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Jan 7, 2003 09:31 PM

How come my tuna fish never tastes as good as sandwich shops?

  • f

I feel a bit silly asking but it's true; when I make tuna fish sandwiches, they just aren't as tasty. I usually buy Bumble Bee tuna in veg. oil. I drain most of the oil, mash the tuna and add a little mayo and chopped celery. It still tastes a little fishy and doesn't have a 'clean' non-tinny taste like in delis or diners.

I'm sure sandwich shoppes use the cheapest tuna. What am I doing wrong? Is there another brand I should buy?

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  1. d

    Try buying tuna packed in water, be sure to press all the water out of it, then mix with your ingredients, that's assuming you are looking for standard tuna sandwich mix fare.

    35 Replies
    1. re: DodinBouffant
      JK Grence (the Cosmic Jester)

      Better still, dump the contents into a colander and break it up with your fingers into little bits- drains WAY better than squooshing the water out then breaking it up with a fork. Also, the tuna you use is quite significant- go for solid white albacore tuna. Once you try out a solid white albacore tuna salad, everything else is cat food. My favorite is Trader Joe's, but Starkist is good too (and much more expensive unless you get it at Costco).

      For seasoning the tuna salad, be sure to mix in some lemon juice, salt, and pepper before adding the mayo. For that matter, *any* ingredients you want to add should go in before the mayo. That way, you'll season the tuna instead of letting the mayonnaise absorb everything and cover up the mix of flavors.

      1. re: JK Grence (the Cosmic Jester)

        My husband is a tunaholic. He would only use TJ's until we tried Kirkland. Likes it better. Solid albacore in water.

        1. re: rccola

          +1 for Kirkland. One of the things Costco gets absolutely right.

          Holy whatever!!!! Do you realize how old this topic is???? 2003!!!!!!!!!!!!!

          1. re: Midlife

            Came up somewhere as newish so someone was posting. See below for posts to original poster. Proves tuna is eternally dear to some people's hearts.

            1. re: Midlife

              Old or new, gotta give a +1 for the Kirkland albacore in water. It rocks!

              1. re: Midlife

                We used to like the Kirkland brand but like so many other Kirkland products it's really gone down in quality over the last year. Costco is now carrying "wild Planet" tuna. It's troll/line caught and it's pretty fantastic although it is more $$$. The yield is far better than you might think looking at the cans.

                1. re: TraderJoe

                  Funny. I haven't noticed any change in the product. Also haven't seen Wild Planet either. Darned regional buying!!!!

                  1. re: Midlife

                    I'm in LA and I haven't noticed a change in the Kirkland brand either. Still love the quality better than any of the supermarket brands.

                    1. re: Midlife

                      The last few sleeves of the Kirkland I've bought have been fishy mush. Big change but it could just be the lot I bought from. Glad others aren't seeing the same change!

                      1. re: TraderJoe

                        That happened for a little while and then stopped. Richmond CA store.

                        1. re: TraderJoe

                          I'm going to open our newest sleeve and make some now.
                          you've got my interest up.

                      2. re: TraderJoe

                        Wild Planet is so excellent. I like really white, non fishy tuna and this is what I buy now. It's a bit expensive so I try to wait until it's on sale in the coupon book and then buy up.

                        I give the cats the small amt of juice that's there and they give it ***.

                        1. re: TraderJoe

                          I need to get a Costco Membership and purchase a case of Tuna.

                        2. re: Midlife

                          This thread is very old but interesting.It gave me a good idea to use when preparing tuna mix.

                        3. re: rccola

                          PLUS ... the Kirkland can is larger than its competitors.

                          1. re: rccola

                            I found Genova Tonno (solid light tuna packed in olive oil) at Costco in Warminster, Pa. $8/4 cans. I pour off about 1/2 the oil, add mayo, some Italian spice and red pepper flakes. It's terrific!!

                            1. re: bucksguy14

                              Karns in Boiling Springs, PA has it 1.89 per can regular price.

