Tell me about tuna and what to do with it

I have a tuna steak at home and don’t know what to do with it. Last week I had one that I marinated in soy sauce, then pan fried in peanut oil, then served with wasabi sauce. It was pretty good, but not spectacular. Last night I pan fried one in olive oil, and added salt, pepper, and lemon. Since it was rather thick, I had to cook it for a long time, which meant that it was like shoe leather. And it tasted pretty horrid.

So what do I do with the one tonight? Wet heat? Dry heat? Fry heat? I don’t have a lot of ingredients on hand, but I have a lemon, wine, capers, balsamic vinegar, and a handful of basic herbs.


You “peel” off the skin,
then separate it along where the bones are, taking them off,
and cut it into chunks, uh… about 1" dice.

Put some tomato sauce to fry in a pot (the pot should be larger than needed for the sauce). The one I do for tuna has puréed tomato, olive oil, no salt, chopped green peppers and chopped onion.

While the tomate cooks, salt the tuna lightly and “golden” it in a pan. Use relatively little oil; you need to turn it around to make sure it gets fried all around, not drown it. Once each piece has been fried all over, transfer them to the tomato (which should be boiling on low) - the actual “cooking throughout” of the tuna takes place in the sauce. Leave it simmering for one hour after the last piece of tuna has been transferred.

It’s a very good dish for picnics and potlucks too, travels well so long as you use a hermetic container. It should be eaten warm or at room temperature, not cold.

I read around here that the key is very high heat. Since I like tuna that’s raw in the middle, I tried it, and I loved it. Now when I make tuna, I tend to do it very simply: I oil and salt and pepper the tuna heavily on both sides, heat a cast-iron skillet up to smoking, and fry the tuna for about thirty seconds a side, until it’s cooked about 1/4" up the side of the steak and the surface has dark brown spots on it. That gets the delicious seared flavors as well as the gentler raw-meat flavors. Slice it thin, serve it with scallions and salad and brown rice, and it’s a really tasty and simple dinner.


Sounds like you definitely overcooked. Tuna is best when mostly red through the middle. I like a rather spicy dish myself: coat tuna steak lightly with a dijon mustard, then cover in coarsely-cracked fresh peppercorns. In a well-seasoned, lightly-oiled, smoking-hot cast-iron pan, sear on all sides - top, bottom, and sides (make sure room is well-ventilated). Should be no more that 30 seconds per side. Slice thin, serve atop a mixed green salad with a citrusy vinaigrette.

ETA: Nava, most tuna we get in the states is sold pre-cut as steaks. It’s pretty rare, I think, to find whole small tuna or anything on the bone.

Definitely the case here. And I like the mustard idea. But I’m not sure how I can cook it on “all” sides when it will fall over on all but two. Should I cut it into strips first?

And doesn’t the mustard burn?

And chopping up a tuna steak would be a bit of a shame, sort of like grinding up a beef filet.

NO! Well, I wouldn’t. :slight_smile: But add me to the group that thinks you are criminally over-cooking your tuna steak, which IMO should be seared on the outside and only just warmed through in the center. I would never eat a beef steak as raw as I do a tuna steak, but tuna is best juuuust this side of raw. As to how you sear it on all sides, if you have a thin steak this is obviously hard to do, but if you have reasonably thick steak, you just prop the steak up on its side against the side of the pan, or you hold it in place with tongs. (Lightly, not pressing the side down into the pan, but maintaining contact.) But if you slice the tuna up first, there’s virtually no way you will be able to avoid overcooking it.

I generally cook tuna steaks one of two ways: I marinate them in teriyaki sauce, or I coat them with Montreal steak seasoning, pressing it lightly into the sides of the tuna. I don’t bother with the mustard because I personally don’t care for mustard. Either way: sear in a hot oiled pan until you get a nice crust on the outside.

I usually cook two and eat one as a steak, served with a salad and carb (like rice). I refrigerate the other and then slice it thin for a salad as described by D_Odds, to be served the next day.

ETA: No, the mustard wouldn’t burn so long as you’ve got a nice layer of pepper or other seasonings between it and the pan.

I should clarify that what I meant by strips was not deli slices, but stips as wide as they are deep, like bricks. 1-inch thick steak cut into 1-inch slices. But your tong method should work well.

