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How Do You Defrost Frozen Tuna for Sushi?

Frozen tuna is always best for making sushi at home. But it feels wrong to defrost it in the microwave. So how do you defrost frozen tuna for sushi?

The best and safest method for defrosting frozen tuna for sushi is to put it in a bowl covered with plastic wrap and place it in the refrigerator 8-12 hours prior to using it. But it also works to place it in a colander in the sink under running water for 30 minutes.

While you can defrost it in the microwave, I personally would not as it could adversely affect the texture or slightly cook portions of it.

But there’s a lot more to know.

In this article, we’ll find out if you can use fresh or wild-caught tuna for sushi, and we’ll look at the aforementioned methods step by step.

Let’s dive right in.

defrost frozen tuna lg

Can you use frozen tuna for sushi?

As a general rule, all tuna (and other fish) that is best for sushi will be previously frozen. However, to be truly safe for raw consumption, it will be labeled “sushi-grade” or “sashimi-grade”. So do not use just any frozen tuna.

So, what constitutes “sushi-grade”?

Immediately after they are caught at sea, after being killed and cleaned, tuna is flash-frozen at the required temperature to kill off pathogens.

Why? Fish, like most other animal proteins, often have parasites in them when they are caught. These are bacteria and parasites that are harmful to us.

It’s understandable, therefore, that the FDA has regulations in place that fish, including tuna, must be frozen at a certain temperature soon after they are harvested.

In effect, virtually all tuna, even those in high-end sushi restaurants, have been frozen prior to being prepared.

In addition to getting rid of pathogens, some sushi experts believe that freezing tuna also help in preserving the flavor. So, go ahead and use your frozen tuna for sushi.

This leads us to an interesting question: Can you eat raw salmon from the grocery store?

In a recent article I published, I get into issues such as whether you can eat raw fish from the grocery store and what happens if you eat raw salmon.

I showed whether you could eat Costco or Walmart salmon raw. But I also revealed whether freezing salmon kills parasites.

Just click the link to read it on my site.

How do you defrost tuna quickly?

To defrost tuna quickly, place it in a sealable plastic bag and ensure the air in the bag is removed. Then, put the bag in cold water for thirty minutes to an hour. The water’s temperature should be between 50 and 68 degrees Fahrenheit.

Don’t use water with a temperature that is greater than 77 degrees Fahrenheit as this will adversely impact the taste of the tuna and may spread bacteria.

In effect, don’t use warm water or hot water to defrost tuna. You also don’t want to expose the tuna to direct sunlight.

There are a couple of other ways to defrost tuna. They include:

  • Defrosting it under running water
  • Defrosting it in a microwave
  • Defrosting it in a fridge
  • Defrosting it in water

Let’s check out the first method. In a bit, we’ll consider two other methods.

Defrost tuna under running water

Defrosting tuna under running water involves 3 simple steps. They are

  • Put tuna in a sealable plastic bag
  • Place the bowl with the tuna under cold water
  • Change water every ten minutes

Put tuna in a sealable plastic bag

Use a bag that can cover the whole fish, put the tuna in it, and ensure you remove air from the sealable plastic bag. Seal it and place the fish in a bowl or container.

Place the bowl with the tuna under cold water

Place the bowl with the fish under cold water and turn on the water. Hold the fish under the water for 10 to 15 minutes.

If it floats, press it down gently to ensure it’s submerged in water. The water’s temperature should be less than 25 degrees centigrade.

After defrosting, you can store it in the refrigerator for up to 48 hours. But it’s best to prepare it for consumption after the defrosting.

Change water every ten minutes

If the tuna is small, the steps above will suffice.

But if it’s big, you’ll need more time to defrost it. It makes sense, right? If the latter’s the case, you may need to hold the fish in water for up to 30 minutes to an hour.

In some cases, depending on the size of the fish, it could take you 3 to 4 hours.

Can you thaw frozen tuna for sushi in the fridge?

As a general rule, it works well to thaw frozen tuna for sushi in the refrigerator. Simply rinse it under cold water and wrap it in a clean cloth that has been soaked in saltwater. Place the tuna in a bowl and put it in the refrigerator for 8 to 12 hours.

It’s a good method seeing as the frozen tuna would thaw at a safe and constant temperature. The downside is that it’s not quick.

Here are the steps to follow:

  • Remove the frozen tuna from its packaging and place it in a bowl lined with paper towels.
  • Ensure that you cover the bowl with plastic wrap or paper towels.
  • Put the bowl with the tuna alone on the bottom shelf of the refrigerator to avoid cross-contamination.
  • Leave the tuna to thaw for 8 to 12 hours. Ideally, overnight. You may have to change the paper towels if they become wet.
  • Once it is thawed, pat dry with paper towels.

Interested in knowing more about what differentiates sushi-grade fish from regular fish?

Check out a recent article I published. In it, I explained what kind of fish is sushi-grade and if you can use frozen fish for sushi. But I also revealed if there’s a difference between sushi-grade salmon and regular salmon.

Just click the link to read it on my site.

Can you thaw frozen tuna in the microwave?

While not as ideal as other methods, it does work to thaw frozen tuna in the microwave. The issues with microwaving are that it can affect the texture, and it is easy to slightly cook the tuna in the thawing process, resulting in lower-quality sushi.

Simply put the frozen tuna in microwave-friendly containers and choose the fish defrosting setting. Every 5 to 10 minutes, turn it over to ensure even thawing.

On average, it should be thoroughly thawed in 15 to 30 minutes.

As you can see, thawing frozen tuna in the microwave is one of the quickest methods. Before putting the fish in the microwave, rinse it in cold water for a minute and pat dry it with paper towels.

One of the upsides of using a microwave to thaw frozen tuna is that it does not alter the texture or taste, but ONLY if done properly. Use this method of defrosting if you plan to cook the frozen tuna immediately.

You’ve spied ahi tuna at Trader Joe’s, and you’re wondering if it’s okay to eat it raw. 

You’re in luck because I got into it in a recent article I published. I looked at whether Trader Joe’s sells sushi-grade fish and if frozen ahi tuna is good for sushi. I even revealed if you need sushi-grade tuna for seared tuna.

Just click the link to read it on my site.

How to thaw sushi-grade fish – step by step

  1. Remove the fish from the freezer
  2. Place the fish inside a zip-lock bag and seal it 
  3. Run water into a bowl. Its temperature should not exceed 77 degrees Fahrenheit 
  4. Place the bag in the bowl of water 
  5. Pour out the water after 15 minutes.

Rinse and repeat until it is thawed.

Now, there are three different ways to thaw sushi-grade fish.

They are: using a refrigerator, water, or a microwave. For the best result, I suggest you thaw your fish using a refrigerator.

But for the quickest, use a microwave. Using a refrigerator takes the longest time, as we have seen earlier.

Can you make sushi with any grocery-bought fish?

This is what I explored in a recent article I published. I looked at what makes fish sushi-grade, and can sushi be made with any fish?

Then, I showed whether you could use store-bought salmon for sushi. But I also revealed the most common fish used in sushi.

Just click the link to read it on my site.


In the article, we looked at whether it’s okay to use frozen tuna for sushi and whether you can thaw frozen tuna in the fridge.

We found out how to defrost tuna quickly.

We found out if you can thaw frozen tuna in the microwave. Lastly, we wrapped things up by finding out how to thaw sushi-grade tuna step by step.

Image by Reinhard Thrainer from Pixabay

Jeff Campbell