Get our food editor’s tips for rolling like a pro.

June 05, 2017
Joanna Garcia

A few years ago, a friend of mine hosted a dinner party at his small apartment in Brooklyn. When I walked in, he was standing over his dining-room table, seasoning a big bowl of rice with vinegar while his girlfriend fanned the cooling grains with a folded magazine. On the table was a beautiful spread: cooked flaky fish, lightly pickled vegetables, thin wedges of avocado, and sheets of toasted nori. There was nothing that exotic laid out before us, and yet the whole experience felt completely novel.

My friend, who is originally from Tokyo, had invited us over for a simple dinner of sushi at home. Sushi at home??! It turns out this is fairly common in Japan, but to me, it was a revelation. I had spent years (and a small fortune) leaving sushi to the masters. And while there is no doubt that a good sushi meal prepared by a master chef is an elevated experience, basic maki rolls, with an assortment of everyday fillings, are well within the grasp of a novice. All they require are a few key tools, some basic know-how, and a little practice.

The Tools


A bamboo rolling mat will help you roll perfectly even maki while keeping all the fillings firmly in place. Mats are becoming easier to find at stores like World Market and Sears, and they are almost always sold at Asian grocers. They're also available online.


This can be anything you have on hand, from a stiff placemat to a folded newspaper. Use it to quickly cool down your rice as you fold in your seasoned vinegar. Rice that is too hot when assembling your rolls will steam the nori and mess with the final texture of the roll.


This is key. A dull knife will destroy your beautiful handiwork. You need a sharp blade to cut through the nori and rice in clean, precise pieces. Dipping the edge in a little vinegar will also keep the rice from sticking to your knife as you slice.


This is by no means necessary, but if you want to make the process even easier, a good machine will take all the guesswork out of your rice cookery and deliver a consistent result every time. Sushi rice is best made the day of, so plan to make just enough for the meal. We like this rice cooker by Zojirushi.

The Recipes

Joanna Garcia


When making sushi at home, skip the raw fish -- that way you don't have to worry about sourcing sushi-grade product or fuss over your slicing technique. Give wild salmon a quick turn in the oven, then pair the succulent fish with quick-pickled ginger and your favorite vegetables.

Get the Baked Salmon Sushi Recipe
Joanna Garcia


Kids and adults alike will love the combination of warm sweet-sour rice, creamy avocado, and crunchy cucumbers and carrots in these simple vegetarian maki rolls.

Get the Vegetable Sushi Recipe


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