Guide to Japanese Cuts of Tuna

Guide to Japanese Cuts of Tuna


Based on the small cuts that end up on your sushi plate, at 500 pounds, tuna fish themselves are much larger than you would perhaps imagine. Sushi masters cut the giant tuna into three main sectionsーfatty belly tuna (otoro), medium fatty belly (chutoro), and lean tuna (akami).

Five main breeds of tuna are sold in Japan,andeach has a different taste, texture, and fat content.

Guide to Japanese Cuts of Tuna

Northern Bluefin Tuna 

Northern Bluefin Tuna (hon-maguro) is the largest and most expensive breed and has a high fat content. Cuts of this fish, especially from the fatty belly, are used for the highest quality sushi and sashimi dishes. When served raw, it has the firmness and appearance of beef steak. 

Guide to Japanese Cuts of Tuna

Southern Bluefin Tuna 

Southern Bluefin Tuna (minami-maguro) is smaller than Northern Bluefin but contains a higher proportion of fatty parts, making it the second most expensive breed. Because it is caught in the southern hemisphere, it has a better taste in the summer, and so is the seasonal tuna of choice.

Guide to Japanese Cuts of Tuna

Bigeye Tuna 

Cuts of Bigeye Tuna (mebachi-maguro) have distinctive, thin white stripes that run through the dark pink meat. This type of tuna is frozen immediately after it is caught, lessening its quality. However, since it can be easily delivered, it is often sold in supermarkets and conveyor-belt sushi restaurants.

Guide to Japanese Cuts of Tuna

Yellowfin Tuna

Yellowfin Tuna (kihada-maguro) is the most common breed. It is rather low in fat, but lean cuts from locally-caught yellowfins are often served in regional sushi bars and have a very fresh taste. Also, it is often seared, blackened, cooked, or marinated.

Guide to Japanese Cuts of Tuna

Albacore Tuna

Albacore Tuna (binnaga-maguro) is the smallest and most affordable of the breeds. The color of its meat is pink and soft, so it is not suitable for sashimi. However, its fatty meat is used in conveyor-belt sushi and as a sashimi topping. Also, it is commonly used to make canned tuna.


About the author:

Jessica Craven

Jessica Craven is a writer, artist, and designer passionate about introducing aspects of Japanese culture to English-speaking audiences. Previously, she studied Japanese traditional art forms and Japanese art history at Akita International University, worked in art museums and galleries in the United States, and returned to Japan to work in Saitama for five years on the JET Program. She is fascinated by how traditional Japanese art forms, like tea ceremony, are also closely related to philosophy and health. She currently lives in Tokyo, where she is continuing her writing career.

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