How To Cut Salmon For Sushi And How To Shop For Sushi-Grade Salmon

If you are a sushi lover and are looking to make your homemade version at home, one of the basics you should learn is how to cut salmon for sushi. Surprisingly, it is such a big deal, especially if a Japanese chef has schooled you on sushi.

It is such a skill that it takes over 5 years to train to become a sushi chef. Do not fret! If you are trying this at home, you can patiently follow the steps in this article.

Over time, with more practice, you will be confident enough to invite your Japanese friends to sushi dinner.   

How to cut salmon for sushi

What you need:

  • Salmon fish
  • A sharp butcher knife and a fillet knife (non-serrated preferably)
  • A cutting board
  • A pair of tweezers or pliers
  • Bleach solution
  • Paper towels


Cleaning and filleting

  • The first thing to do is to sanitize the work area, your knives, and the cutting board with bleach solution. Then, wash and rinse thoroughly
  • Wash your hands too before you get to work
  • Take some paper towels and blot the fish to remove excess moisture and prevent the spread of germs
  • Lay the fish on its back on the cutting board, head away from you. Insert the butcher’s knife just behind its head and saw along the spine of the fish
  • Saw until you get to the end of the fish. While you cut, ensure you tilt the blade toward the spine to get the most out of the meat
  • When you have the first fillet, set it aside on a clean plate. Turn the fish to the other side to get the second fillet
  • You can either throw away the head, fins, tail, and spine or use them to make fish stock

Now, cut salmon fillets for sushi

  • Afterward, use a fillet knife to make small cuts along the rib bones to remove them. While you do this, try to keep the knife very close to the rib bones so you don’t scrape off meat
  • Salmon for sushi should be boneless. You can check for bones by running your hands over the fish or scraping the knife against the surface of the fish
  • You can also remove the skin if you want to. Use the knife to trim off fat in the belly area and around where the fins used to be. You don’t need the fat for sushi. The flavor is better for soups and stews
  • Check again for smaller bones and remove them using a pair of tweezers or pliers
  • When you are done, move to another surface or re-sanitize the same cutting board
  • Blot the fillets with another set of paper towels to prepare them for cutting
  • To cut salmon for sushi rolls, cut the fillet in half. Then, hold the knife parallel to the longer edge and slice. Salmon for sushi rolls should be about ½ inch thick and long
  • Afterward, chill the salmon cuts in the refrigerator to kill any bacteria or parasites present

What is sushi-grade salmon?

Sushi-grade salmon is the best choice for sushi. It is called sushi-grade because it has been handled properly for raw consumption. Sushi-grade salmon is caught from the sea, gutted, cleaned, and instantly frozen.

There are no official guidelines to regulate the standards of sushi-grade salmon. You need to find a trusted vendor that will be true to their word.

How to buy the best salmon

There may be a few hitches when shopping for the best salmon but you are better off with these tips:

Look for a trustworthy seller

You can get a trustworthy vendor through recommendations from friends and family or if you carefully scan through the market.

To have a wider range of options, go to a fish market. Also, go for farmed salmon instead of wild salmon. The former is less likely to be contaminated with parasites.

When you find a seller you think you should patronize, go ahead to ask questions about where and when the fish was caught, how long has it been frozen, and if you are buying salmon fillets, ask if they made the fillets themselves.

The willingness of the seller to answer your questions and the answers they give will help you know if you should buy the fish.

Inspect the handling

While you discuss with the seller, carefully observe how they handle the fish and tools. A vendor of sushi-grade salmon should not use the same knife and board to slice a non-sushi grade fish to avoid cross-contamination.

Also, they should sterilize all tools and clean the workspace before they cut and clean the fish. If you see anything less, then, the fish is not sushi-grade and may be cross-contaminated.

Inspect the fish

Finally, inspect the fish. Whole salmon should be fully covered with ice and salmon fillets should be arranged on an aluminum tray and surrounded with crushed ice.

However, this is not always enough. If the fish has dark spots and a foul smell instead of vibrant color and ocean-like smell, it is no longer fresh or sushi-grade.

Also, if the fish is mushy or flaky instead of firm to the touch, it is no longer fresh. If you are buying salmon fillets, a dull gray or yellowish color is a sign that they have gone bad and you shouldn’t buy them.

To be safer, buy whole salmon instead of fillets. Additionally, if you are skeptical about the handling, buy whole fish and gut it yourself to avoid cross-contamination.


Can you use any type of salmon for sushi?

There are over 20 species of salmon but only Alaskan salmon is recommended and used for sushi. There are three types of this species, namely, Sockeye Salmon, King Salmon, and Chum Salmon.

But, whichever salmon you are buying, choose the ones labeled as sushi-grade or sashimi-grade. These varieties are specifically cut and prepared for raw consumption.

Can you use leftover salmon for sushi?

Yes, you can but there are precautions you must take. Leftover salmon is more likely to be contaminated. So, you must ensure that the leftover fish has been stored properly in the refrigerator and has not been stored longer than 2 days.

Furthermore, do not reheat leftover salmon for sushi. Use it in any other dish that requires salmon instead.

If what you have is cooked salmon, use it for sushi rolls that do not require raw salmon. You can also cure salmon and use it for cured sushi recipes, such as salmon poke.

Can you use salmon with the skin on?

Yes, you can. Salmon with its skin is just as delicious and nutritious as skinless salmon. It is rich in protein and essential omega-3 fatty acids.

The skin of salmon adds more depth to its flavor in meals. Also, it makes the fish easier to handle and helps to keep the fillet together as it cooks.

There are different methods to cook salmon with the skin on. You can bake, grill, broil, or pan-sear the fish alongside seasonings.  


Cutting salmon for sushi is different from cutting salmon or any other fish for other meals. It requires a good deal of skill, expertise, and patience. If you follow the steps above, you will be adding a professional touch to your homemade sushi.

While you learn this art, you should keep in mind that you need the best salmon for your sushi. It should be fresh, clean, and boneless. Also, work with clean and sharp tools and workspace. Enjoy Japanese cuisine from the comfort of your home!

Wondering what you can eat with sushi? Here’s a list of sides, appetizers, desserts, and drinks to pair with sushi.

Thanks for reading.