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What is a Makisu?

Diane Goettel
Updated Feb 28, 2024
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A makisu is a mat used in Japanese cooking that is made out of thin bamboo slats held together with sturdy thread. Anyone who has ever sat at a sushi bar and watched the chefs make maki, which is a kind of sushi in which rice and fish are rolled within a seaweed casing, has seen a makisu. Sushi chefs use these mats to roll various kinds of sushi, even those that are made with the rice on the outside of the roll. In addition to being used to make rolls of sushi, a makisu can also be used to shape other malleable foods. In some cases, a makisu is used to squeeze water or liquid out of food.

There are some cases in which a makisu must be lined with plastic wrap before it is used. This is especially true when it is used to make the kind of sushi rolls that have rice on the outside of the rolls. Using plastic on the makisu keeps the rice grains from mashing between the bamboo slats, which makes the mat rather hard to clean. There are some people that line the mat with plastic wrap every time they use it simply to make the cleaning process easier. In cases when plastic wrap is not used, it is important to wash and dry the mat thoroughly after each use to keep bacteria from developing and growing on and between the wooden slats.

There are a few makisu models. Most of them are rather similar in size, but there are differences in width of the bamboo slats that are woven together to create the mats. When shopping in kitchen supply stores and home supply stores in the West, it is most common to find mats that are made with thinner slats. In general, makisu are very inexpensive, no matter how thick the bamboo slats may be.

Makisu are sold separately and as parts of sushi-making kits. These kits are useful for people who are just begging to attempt to make their own sushi at home. Single makisu can be purchased for just a few United States dollars. There are some more expensive models that are made out of silicone instead of wood.

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Diane Goettel
By Diane Goettel
In addition to her work as a freelance writer for WiseGEEK, Diane Goettel serves as the executive editor of Black Lawrence Press, an independent publishing company based in upstate New York. Over the course, she has edited several anthologies, the e-newsletter “Sapling,” and The Adirondack Review. Diane holds a B.A. from Sarah Lawrence College and an M.A. from Brooklyn College.

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Discussion Comments

By SarahGen — On Apr 04, 2014

@serensurface-- As far as I know, the makisu used for square rolls are made of bamboo sticks that are completely flat. The classic makisu has rounded bamboo sticks and those make round sushi rolls. I suspect that this is what you have.

I actually have a makisu that is multi-purpose because it is flat on one side and round on the other. So I could make different shapes with it but I usually use the round side for typical round sushi.

I suggest getting one like this but please don't pay a lot for it. Sushi rolling mats are very affordable and regardless of what you pay, they all do the same thing. Just make sure to use plastic wrap before each use or you will have lots of trouble during cleanup as the article said.

By serenesurface — On Apr 03, 2014

I have a makisu but it only makes round sushi rolls. Do I need a different makisu for square rolls? I think the square rolls are neat and I want to try them.

By donasmrs — On Apr 02, 2014

I've seen chefs use a makisu in restaurants. They basically lay out the ingredients of the sushi or maki on the makisu and then roll the makisu over to make the maki. It not only makes the process much easier but it's also more hygienic and keeps the shape of the maki nice and even before cutting.

I don't make sushi or maki at home but if I did, I would definitely use a makisu for it.

Diane Goettel

Diane Goettel

In addition to her work as a freelance writer for WiseGEEK, Diane Goettel serves as the executive editor of Black...
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