Looking for a flavorful and healthy alternative to traditional beef steak? Try smoked tuna steak! It’s an excellent source of protein and omega-3 fatty acids.
Plus, when you smoke tuna, the smoky flavor helps balance out the inherent “fishiness” that turns off people not used to eating fish.
Keep reading to learn how to make the perfect smoked tuna steak.
How to Pick the Best Tuna Steak
Selecting quality tuna is vital. If you opt for low quality, it won’t taste good, regardless of your pitmaster abilities.
However, before gauging the tuna’s quality, you must know what type (species) to look for.
Types of Tuna
There are 4 types of tuna commercially available, and they differ in appearance and flavor.
- Albacore (white) tuna is typically sold canned or frozen and is often used for tuna salad sandwiches. It has a mild flavor, firm texture, and light-colored flesh.
- Yellowfin (ahi) tuna is usually sold fresh in grocery stores and used in sushi or seared as a steak. It has a mild flavor and a firm, meaty texture.
- Skipjack tuna is often used for canned tuna. It has a darker color and a stronger flavor than albacore tuna.
- Bluefin tuna is a highly prized and expensive tuna used in sushi. It has a rich, buttery flavor and a melt-in-your-mouth texture.
I recommend using Albacore or Yellowfin for smoked tuna steak because they’re milder.
What to Look for in Quality Tuna
Now that you know what type of tuna you need, let’s look at ways to tell if it’s good quality.
- Look for appearance: Choose tuna that has a bright color with a shiny and firm texture. Avoid any tuna that looks dull or discolored.
- Check the smell: Fresh tuna should have a clean and mild ocean scent. It’s probably not fresh if it smells fishy, sour or ammonia-like.
- Check the texture: Press the flesh with your fingers. If it’s firm and bouncy, it’s good. If it feels mushy or too soft, it’s likely not fresh.
- Consider the source: Choose tuna that’s sustainably and responsibly sourced. Look for labels or certifications from organizations like the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC).
- Buy from a reputable source: It’s always best to purchase tuna from a reputable grocery store. If you’re buying from an online service, ensure they’re trustworthy.
- Consider the cut: Steaks or fillets from the loin tend to be higher quality than those from the tail or belly.
What You Need
Here are the ingredients and equipment you’ll need.
- Tuna steak
- Cold water
- Brown sugar
- Lime juice (or another type of citrus)
- Plastic bag or large covered dish
- Wood chips
- Meat thermometer
How to Smoke Tuna Steaks
Now that you have your ingredients and supplies, let’s go over the steps to make this recipe.
1. Prepare the Brine
Dissolve the kosher salt and sugar in the water. Then, add the lime juice. You can also use lemon juice, orange juice, or pineapple juice. Any liquid that has acidity to balance out the rest of the brine can work.
2. Soak the Tuna in Brine
Pour the brine into a plastic bag or a covered pot or dish. Next, add the tuna steaks. Lastly, place the whole contraption in the fridge and let it soak for 1–3 hours.
Tuna steak absorbs flavors faster than most cuts of meat, so you don’t need to soak it overnight like you would for larger cuts of meat.
3. Prepare Your Smoker
While your tuna is brining, you can get your smoker ready. Make sure that you’re using mild wood chips such as fruit wood or pecan.
Intense wood such as mesquite creates a very aromatic smoke that will completely overwhelm the mild flavor of tuna.
Pro Tip: You don’t need to heat up the smoker significantly, only to about 200°F, as tuna cooks at low temperatures.
4. Rinse the Tuna Steaks and Place Them in Your Smoker
Rinse the tuna steaks after removing them from the brine. The soaking means the brine infused the interior of the steak. You don’t want crusts around the outside as that will make the fish way too salty.
Put the tuna steaks on the rack, making sure there’s enough room for the smoke to circulate.
5. Cook the Tuna Steaks to 140°F
Reaching an internal temperature of 140°F usually takes 60–90 minutes.
Be careful not to overcook the tuna as it dries out and loses all its flavor.
Heads Up! Once it’s done, it’s ready to serve. You don’t need to wait to allow the juices to settle like beef or other meats.
Tips and Tricks
Here are a few additional tips to help your tuna steaks turn out delicious.
- You can customize the brine or marinade depending on what you like. For example, for an Asian-inspired smoked tuna dish, swap the kosher salt for soy sauce and add ginger and other aromatics.
- To inject more flavor, set aside two spoonfuls of the marinade and add it once the tuna is done cooking.
- Make sure that you have a meat thermometer when you’re smoking anything, including tuna. That’s the only way to gauge if the interior is cooked. Plus, you won’t have to constantly open the smoker (where hot air escapes) to see if your food is cooked.
Frequently Asked Questions
Still have a few questions about smoked tuna steak? These popular questions may help.
Should I Brine Tuna Before Smoking?
You don’t need to brine tuna before smoking. The muscle fibres in tuna are looser than other meats, so you can get away without brining if you wish. However, brining will increase tenderness.
What Wood Is Best for Smoking Tuna?
Fruitwoods like apple, cherry, or alder are best for smoking tuna. They provide a mild, slightly sweet smoke that enhances the fish without overpowering its natural flavor.
How Long Does Smoked Tuna Last?
Smoked tuna can last for up to 3 to 4 days when properly stored in the refrigerator. However, it’s important to note that the quality and taste may start to deteriorate after the first day.
Is Smoked Tuna Good for You?
Tuna is generally healthy due to its lean protein, omega-3 fatty acids, and essential vitamins and minerals. However, moderate consumption is advised due to potential mercury content.
Try smoked tuna steak for a flavorful and simple dish that highlights the natural notes of tuna while adding a smoky depth. Perfect for seafood lovers or those looking to switch up their traditional meat of choice.