a fresh tomato?

If yes, then, you know what to look for in fresh fish.

But first, let’s talk about freshness.


You don’t always want the freshest fish. Tuna needs at least five days to develop full flavor.

So does Salmon. Some white fish like Halibut is inedible when it’s fresh off the boat: with no flavor and flesh too tough to chew.

How and What to Look for in Sushi/Sashimi Grade Fish

There is no “official” term for Sushi Grade and Sashimi Grade fish as far as FDA is concerned. So, if you hear someone saying Sushi Grade, it simply means, “suitable for raw consumption”. At supermarkets, you will see signs saying “Sashimi Salmon” or “Sushi Salmon” — those are the ones you can eat raw. If it only says “Salmon”, it is meant for cooked consumption.

What to Look for in Sushi/Sashimi/Raw Consumption Fish?

First, ask the fishmonger.

This is what Paul Johnson, the owner of the Monterey Fish Market, says:

“Trust your fishmonger. Just like when you go to a sushi restaurant, you put your trust in the sushi chef’s hand. When you buy fish, you should do the same.

Develop a relationship with one fishmonger at a small market and ask lots of questions like what is good. When you get something good, you tell them the next time you visit them.”

I cannot agree with him more.

Then, look for a label saying ‘Sushi” “Sashimi” or “for raw consumption.

It takes years of experience, looking at fish and eating fish to be able to tell if a certain fish is suitable for Sushi and Sashimi.

Just because you know what to look for after reading this book, that is still different from an ability to visually tell.

Looking for a fresh fish is like looking for a fresh tomato: bright colors, firm bouncing texture, and a nice reflection are the signs you look for in a fresh tomato, and it’s the same with fish.

Whole Fish

Look for gills that are bright red. The older the fish gets, the darker the gills will become. Because lots of bacteria go through the gills while the fish is in the water, gills are the first part of the fish to deteriorate.


Should be crystal clear as if you are able to see the bottom of the ocean. No sign of blood or redness. The older the fish gets, the “cloudier” the eyes will become.


Bright, not cloudy. If tuna, then look for deep red color, but not muddy. When the tuna is old, the color starts to have a muddy red, bit blackish color. If it’s white fish, the flesh will become a cloudy white color.


When the fish is fresh, it contains lots of water, thus, its flesh is firm. When you press on the flesh, it should bounce back. When the fish gets old, it loses water from its cells and the flesh becomes softer, losing the firmness.


Same as firmness, because of the water loss from the freshness, the flesh of older fish will reflect less light. Fresh fish is always nice and shiny, and you can see that, especially on its skin.


Interested in learning more about making sushi?

Breakthrough Sushi now offers online sushi making class with a sushi kit, delivered to your home.

Find out more.

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