When it comes to delicious food, few dishes captivate my taste buds like a perfectly seared tuna steak. Today, I’m sharing my go-to tuna steak recipe, a dish that never fails to impress and satisfy.
Frying an exceptional seared tuna steak right in your kitchen is pretty darn easy.
Benefits of Seared Tuna Steak
- Rich in Protein: Fresh tuna steaks are a fantastic source of high-quality protein, making them an ideal choice for those looking to maintain or build muscle. Protein is essential for tissue repair, immune function, and overall body strength.
- Abundant Omega-3 Fatty Acids: Tuna steaks are packed with omega-3 fatty acids, which are renowned for their heart-healthy properties. These healthy fats can help lower inflammation, reduce the risk of cardiovascular issues, and support brain health.
- Vitamins and Minerals: Tuna steaks are a nutrient powerhouse, providing essential vitamins like B-complex vitamins (B6, B12, niacin), as well as minerals like selenium, which acts as an antioxidant and supports thyroid function. These nutrients play vital roles in energy production and maintaining overall well-being.
Choosing the Perfect Tuna Steak
Choosing the perfect tuna steak involves a keen eye and attention to detail. Here are some guidelines to help you make the best selection:
- Color and Appearance: Opt for tuna steaks that have a vibrant, deep red color. Avoid any brown or dull spots, as they can indicate oxidation or aging. The flesh should be firm and moist, without any visible signs of drying out.
- Texture: Gently press the tuna steak with your finger. It should bounce back and feel firm, indicating freshness. Avoid steaks that feel too soft or mushy, as this might be a sign of deterioration.
- Smell: Fresh tuna should have a clean, oceanic smell. Avoid tuna with strong, ammonia-like odors, as this can indicate spoilage.
- Thickness: Opt for tuna steaks that are of uniform thickness. This ensures even cooking and prevents parts of the steak from overcooking while others remain undercooked. The thickness for searing should be at least 1 1/4″ to 2″ thick.
- Frozen Options: If fresh tuna isn’t available, frozen tuna steaks can be a great alternative. Look for vacuum-sealed packages with no ice crystals or freezer burn. Thaw them properly in the refrigerator before use.
- Ask Questions: Don’t hesitate to ask questions about the tuna’s source, catch date, and handling procedures. Knowledgeable fishmongers can guide you to the best choices.
Remember, the fresher the tuna, the better the flavor and texture of your seared tuna steak. Taking the time to select high-quality tuna will be well worth it.
Varieties of Tuna
There are several different types of tuna, each offering its own unique characteristics in terms of flavor, texture, and best culinary uses. Here are the most common types of tuna available in stores in the U.S.:
- Yellowfin Tuna (Thunnus albacares): Known for its mild flavor and slightly pinkish flesh, yellowfin tuna is a popular choice for dishes like sushi, sashimi, and seared tuna steaks. It has a firm texture that holds up well to cooking methods that require a quick sear.
- Bigeye Tuna (Thunnus obesus): Bigeye tuna has a similar appearance to yellowfin tuna but with a slightly darker color. It boasts a rich flavor and higher fat content, making it ideal for dishes like poke bowls and sashimi.
- Bluefin Tuna (Thunnus thynnus): Bluefin tuna is often considered the king of tunas due to its remarkable taste and texture. It comes in several subtypes, including the prized “otoro” and “chutoro” cuts, which are highly sought after in sushi restaurants for their intense marbling and melt-in-the-mouth quality. It is the best sushi-grade raw tuna.
- Skipjack Tuna (Katsuwonus pelamis): Skipjack tuna is commonly used in canned tuna products due to its affordability and availability. It has a strong flavor and is often used in cooked dishes, such as casseroles, sandwiches, and salads.
- Albacore Tuna (Thunnus alalunga): Albacore tuna, also known as “white tuna,” is another popular choice for canned tuna products. It has a milder flavor compared to skipjack tuna and a firm texture that makes it suitable for grilling and searing
Yellowfin and Bigeye are the common varieties of tuna referred to as Ahi Tuna. This is the tuna that local grocery stores carry.
Bluefin Tuna is a premium variety of fish that demands a very high price. To get bluefin in Minnesota where I am, you would probably have to order it online. Even our best seafood suppliers make no mention of it in their online ordering.
What is Sushi Grade Tuna?
Sushi-grade tuna refers to a specific quality standard of tuna that is safe and suitable for raw consumption, typically used in dishes like sushi, sashimi, and poke bowls. This grade of tuna meets stringent criteria set by regulatory bodies and industry guidelines to ensure it is of the highest quality, both in terms of freshness and flavor.
