This seared tuna recipe is seasonal, savory & sophisticated.
Many people are scared to make tuna at home but shouldn’t be. Tuna is deceivingly simple to make, and only takes minutes to produce a stunning meal. The hardest part is buying the ingredients.
Seared tuna steaks are easily cooked on a grill or very hot pan. In this recipe, tuna steaks are seared and then topped with a seasonal summer salad of tomatoes, basil, capers and scallions. It’s light, savory and a total show stopper.
Eating with the season
This recipe is made with ingredients that are in season at the same time that the tuna are running here in the northeast. When you cook with ingredients that are in season at the same time, the result is always a harmonious dish and this recipe is no exception. The crisp, acidic tomatoes and sweet basil are combined with briny capers and bring the tuna’s beautiful flavor to life.
How to Buy Tuna
Sourcing high quality, fresh tuna can be a challenge, especially for those who don’t live near the coast. It is readily available in the northeast in the summer months, which means I only get to cook it a few weeks out of the year. However, in the southern costal states, tuna is often accessible year round.
Look for seafood that is properly iced and refrigerated. It should have a firm texture and rich, red color. Ask how old it is before buying. It should be less than 3 days. Don’t buy tuna that is dull, matte or greyish-brown.
Types of Tuna
Big Eye Tuna is the best of the best. It’s very hard to come by, but if you get the opportunity to source it, don’t think twice. Next up, Yellowfin & Ahi, which are similar to one another and more readily available than Big Eye. All will melt in your mouth when cooked properly, which means a seared crust on the outside, and raw center.
Most tuna we see at the grocery stores, and even at sushi restaurants, is not very high grade, and more often than not, totally void of flavor. In fact, I rarely order tuna out unless I am at a very high-end sushi restaurant, which is not too often!
Beware that most supermarket seafood in general is very low quality and often farmed. Farmed seafood is full of antibiotics, bathed in chemicals before frozen, and the industry is ripe with questionable practices that are causing significantly damage to the ocean environment and ecosystem. Buyers should beware of the term “sustainable” because it’s a fluff word that is used to lure the consumer in and fool them into thinking they are buying something that is helping the ocean world, but in more cases than not, it refers to fish farms and they are doing significant damage to the waters, the fish stocks, and our bodies.
How to cook tuna steaks
Seared tuna steaks need hot, quick heat to scorch the exterior of the tuna while retaining a rare center once sliced into. This can be done on a very hot grill or in a heavy duty pan, such as cast iron.
I look for, or request, 1.5″ – 2″ center cuts of tuna. To achieve. Rare center, If it’s 1.5″ thick, I will sear for 1 min per side. If it’s 2″ thick, I cook it for 1.5 – 2 minutes per side. You need to use a little judgement and adjust based on your desired temp.
If you want to learn more about tuna, there is a cool website called “Planet Tuna” that is dedicated to the “world of tuna” which is rather fascinating. Sadly, tuna is very over fished, especially in Asia. We need to do our part to fish it responsibly and support local fisherman whenever possible.