How to CookJapanese CookingEssential Tools

The 5 Tools You Need for Making Sushi at Home

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Making sushi and sashimi at home is relatively simple with the right equipment, ingredients, and most importantly, practice, practice, practice. The Japanese kitchen has a lot of equipment identical to any other kitchen, but if you're looking to make sushi at home, this list is a great starting point for stocking up the proper equipment (though as you become more adept, we recommend expanding your arsenal to more specialized sushi-making equipment, like hangiri, for mixing sushi rice).

With these 5 items—some of which you may already have (or have a Western equivalent of)—you can start making sashimi, nigiri, rolls, and chirashi.

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Photo by Robert Rose Inc.

Very Sharp Knives

You cannot understate the importance of cutlery in the sushi kitchen. Knives are the most essential tool and can make the difference between good sushi and bad. Extreme sharpness is essential in the preparation of fish, ensures optimum taste and texture. Japanese kitchens—both professional and domestic—use a mix of Japanese and Western-style knives, though professional kitchens will use more traditional knives and home kitchens will use more Western-style knives.

Traditional Japanese knives are often hyper-specialized to a specific task or specific fish, but most traditional knives also have a Western equivalent—so you likely already have what you need.

Chef's Knife

Miyabi Birchwood knives are a favorite in the Food52 test kitchen, too.
Miyabi Birchwood knives are a favorite in the Food52 test kitchen, too. Photo by Bobbi Lin

The first knife you’ll need is a Gyutoh, also known as a chef’s knife, cook’s knife, or French knife; it is one of the most versatile knives in the Western kitchen. In a Japanese kitchen, it can be just as versatile. It can be used for filleting fish, cutting vegetables, or slicing sashimi or sushi rolls (and you can use it instead of the more traditional, specialized knives, yanagiba, deba, and usuba). It will never do the specific job as well as the specialized Japanese traditional knife, but it will do well for sushi at home.

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Chef’s knives range in length from 6 to 14 inches, and we recommend an 8- to 10-inch knife. Currently, I’m using a 10-inch Miyabi Birchwood; I admire it for both its beauty and extreme sharpness.

Slicing Knife

Miyabi Birchwood Japanese Knife Collection
From $169
Miyabi Birchwood Japanese Knife Collection

A sujihiki or slicing/carving knife is a long, thin, double-edged knife that can be used in the place of the more traditional yanagiba (the long, single-edged slicing knife you usually spot chefs wielding at the sushi bar). This is the knife that you’ll be using to cut sashimi or slice rolls. When slicing with a sujihiki, you want to make slices with one long stroke.

Your slicing knife should be at least 8 inches long for working with sushi, but 10 or 12 inches is preferable. I’m currently using the Miyabi Birchwood 9-inch slicing knife.

Rice Cooker

Staub Petite French Oven Stovetop Rice Cooker
From $99
Staub Petite French Oven Stovetop Rice Cooker

You can cook rice in a pan on the stove, but for best and most consistent results an electric rice cooker works best. There are conventional electric as well as induction rice cookers, and some are even pressurized to speed the cooking process. Rice cookers can be used for other things besides rice, like oatmeal and other grains, and some can even make yogurt.

Zojirushi makes the best rice cookers around; I use an induction-plus-pressure model. But if you don’t want to take up precious counter space with an electric rice cooker, try the Staub rice cooker, which you can use on your stove or in your oven.

More: Ivan Orkin of Ivan Ramen is also a Staub rice cooker devotee. Here's why.

Bamboo Sushi Mat

Photo by Emma Galloway

If you are going to be making any sushi rolls, you can learn freehand rolling, but a sushi mat (or makisu) will make your life a whole lot easier. Makisu are woven mats of bamboo and cotton string. Mostly commonly used to make makizushi (sushi rolls), makisu come with either thick or thin pieces of bamboo, and for sushi, you want the thin version. Synthetic mats are available as well, but the bamboo mats are inexpensive and provide a great result.

Always wash and dry mats well after use to prevent bacteria growth. When making inside-out rolls (with rice on the outside), cover your makisu in plastic wrap to avoid rice sticking to the mat.

Photo by Robert Rose Inc.

Plating Chopsticks

Moribashi, or Japanese plating chopsticks, have been used by chefs in Japan for hundreds of years for delicate plating, doing the same work as plating tweezers (which are a fairly new concept in Western cooking). Unlike chopsticks that you eat with, moribashi are usually metal with wooden handles. And also unlike eating chopsticks, moribashi end in sharp points, allowing you to work more hygienically and precisely by standing in for your fingers. Robby Cook, my co-author on The Complete Guide to Sushi and Sashimi, just got a one-of-a-kind pair with carbon-fiber handles.

Jeffrey Elliot is a knife expert, a great lover of sushi, and the co-author of The Complete Guide to Sushi and Sashimi.

Tags: sushi, essential tools, japanese cooking