Cooking tuna steaks shouldn’t be intimidating. This lean fish is an excellent choice for fast weeknight dinners. All you need is a hot skillet and fresh fish to cook tuna steaks to a perfect, juicy dinner for two in minutes.
To cook perfectly pink-on-the-inside tuna steaks, first pat your fish dry with paper towels and season with salt and cayenne pepper. Heat olive oil in a large, heavy skillet until it shimmers. Add a tablespoon of butter to melt, then a teaspoon of whole peppercorns to infuse the cooking oil. Then sear the tuna steaks for about 90 seconds per side, until pink in the middle and firm. Serve immediately.
Tuna steaks might not be the most common seafood dish you make at home. But if you love fish and the meaty, thick nature of seared steaks, then tuna steaks might just strike the perfect cord for your appetite. They’re also quick and easy to prepare at home with a hot skillet and a few spices. These flavorful fish speak for themselves in the flavor department, so you wont’ need to raid the spice cabinet to bring a flavorful, meaty, and juicy dinner to life in minutes.
Do tuna steaks taste like canned tuna?
While tuna steaks and canned tuna come from the same species, they differ widely in flavor, texture, and looks. Even if you’re not a fan of canned tuna or tuna salad sandwiches, don’t write off seared tuna steaks without trying them. Where canned tuna can be soft, with a shredded consistency and salty flavor, tuna steaks are mild tasting with a fresh flavor and firm, meaty texture. And when it comes to cooking tuna steaks, the flavoring is in your court. While canned tuna often comes in oil or water and sometimes is already flavored, you can add as much (or as little) seasoning to your fresh tuna steaks before you sear them.
Buying the Best Tuna
There you are, standing in front of the fish counter. Whether you’re at the grocery store or a high-end fish market, the options can feel overwhelming. First, for today’s purposes, let’s start by narrowing it down to tuna. The absolute best way to purchase fresh tuna steaks is from a whole loin of tuna. If you can have the fishmonger slice steaks for you off of the whole cut, you know they’re fresh and they haven’t had any extra time to dry out. This isn’t always available, however, and in many cases, you’ll only find pre-cut tuna steaks.
In this case, look for glistening, moist-looking steaks that are shiny and appealing. Avoid excessively wet or discolored tuna. Browning is a sign of age and oxidation. The longer a cut is exposed to air, the more it will break down, so if you can, ask when the steaks were cut and when the fish was brought in off the boat. Other signs of age to avoid are flaking flesh and fshy smell. Opt for tight, firm meat that has a fresh odor.
What you don’t need to worry about on your tuna steaks is a dark streak running through the meat. This is a totally natural part of the fish and actually has a delicious flavor. If it’s too strong for your tastes, however, you can easily remove this part of the tuna steak before cooking.
How Much Tuna Per Person?
The convenient thing about tuna steaks is that they’re perfectly portioned for a single serving. Plan on one tuna steak, which usually weighs 6 to 8 ounces, per person.
How to Sear Tuna Steaks
Once you’ve brought home the freshest, plumpest, and most glistening tuna steaks you could find, it’s time to gather a few more ingredients and get ready to sear those steaks up!
Ingredients for Seared Tuna Steaks
Here’s what you’ll need on hand to cook your tuna steaks:
- 2 tuna steaks
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 tablespoon butter
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper, to taste
- 1 teaspoon of whole peppercorns
Note that the above ingredient list makes enough for two adult servings.
Prepping the tuna steaks
Step 1: Dry the tuna steaks
Using paper towels, gently dab the tuna steaks dry on all sides. This is only to remove excess water, there’s no need to overdo it – keep the tapping light! Dab too hard, and you might damage the delicate fish flesh.
Step 2: Season generously
Using the cayenne pepper, and salt, season your tuna steaks on both sides. The fish can be fairly mild-tasting on its own, so don’t be afraid to add a generous amount of seasoning. In fact, some recipes call for a thick and complete crust of black peppercorns–this fish can hold up to it! If you’re concerned about over-salting the fish, go light if it’s your first time cooking tuna steaks. You can always add extra seasoning after they’re cooked.
Cooking tuna steaks
Step 1: Heat a skillet
Grab a large, heavy-bottomed skillet and warm it over medium-high heat. As the skillet warms up, get the butter and oil ready. A cast-iron skillet is a great tool here, as it distributes heat evenly and holds it well for a nice sear on your fish.
Step 2: Add the butter and olive oil
First add the olive oil to the warming skillet and let it warm up on the skillet. When the olive oil starts to shimmer, add the butter and stir until it melts fully. The cooking fat should coat the bottom of your skillet.
Step 3: Pop the peppercorns
Add the peppercorns to the skillet and move them around until they pop. This infuses the cooking oil with rich, smokey black pepper flavor. Your tuna steaks will absorb some of this taste for a subtle peppercorn flavor that doesn’t overwhelm the delicate meat.
Step 4: Cook the tuna steaks
When your peppercorns are fragrant and popping, it’s time to add the tuna. Gently place both steaks in the skillet. Cook, undisturbed, for 60 to 90 seconds per side for medium-rare. If you like a more well-done tuna steak, you can cook for 2 minutes per side, but know that this delicate fish cooks quickly, especially in a well-heated skillet. Keep a close eye on the thinner sides of the steaks, they’re a clear indication of the doneness of the meat.
As soon as your cooking time is up, remove the tuna from the skillet. Remember that it will continue cooking after it comes off of the heat, so for perfect doneness, remove the fish a few seconds before it’s to your desired consistency.
Now plate up your perfectly seared tuna steaks and enjoy!
Can you eat tuna steaks raw?
Yes, there are many delicious ways to eat raw tuna. Just be sure that the fish you’re buying is of the highest quality and has been properly handled. Look for tuna steaks labeled sushi-grade or sashimi-grade to be certain.
Can tuna steak be cooked well done?
You can eat your tuna steak well done, but it’s not recommended. Tuna steaks should be cooked as little as possible. Medium-rare tuna steak is as close to perfection as it’s going to get. The more you cook a tuna steak, the tougher it will get.
If I like well-done steaks, should I go for well-done tuna steaks?
Even though a lot of people like to compare steaks to tuna steaks, they’re very different. Try medium-rare tuna steaks first and work it from there. Well-done tuna steak is extremely dry and lacks a pleasant, flaky texture.
Can you eat a pink tuna steak?
Not only can you eat a pink tuna steak, but that’s the optimal color! A properly cooked tuna steak is pinkish at the center with a darker ring around the edges. According to FoodSaftey.Gov, tuna steaks are considered fully cooked and safe to eat when they register 145°f on an instant-read thermometer.
How to Sear Tuna Steaks
- Large, heavy skillet
- Fish spatula
- 2 tuna steaks
- 1 teaspoon salt to taste
- 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 tablespoon butter
- 1 teaspoon whole black peppercorns
- Pat the tuna steaks dry with paper towels and season on both sides with salt and cayenne pepper.
- Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat until shimmering. Add the butter and melt.
- Add the peppercorns and cook until they're fragrant and start to pop.
- Place the tuna steaks into the skillet and cook for 90 seconds per side for medium-rare. Immediatly remove from the skillet and serve hot.