To be considered sushi-grade, the tuna must undergo rigorous handling, processing, and inspection procedures. It is typically caught using methods that minimize stress on the fish and ensure it is handled with care from the moment it’s caught. The fish is then rapidly chilled to a very low temperature, often below freezing, to prevent the growth of harmful microorganisms and parasites that can affect its safety for raw consumption.
In addition to proper handling, the appearance and texture of the tuna are crucial factors in determining its sushi-grade status. The flesh of sushi-grade tuna should exhibit vibrant color, usually deep red to pink, and have a firm texture. The fat content, particularly the marbling, plays a role in the flavor and mouthfeel of the tuna and is also considered when assessing its quality.
In essence, sushi-grade tuna is a top-tier quality tuna that has been carefully handled, processed, and inspected to ensure it is safe and delectable for raw consumption, making it the ideal choice for dishes where the tuna is served raw or lightly seared.
I have asked at stores where I buy tuna if there’s is sushi grade and have always been told yes. Go by the quality standards of Choosing the Perfect Tuna Steak, (above), and you will be okay.
Preparing the Tuna Steak
Getting your fresh tuna ready to sear is really easy. What I do first, is take the tuna out of the refrigerator about one hour prior to cooking.
This will allow the tuna to warm up a bit so the rare center is not cold after searing.
Place your tuna on a plate and pat it dry with a paper towel. Then drizzle on about a teaspoon of soy sauce and toasted sesame oil. Rub the liquids on both sides and ends so the seasonings will stick.
The simple ingredients I use are:
- Black sesame seeds
- White sesame seeds
- Italian seasoning
- Granulated garlic
- Kosher salt
- Fresh ground black pepper
Combine all these ingredients in a small bowl. Sprinkle the seasonings onto the raw tuna and press the seeds so they stick well. Coat all sides of the tuna steak.
A Guide to Perfectly Seared Tuna Steak
The secret to perfectly seared tuna is using a smoking hot cast iron skillet. A heavy stainless steel skillet would work too.
You need to use a high smoke point oil for this. Peanut oil, avocado oil, or refined safflower oil are the best.
Canola oil and sesame oil are good too. They have a smoke point around 410°F and this is what I used. Olive oil should not be used as it has a low smoking point.
The oil will smoke when you sear your tuna, but it will only take 4 or 5 minutes of cooking time. If you have a vent fan you will definitely want to have that on.
Add the oil to your skillet and bring the oil to smoking temperature. It will help if you have a laser thermometer to see how hot the skillet is getting.
Carefully place the tuna into the pan and sear the first side for 50 to 60 seconds.
Use a metal spatula and tongs to turn the steak to the other side and sear for 50 to 60 seconds. The sesame seeds should start to brown.
Use tongs to hold the tuna to sear the edges. Sear for about 30 seconds and keep turning to sear all the edges. The whole cooking process will only take 4 to 5 minutes.
Let The Tuna Steak Rest
Place the finished tuna steak on a plate or cutting board and tent it with foil. Keep the foil on for 3 to 5 minutes and the interior of the tuna will keep warming.
To slice the tuna, you need a sharp knife to avoid tearing the meat. The tuna will be quite delicate. If your knife can slice a piece of paper you should be good to go.
I used a filet knife which I rarely use, but keep it honed and as sharp as possible.
Best Side Dishes For Seared Ahi Tuna Steak
Asian-inspired side dishes are perfect with this tuna steak recipe. Simple white rice with green onions and a bit of soy sauce and sesame oil is delicious with it.
A salad of greens with an Asian-flavored vinaigrette would be nice.
My recipe for Pan Braised Baby Potatoes would be excellent.
Stir-fried vegetables with teriyaki sauce.
Oven-browned broccoli, cauliflower, green beans, or asparagus.
And don’t forget a tasty dipping sauce like wasabi or horseradish sauce. And you may like a drizzle of fresh lemon juice or lime juice.
This delicious ahi tuna steak recipe will leave you with tender, flavorful, perfectly seared tuna.
The best part about ahi tuna is that you will have a healthy dinner withlow carbs and lots of protein.
Additional Serving Suggestions
Here are some serving suggestions to elevate your seared tuna steak experience:
- Asian-inspired Delight: Serve your seared tuna steak on a bed of sesame-infused stir-fried vegetables, such as bok choy, bell peppers, and snap peas. Drizzle with a zesty soy-ginger sauce for an irresistible fusion of flavors.
