I Made Sashimi from Cheap Costco Salmon and Didn’t Die

updated May 1, 2019
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(Image credit: Alice Choi)

It’s a little embarrassing how often I eat grocery store sushi. I know it’s not great. I’ve seen Jiro Dreams of Sushi and that’s definitely not who’s behind the counter at my local Kroger grocery store when I ask them to make me one with just salmon and avocado, no hot sauce please (why, can anyone tell me, does grocery store sushi come slathered in a pink, spiced, mayo-like sauce?).

I know my fondness for the stuff probably knocks a few points off my credibility as someone who writes about food. Look, I’ve had really amazing sushi. But a once-in-a-lifetime meal at Joel Robuchon’s Japanese restaurant in Monaco is just that: once in a lifetime. The rest of my life? It’s gonna be a lot of grocery store sushi.

The trouble is it’s never enough. I buy the party platters, yes, sometimes just for myself, but it’s never satiating. So I’d resigned myself to always feeling like I couldn’t have my fill of raw salmon.

Then, one wonderful weekend when friends were visiting from Detroit, they told me about a magical place where you can buy sashimi for pennies a bite. They taunted me with visions of heaps of raw salmon, a never-ending supply of what really is one of my favorite things on earth to eat. There’s just the one thing: Technically, it’s not sashimi. Oh, and I’d need a Costco card.

(Image credit: Dana McMahan)

Wait, what?

Sashimi of Costco salmon?

But yes, they assured me fervently. Flash-frozen and shipped several times a week. Just look for the freshest, most vibrant-looking salmon, sharpen your knife, and voila! All-you-can-eat sashimi.

If this were true, it would be a game-changer. So we piled in the car (after emptying the trunk – may as well buy some cases of green juice, a few hundred trash bags, and a gallon of almond butter while we’re there) and headed for our local Costco.

My friend did not lie. There in the seafood section was some admittedly gorgeous salmon. He picked through the packages, pulling the one he deemed best, and we brought our prize catch home. After thoroughly washing his hands, the knife, and cutting board, he showed us how to slice just so, hewing off glistening chunks of honest-to-goodness sashimi. I still couldn’t believe it, even as I poured the soy sauce and dug the wasabi out of my little fridge. I poured some bubbly, because this was cause for celebration, took up my chopsticks, and popped a bite in my mouth.

And went back for another and another and another. This was legit. I was sitting at my own dining table with my husband and our friends, feasting, nay, gorging on sashimi. And it cost $9 a pound at Costco.

(Image credit: Dana McMahan)

Because I tend to get what professors call medical student disease whenever I look things up (I never google side effects when I take a new medicine!) and because my friend had done this before and survived to tell the tale, I did no research before we ate. I figured after some of the things I’ve eaten on my travels, some raw fish was the least of my worries. But I did go digging around later, just to see if it would be OK to make this a weekly thing.

Per Google, it’s a mixed bag of opinions. Even the term sushi-grade fish doesn’t have a standard (although I’m sure they wouldn’t claim this was sushi grade were I to call up Costco and ask). As best as I could make out, a potential hazard with DIY sashimi is parasites, and farmed salmon, as Costco uses, is — at least theoretically — not likely to have that issue. And even if it did, freezing it kills the bugs. How about quality? Should I be embarrassed by my lowbrow sushi taste? Costco’s salmon won out in a blind taste test against much more expensive versions.

The real test was seeing how I felt for the next 48 hours. I was totally fine. My only problem? I wanted more sushi. Costco, I’ll be seeing you soon.

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