This Is How To Defrost Salmon for Sushi

If you want to make sushi but your salmon is entirely frozen, you’re probably looking for the quickest way to defrost your salmon for sashimi or sushi rolls. While there are several ways to defrost your salmon, they will all take some time, as none will be immediate.

To defrost salmon for sushi, take the salmon out of the freezer. Then, depending on your time schedule, choose your defrosting method: refrigerator, sink, or microwave. Defrosting in the refrigerator is recommended for the best results. After defrosting, pat the salmon dry before slicing.

In this article, I will show you the best way to defrost salmon for sushi.  I will also teach you how to tell if your salmon is freezer burnt, the most recommended defrosting method, and the ideal temperature for defrosting. If you’ve got a nice filet of salmon waiting in your freezer and an itchy yanagi knife, read on!

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Remove the Salmon From the Freezer

The first step to defrosting salmon is to remove it from the freezer. While salmon can be stored in a regular freezer for around three months and in a deep freezer for up to a year, defrosting the salmon should take the same amount of time (depending on the method), no matter how long it’s been stored.

Is It Freezer-Burned?

If you didn’t correctly wrap your salmon before you froze it, it could be freezer-burned.

Freezer burn happens when food hasn’t been sealed correctly in the freezer. Therefore, without properly sealing salmon, air can reach it, which will cause dehydration and oxidation. 

There are many signs to look out for that will indicate your salmon has been freezer burned:

  • There are ice crystals on the salmon
  • The salmon is dry
  • The salmon is discolored

If your salmon is freezer burned, you can still eat it. However, while it’s not unsafe, the texture and taste of the fish will be off, therefore, making the quality not so great.

Choose Your Defrosting Method

There are many options when it comes to defrosting food, salmon included. A few of the most common defrosting methods include refrigerator, sink, and microwave defrosting. While the refrigerator method will guarantee the best results, it will take the longest. So, if you’re in a time crunch, there are still options for you.

Refrigerator Defrosting

Using your refrigerator to defrost salmon is the best option, although the process is slow. However, this slow process guarantees the best results because it’s slow. Using a fast method, such as using the microwave, will upset the texture and taste of the salmon. However, I’ll get more into that later.

To defrost salmon in the refrigerator, all you have to do is move the frozen salmon into the fridge. Be sure not to open the vacuum seal or unwrap it completely; just let it thaw just as you froze it. However, removing the outer layers is a good idea if you wrapped the salmon multiple times when you want to begin defrosting.

It would be best to put the salmon in a bowl, separate from other food in the fridge, as the other food can mess with the smell of the salmon. Leave the salmon in the refrigerator for at least 24 hours before serving.

After two days in the refrigerator, the salmon should be thoroughly defrosted and ready to use for sushi dishes.

Sink Defrosting

Defrosting salmon in the sink is quicker than using the refrigerator. However, it will still take at least a few hours, if not more. This method will also require you to be more attentive, as you’ll have to check the salmon frequently.

To defrost salmon in the sink, place the salmon in a sink filled with cold water. You can also use a large bowl instead of a sink if you’d rather. Ensure the salmon is fully submerged in the water, and check the water and the salmon every 30 minutes. 

This method will usually take about 30 minutes for every pound of salmon. Therefore, depending on how large your salmon is will determine how long this method will take you.

Microwave Defrosting

Microwave defrosting isn’t recommended, especially when you’re using salmon for sushi. Putting frozen salmon in the microwave will cause the cell walls in the salmon to burst, resulting in dry and damaged salmon.

The FDA only recommends this method if you plan on cooking the fish immediately after thawing. So, if you’re using salmon for sushi, this isn’t the best option.

However, if you need to use this method, all you have to do is place the salmon in the microwave, preferably covered with paper towels, and use the defrost setting for about five minutes.

Pat the Salmon Dry With a Paper Towel

After your salmon is completely thawed and defrosted, pat the fish dry with a paper towel. This will soak up any extra moisture on the fish and make it easier to handle when slicing into small pieces for a sushi roll or slicing bigger pieces for sashimi.

It would also be a good idea to inspect the salmon during this time. Pay attention to the color and texture of the salmon. If it’s discolored or dry, it might not be a good idea to use it.

What if It’s Not Completely Defrosted?

If your salmon isn’t completely defrosted yet, don’t panic. Just wrap the salmon back up with saran wrap (or whatever you used before) and put it back in the refrigerator for a bit. Make sure you check the temperature on your refrigerator, as the ideal temperature for thawing salmon is under 40°F (4.4°C).

You’re Ready To Make Sushi

After the salmon has been completely thawed, you’re ready to make sushi! The next step is to cut the salmon into small pieces to use in a sushi roll or slice the salmon to make delicious sashimi.

If you want a great video on how to thaw salmon and create fantastic sushi and sashimi dishes, here’s a 23-minute long video by Hiroyuki Terada:

Final Thoughts

Defrosting salmon for sushi might take a while, but the results are worth the wait. Defrosting salmon in the refrigerator is preferred and will give you the best-tasting salmon. However, defrosting in the sink is also an excellent option, although you’ll have to be more attentive to it. 

Using the microwave to defrost salmon isn’t the best idea, as it can alter the taste and texture, which can ruin sushi dishes. However, ensuring the salmon is completely defrosted, and the coloring is the same will make for some great sushi.


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