                              1. re: melpy

                                Kirkland has bad chemical in their tuna, thrilled that costco is now carrying wild planet, there is absolutely no comparison to their tuna--low mercury and no tin taste--have tried every brand, the tongol that tj's used to carry was ok, but they don't have it anymore, and their albacore can vary from can to can, 1/2 the time it's covered in brown, or has the irridescent pink sheen on it that indicates it wasn't fresh when canned----the wild planet is great when you want to heat it up as well and not just for a salad.

                                Another important thing that might attract people to deli tuna is that it is so pureed no chunks at all, very smooth going on--whole foods used to have good tuna but it changed to me, the best commercial tuna I've had has been from a place in miami called Miami Juice and another nearby spot, called Epicure market..

                                Oh also, noone mentioned this, but I was taught as a kid in the south, to always add a bit of white vinegar to tuna--so, I used to use white vinegar but I switched to rice wine vinegar few years ago--sometimes red wine vinegar can be used too--but just a little bit--jewish people in the south always used miracle whip in their tuna and non jews used hellmans---I used the hains organic which is the same as tj's about--the organic mayo--

                                1. re: janie

                                  I prefer lemon juice to vinegar, myself.

                                  1. re: janie

                                    All true, self-respecting Southerners, Jews and Gentiles alike, use Duke's mayo.

                                    1. re: carolinadawg

                                      Someone brought tuna salad at work (for sandwich day), and everyone went NUTS.... She used Duke's... that's the only thing she did differently than anyone else. It was awesome. Just the mayo, pickle relish, and Duke's.

                                      1. re: luvcubs

                                        can't go wrong with duke's! and it is ironic that the cooks illustrated recipe adds sugar, and here, duke's has NO sugar, if i recall correctly). edit: yes, no sugar:

                                        1. re: luvcubs


                                          love's good stuff

                                    2. re: bucksguy14

                                      It tastes pretty good !

                                      That is actually an American product, canned in San Diego, and made by Chicken of the Sea. Not from Italy or the EU, and can't be shipped or sold there, as described.

                                      You have a very good price for it too.

                                    3. re: rccola

                                      I love Albacore Tuna.Next time I am going to season the Tuna with salt pepper and lemon juice before adding the mayo.

                                      1. re: Smiley881

                                        Ya like a little salt with your salt, do ya? ;-)

                                        1. re: coll

                                          Sometimes Tuna needs a helping hand.

                                          1. re: Smiley881

                                            Yes it does, but salt is the last thing that would occur to me. Lots of pepper, a hint of lemon juice and mayo, some chopped celery (which is very salty too) does it for me. But who's to say what others might like?

                                        2. re: Smiley881

                                          I find lemon juice is the key to getting rid of the fishy raste

                                          1. re: Smiley881

                                            I am also trying this. Never heard this method before. So now I am curious.

                                        3. re: JK Grence (the Cosmic Jester)

                                          agree. rinsing helps draining through colander and getting all 'whatever' removed. the spices or seasonings can and will make a difference. probably order added does matter but seriously doubt that a sandwich shop bothers with any of that. I can't see one going through that much work. think it'd be more like take it outta the can, mix with s&p add mayo then doctor up for sandwich sake with lettuce&tomato if that.

                                          1. re: iL Divo

                                            I had a customer that would stand there for a LONG time squishing the tuna that way, removing every last drop. I used to joke with him that he should collect the juices and bottle it as a cat treat.

                                            Most delis in our area prefer tongul tuna. Around this time of year it becomes hard to get for a month or so and they would stock up in advance so not to run out!

                                            1. re: coll

                                              "I used to joke with him that he should collect the juices and bottle it as a cat treat"
                                              used to do exactly that for all of our many cats over the years. never a complaint, made sense to me.

                                              made a batch of tuna using the Kirkland white albacore last week for my man. added panko just to see what it'd really do as directed somewhere on this thread. he said it was great, I had a teaspoon of it and didn't notice the panko. guess that means success (or not) not sure, but it did lick up any residual liquid. it is possible we just love tuna sandwiches.

                                      2. I use tuna in water as well. I also mix some fresh lemon juice with my mayo, salt and pepper. It gives it a good kick and no fishy flavor.

                                        10 Replies
                                        1. re: johanna

                                          Hey!I just added a little Lemon juice to my Tuna mixture and boy did it make a big difference.This is the best idea.I am going to supprise my mom the next time I make Tuna.