The reason I’m hesitant not to overcook them is fear of food-borne illness. If it’s not sushi-grade, is it still OK rare?

It’s < 30 seconds per side. I hold it with my tongs - if I’m cooking many, I just line them up and use each other to support. By the time I set up the last, the first is ready to be rolled. Alternately, you can just do the top and bottom; I just like all sides. The mustard should be completely covered with peppercorns and as Jodi says, doesn’t burn. It will give a deliciously spicy exterior to go with the rare interior.

ETA - I hope all my tuna is sushi-grade, because rare to raw interiors are the norm at Casa D_Odds. Best is when I can get the fish monger to cut the loin for me and I can get the extra thick steaks.

I’ve always eaten it rare/raw. . .just the stuff I get from the grocey story, or frozen from Trader Joes.

I make it look like this.

Usually I just use salt & pepper & olive oil, but it does hold up nicely with soy based marianades (don’t over marianade – you can really “break down” a tuna steak).

Tuna can go from perfect to overcooked quickly. You want just the outside seared. I’d do it on the grill, but otherwise in a cast iron pan on the stove as hot as you can get it.

With tuna in particular, I say you CAN’T undercook it.

I don’t eat much sushi, so I may be wrong about this, but AFAIK all that makes tuna “sushi grade” is that it is tuna filet steaks – the same cut of fish that we’re talking about. If there’s more to it being “sushi grade,” I don’t know what it is.

AFAIK, the issues for food-borne illness for fish (EXCLUDING shellfish) have to do with safe handling and storage. The fish should be refrigerated or frozen from when the fish leaves the sea to when it hits the cooking pan: Food borne disease issues arise when the fish is allowed to get too warm or is not handled safely. Since by price tuna steaks are IMO a bit of a luxury anyway, I only ever buy really fresh-looking steaks from a store that keeps them well cooled – nothing gray-tinged or badly packaged, nothing that looks even remotely “off.” You can get by with some iffy beef because you’re cooking it, but tuna should be perfectly fresh because it will be only marginally cooked.

I’ve never become ill from tuna steaks, and I’ve eaten a lot of them. I think if you cooked a tuna steak to an interior temprature sufficient to kill all food-borne bacteria, you would completely ruin the steak.

I like my tuna steak seasoned with olive oil, salt, pepper and fresh thyme and then just seared keeping the middle raw.

IIRC, it partly has to do with freezing methods, as certain methods are better for food to be served raw. Running to a meeting, so I can’t research this right now, but I’m pretty sure that’s what I’ve read.

Annnnd … if all else fails - there’s the splendiferous Tuna Shake web site (not for the faint of stomach)

I’m guessing nobody wants to hear about mixing it with mayonnaise, mustard and pickle relish and eating it between two slices of white bread…

No? Well, okay then. See ya around.

Actually, I once had a tuna salad sandwich made from fresh-seared tuna. It was remarkably good.


Why did you get it, if you don’t know how to prepare it? I would just go online and look through recipes.

Which is exactly what he is doing. Funny how that works. Or do you think that a MB with a very varied membership won’t have a few that enjoy preparing food and like to share their methods? Lots of cooking threads pop up here in Cafe Soceity.

And further to D_Odds’ point, just looking through recipes doesn’t do it in every case.

IMO, tuna steaks and/or swordfish steaks are the top-of-the-line, most prime cut of sea fish. They’re like beef tenderloin filets (filet mignon) in terms of quality. You could go online and find 600 recipes for cooking a beef tenderloin filet, including grinding it up or chopping and saucing it – and you will have ruined a very nice cut of meat, that is best appreciated by simple preparation.

Really good sea fish steaks are similar. The cut and quality of the fish is the thing, and while you might find a number of recipes on how to mince a prime sea steak up and mix it with mayo for a sandwich, there’s a strong argument that you will have totally wasted that particular piece of fish by doing so. Not to mention that tuna really suffers from overcooking, which is always another excellent way to quickly ruin a relatively expensive piece of meat or fish.

So the number or recipes featuring a particular ingredient is not really the operative inquiry for an expensive or easily ruined ingredient. The operative inquiries are how do I best prepare it, and how do I avoid ruining it?

And a message board is actually a pretty good way of soliciting opinions on those questions – a much better way than merely looking through recipes.

Follow-up to sushi-grade:

See also What is sushi grade fish?