- Mediterranean Feast: Create a Mediterranean-inspired platter by pairing your tuna steak with a vibrant tomato and cucumber salad, sprinkled with feta cheese and fresh basil. Accompany it with a side of lemony couscous for a light and refreshing meal. Common spices and herbs used in the Mediterranean include basil, bay leaf, black pepper, cloves, coriander, cumin, dill, fennel, garlic, lavender, marjoram, mint, oregano, parsley, paprika, rosemary, saﬀron, sage, savory, sumac, tarragon, thyme, and turmeric.
- Tropical Breezes: Embrace tropical vibes by placing your seared tuna steak over a bed of coconut-infused jasmine rice. Top with a pineapple salsa featuring diced pineapple, red onion, cilantro, and a touch of lime juice for a burst of sweet and tangy flavors. Or, try my Mango Salsa Recipe.
- Classic Elegance: Skip the Asian flavors of this seared tuna steak recipe and go American. Keep it classy with a simple yet sophisticated presentation. Serve your seared tuna steak alongside roasted fingerling potatoes and sautéed spinach. Drizzle with a balsamic reduction for a touch of elegance. Seasonings on the tuna should be simple. Salt and pepper and Old Bay or a mild Cajun seasoning.
Feel free to mix and match these ideas, or get creative with your own combinations to suit your preferences and showcase the versatile nature of seared tuna steak.
Is it safe to eat raw tuna?
Sushi-grade or sashimi-grade tuna is safe to eat raw. Generally, any tuna that has been flash-frozen is safe to eat. Tuna should have a slightly meaty smell. If it smells fishy it has gone bad and should not be eaten.
What does it mean to sear meat?
To sear means to burn the surface using high heat quickly.
What is the best oil for searing meat?
It is best to use refined oil which has a higher smoke point. Canola oil is very good along with peanut, sunflower, and safflower oils. Don’t use olive oil. It has too low of a smoke point.
Can I use frozen tuna steaks for searing?
Yes, you can use frozen tuna steaks for searing. Thaw them gently in the refrigerator to preserve their texture. Pat them dry before cooking to prevent excess moisture during searing. Keep in mind that frozen tuna might have a slightly different texture compared to fresh, but it can still be delicious when properly prepared.
Now your seared tuna steak is ready to be savored. This tuna steak recipe brings the charm of a fancy restaurant right to your own kitchen. The nutty flavor of sesame oil, the umami from the soy sauce, and the perfect sear make for a healthy, easy meal.
Here Are Some More Tasty Recipes To Try:
- Cheesy tuna noodle casserole
- Cold tuna salad for hot summer nights
- Cheesy hot tuna sandwiches
- Lunchtime healthy tuna salad
- Grilled steak kabobs
Seared Tuna Steak Recipe (How to Sear Ahi Tuna)
- 1 12 to 14 oz. ahi tuna steak
- 4 tsp. canola oil, divided
- 2 tsp. toasted sesame oil, divided
- 1 tsp. soy sauce
- 1.5 tbsp. black sesame seeds
- 1.5 tbsp. white sesame seeds
- 1 tsp. kosher salt
- 1 tsp. ground black pepper
- 1 tsp. granulated garlic
- 1 tsp. Italian seasoning
- Take your tuna steak out of the refrigerator , unwrap it and place it on a plate at least one hour prior to cooking. This will allow it come close to room temperature.
- Pat the fish with paper towels to dry. Then use 1 teaspoon each of soy sauce and toasted sesame oil and coat the entire tuna steak.
- Mix the seeds, salt, pepper, granulated garlic, and Italian seasoning together in a small bowl. Sprinkle the seasoning mixture onto the tuna and coat both sides and all the edges. Press in the seeds to adhere well.
- Using a cast iron or heavy stainless skillet add 1 tablespoon canola oil and 1 teaspoon sesame oil and bring the oil to smoking temperature. Turn on your vent fan if you have one. Carefully place the tuna into the skillet and sear for 50 to 60 seconds.
- Then use a metal turner and tongs to gently flip the steak to the other side. Sear for 50 to 60 seconds. Then use a pair of tongs to hold the steak vertically to sear the edges. Sear all edges about 30 seconds.
- Place the finished steak on a plate or cutting board and tent it with foil for 3 to 5 minutes. The rare center will continue to heat up by doing this. Then to serve, use a very sharp knife to slice the tuna.Serve warm or at room temperature.
- You can use different seasonings for your tuna. Rather than using Italian seasoning, dried tarragon would be good too.
This recipe post was originally released on February 20, 2022, and has been updated.