Despite being one of the hottest food items in the world, there are many misconceptions with regards to sushi and how to eat it, especially with regards to its temperature.
Should you eat sushi cold or at room temperature? This is misleading since you should eat sushi fresh, but it’s understandable if this is not always an option. If you are taking it out of the fridge, you should wait just before it gets to room temperature. If you are making it fresh, the rice should be room temperature while the fish is cold.
Eating sushi at an unsafe or unsuitable temperature can affect your health or enjoyment, so be sure you have the right information before indulging in this dish.
The Right Temperature to Eat Sushi
Generally speaking, you should eat sushi just as it is prepared. This means that the rice has just reached room temperature after it was cooked and flavored, and just as the fish is prepared after storage. Depending on how it is prepared, this could mean that the rice is slightly warm or at room temperature, while the fish is cold or a bit hot.
Take a look at the table below for a better idea of how you can judge this for yourself:
|Rice||Room temperature or slightly warm, 30ºC – 35ºC|
|Fresh fish||Cold, 4ºC to 10ºC|
|Cooked fish||Warm, 30ºC|
|Vegetables||Room temperature, 30ºC to 35ºC|
|Sushi caviar||Cold, 4ºC to 10ºC|
Sushi can involve a wide range of ingredients that will undergo numerous ways of preparation. However, if you are making homemade sushi, those are likely the only ingredients that you will need to worry about. Either way, the process will need to be the same.
In the case of the rice, after cooking it and flavoring the grains, it will need to be covered either with clear film or a damp cloth and allowed to cool down. Do not place the rice directly in the fridge after it is cooked because this can affect its texture and will make it more likely to spoil.
As for the fish, if you are serving it fresh, the most ideal situation is to come directly from the market and then prepare it at once. This will give you the best texture and flavor for the fish, while also making sure that it is safe. However, if you will not use it right away, it will need to be frozen.
Once you are ready to use the fish, you can defrost it in the fridge overnight or for at least eight hours. Do not defrost it in the sink or on the counter for the sake of safety. Once it is already soft, you need to prepare it right away after taking it out of the fridge.
Cooked fish often involves a food torch and a quick blaze on the skin of a fish to add extra flavor. This means that you don’t need to apply heat for too long and so the fish should be just slightly warm when you eat it.
The vegetables don’t really require special handling and they only need to be fresh. The same can’t be said about the sushi caviar that you are going to use since that one will need to be cold before application.
The Relationship Between Sushi and Temperature
Sushi and temperature have an essential relationship for both practical and culinary reasons. This is due to the fact that there are many factors that go into the enjoyment of this type of dish. Eat sushi at the wrong temperature and you would be robbing yourself of a crucial essence to the experience. Stay with me here.
The first thing that the temperature will affect in sushi is mouthfeel. This includes the texture, the intensity of the flavor, and the consistency of the rice. When you first place a roll or a block in your mouth, it needs to come with a pleasant sensation. If the rice is too hot or too cold, this will not happen.
Fresh fish will also need to be served cold because of how it gives you a firmer, more condensed meat. The flavor is more compact and it won’t fall apart in your mouth. Cold fish is also safer to consume because it will keep the bacteria from spreading too fast.
As for the caviar, cold and tepid eggs produce very different sensations and flavor. Suffice it to say, the warmer the caviar gets, the less pleasant it becomes. You will even begin to feel a bit sick at the thought of it, which can really ruin the whole experience.
How to Store Sushi Properly?
If you are going to consume sushi, it needs to be fresh. However, if you have leftovers or you decided to prepare it ahead of time, you will need to know how to store it safely. For starters, make sure that the preparation was done properly, to begin with.
Make sure that the rice, fish, vegetables, and caviar are all at their respective temperatures when you formed the rolls or blocks. This is crucial because you can’t just expect to stuff the sushi in the fridge after improper preparations and expect that to solve the problem. In fact, this can make your storage concerns into a nightmare.
Assuming that you did everything right and your sushi is in pristine condition, you need to place them on a ceramic or glass plate or container. Try to avoid using plastic and metal, if you can. After that, you can wrap the containers with clear film and then place them in the fridge with the temperature set at 4ºC.
Most importantly, make sure that you only keep the sushi in the fridge for a maximum of 24 hours. If it exceeds that, throw it away and don’t even think about trying to eat it.
How Long is Sushi Good for Unrefrigerated?
Strictly speaking, you can only keep sushi out for a maximum of four hours after preparing it. After that, you have to throw it away or put it in the fridge two hours after preparation. If you don’t, you could be putting yourself at risk of contract a foodborne illness.
Can You Eat Sushi That’s Been Left Out?
As the old adage goes, “when in doubt, throw it out.” You should not eat sushi when you don’t know when it was prepared, by who, or for how long it has been at room temperature. If you ask someone and they say that that it has only been an hour that it was out, you can eat it.
When is Sushi Unsafe to Eat?
There are many cases where you must not eat sushi, but the most common would be when it has been left out in unsanitary conditions. With regards to how it related to temperature, you can count on this to involve improper preparations and storage practices.
Let’s break this down to a few points that make the most sense based on the particular scenario. In the case of sushi that has been packaged and placed in a convenience store or gas station fridge units, pay attention to the date. If it doesn’t contain any indication of when the sushi was prepared, walk away.
In the case of buffets, if the counters or serving units don’t have anti-sneeze barriers, don’t even think about picking up the sushi. You just never know if someone coughed or let rip a good snot explosion before you got to the spot.
When in parties, sushi that is not placed on a bed of ice or inside a chilled cabinet is not safe to consume. Just bet on that and risk missing out on good sushi rather than taking the gamble, only to end up with a stomach ache.
Finally, when in restaurants, if the place specializes in fast food and fried things, just don’t eat the sushi. This goes doubly true if there are no other fish dishes on the menu.
The Dangers of Eating Unsafe Sushi
Say you risk it and eat sushi that is clearly not safe for consumption, what happens then? Well, the best you can hope for is a terrible experience. At worst, you could end up with food poisoning, along with all of the delightful symptoms that come with it.
Think stomach cramps, vomiting, diarrhea, and of course, potential death. There have been many cases where the consumption of unsafe sushi resulted in becoming infected with parasites. Remember that there are occasions where fish harbor worms and their eggs. If the sushi is not prepared properly, they could wind up in your body.
At the end of the day, you are dealing with a food item that goes through very little in terms of the cooking process and often involves raw meat. Fish might be one of the safest types of flesh to eat without cooking, but this doesn’t mean that it will always be the case. This is especially true when improper preparations and storage starts playing a role.