Eat cooked cod, for your safety. Let’s take some time to talk about why eating raw cod in sushi can cause problems.
If you’re a fan of sushi like I am, then you know that this fine Japanese dish can be prepared with more than one type of raw fish and shellfish.
And if you live somewhere where they sell fresh cod, it won’t be long before you put two and two together and think to yourself, “Hmm… can I make sushi with cod?”
The real question here (and an important one to ask) is whether or not you can eat raw cod. Yes, there’s no fish that’s completely safe to eat raw. But some species of fish pose a greater risk to your health when raw than others.
So, where does cod stand in this regard? Well, if you want to know the answer, we at Home Cook World have it for you—as always—so read on.
Is It Okay to Eat Raw Cod?
Okay, here’s the too long; didn’t read version for those of you who just want to find the answer and click away: Don’t put raw cod in your sushi. Eating it can give you a really bad parasite infection.
Eating raw or undercooked cod, as it turns out, can make you sick or, worse, kill you. Cod can contain the dangerous parasite Laenaeocera branchialis, fittingly called “cod worm,” among other nasty things like Pseudoterranova decipiens.
The symptoms of worm infection, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), include abdominal pain, abdominal distention, diarrhea, blood or mucus in stool, nausea, vomiting, and a mild fever.
Raw fish as a whole can harbor parasites such as roundworms, tapeworms, and flukes that pose a threat to your health. Most of these parasites, the Food & Drug Administration (FDA) says, cause mild to moderate illness, but severe symptoms can also occur.
And this isn’t just the federal government being overly conservative—for good reason—in its guidelines.
A survey of U.S. gastroenterologists found that there are enough infections across the country to warrant caution, according to the federal agency’s guidelines for preparing food with raw fish and fishery products.
How to Make Raw Cod Safe to Eat
Freezing can kill parasites in fish, but it must be done at a controlled temperature and for a specific period of time.
As a general rule of thumb, freezing fish at a temperature of -4°F (-20°C) or below for 7 days, or -31°F (-35°C) or below for 15 hours is considered sufficient to kill the parasites in it.
Sushi chefs undergo special training to learn how to properly store, handle, and prepare raw fish so that it’s safe for their diners to eat. Sushi restaurants, on the other hand, have special freezers called “blast chillers” or “fast freezers,” which make this possible.
The problem with trying to do this at home is two-fold:
First, home cooks like you and I haven’t had such training. Second, home freezers can’t reach and/or maintain such temperatures. So don’t risk it with cod, whole or filleted, and leave it to the professionals at the sushi joint.
In other words, the only way to make cod safe to eat at home is to cook it thoroughly to 145°F (63°C), the safe minimum internal temperature that the USDA recommends.
(Which, when you come to think of it, kind of defeats the purpose of adding it to sushi.)
What Does Raw Cod Taste Like?
Clearly, you get the idea. For the reasons we discussed in this article, you’ve decided to err on the side of caution and not even try to prepare sushi with raw cod.
Still, you’re curious… what does it taste like?!
Well, let’s just say we have good news for you: you’re not missing out on all that much. Cod doesn’t taste quite as good raw as other fish do. Many people even find it unappetizing.
Cod is a saltwater fish with flaky white flesh and a mild fishy flavor. When raw, it is dense, watery, and hard to chew and swallow. Cod isn’t safe or tasty when eaten raw, and seasoning and cooking ameliorate it in many ways.
How to Cook Cod
The best way to cook cod is under the broiler, in a cast iron skillet or heavy-duty sheet pan. Adjust the rack to the top position and preheat the broiler with the pan for at least 15 minutes.
Season the cod fillets generously with kosher salt or fine sea salt. Remove the pan from the broiler with the help of oven mittens or a kitchen towel, then grease it with cooking oil and arrange the fillets on it.
Cook the cod fillets for 1-2 minutes or until golden brown. There’s no need to flip them; the pan is hot enough to cook the underside through and brown it properly.
Remove the cod fillets from the broiler and let them rest for 3-4 minutes on the counter to allow carryover cooking to take place. Serve with halved lemons or limes alongside onion tomato salad or French fries.
Cod isn’t a good fish for sushi, especially homemade. Raw cod can harbor parasites that pose a significant health risk if not properly treated.
Chefs have the knowledge and restaurants the equipment to kill these parasites by quick freezing at low temperatures. But these techniques and conditions cannot be replicated in the home kitchen, so you shouldn’t try this at home.