                                          1. re: Smiley881

                                            Your comment on the lemon juice got my taste buds going. I posted the "general outline" of Mama's tuna fish sandwich recipe elsewhere on the thread, but here's the whole recipe, lemon juice and all:
                                            From childhood...Mom's version of the Tuna Salad Sandwich. I tried to re-create her creation a few years back, and with some modifications came close to Mom's classic. For your consideration:
                                            Prepare a jar of Onion Mayo in advance: 1 envelope of Onion Soup mix, mixed well into an entire 32 oz jar of regular mayonnaise. Store it in the fridge for this recipe and many other uses. As its own sandwich spread, it’s pretty good.
                                            For the tuna salad mix: 1 can tuna, drained,
                                            1/4 Cup onion-mayo mix (per above)
                                            1 carrot, grated in thin peelings, peelings cut to about 1/4" long
                                            1 celery stalk, chopped
                                            1 capful lemon juice
                                            1 teaspoon sweet relish
                                            Sprinkling of Splenda (Mom may have used a little sugar, "back in the day.")
                                            Mix it up well, spoon it onto your favorite bread or toast, and IMHO---> childhood taste bud heaven.
                                            Memories include this concoction soaking through the bread and the wax paper by lunchtime at the Elementary School (and we didn't worry about refrigeration, I don' t think. Glad we are more aware and concerned about that these days.) In keeping with the theme of the thread- I'd put this up against any deli tuna sandwich, any day! Enjoy!

                                            1. re: Florida Hound

                                              great story Florida Hound.
                                              great visual
                                              great recipe
                                              love the idea (I think ?) of the onion mayo
                                              but for me to possibly ruin an entire quart of mayo if I hate it gives me pause :;-/
                                              since I'm one of those who cherishes mayo :)

                                              1. re: iL Divo

                                                Oh no, iL Divo- before you know it, you'll find all sorts of things that go great with onion mayo- as a sandwich or sub spread, its good! Cracker dip? chip dip? And then, it'll be time to make some more tunafish sandwiches, anyway. We usually have a regular jar of mayo and an onion jar of mayo going and neither one ever goes to waste. Just another handy condiment.

                                                1. re: Florida Hound

                                                  you know Florida Hound, some times it just good to admit the truth. I once bought a case of Hellman's quart sized jars because on shelf the price was waaaay wrong so I got a clerk and said I'll take a case.
                                                  I really love mayo and I just bought a 1/2 gallon Best Foods at Costco and then bought also a gallon sized jar of their brand for comparison. hum, I guess I can afford to use a small scant quart just for the experiment.
                                                  and we do love our condiments

                                                  1. re: iL Divo

                                                    What is the best Mayo for Tuna?I just bought some Best foods Mayo with Olive Oil today.I have been dying to taste that stuff.

                                                    1. re: Smiley881

                                                      The primary ingredient in that product is water and there's more soybean oil than olive oil. Not a great mayo.

                                                      1. re: ferret

                                                        Is there more Soybean Oil than Olive oil in the YelloFin Tuna that comes from TJ.I just bought some YellowFin Tuna from TJ this past monday.I also picked up some smoked Trout in a can like Sardines along with some Herring.Both the Trout and Herring fillets are packed in Canola Oil.I had doubts about the Canola oil but still grabbed these products.

                                                  2. re: Florida Hound

                                                    i have no doubt about that. just saw a cook's illustrated "better grilled cheese" episode that incorporated shallots (or onions?) into the food-processor processed cheese/wine combo used as the filling.

                                              2. re: Smiley881

                                                ok, I'll toss it into the mix as well today when I whip my batch up
                                                have lemons in freezer I can use, heck, may even toss a tiny bit of zest in

                                            2. i know many delis add bread crumbs to the recipe.

                                              2 Replies
                                              1. re: kenny candy

                                                I used to work in a deli and would blend in cubes of white bread as a filler. Although it's the cheaper way to go, it always tasted great. They did start w/ high quality tuna though. Also, lots of black pepper and NO salt, ever. I'm not a fan of a lot stuff in my tuna salad so the olive/carrot/pepper combos don't do it for me.

                                                1. re: kenny candy

                                                  the deli i worked in during high school added matzoh meal. a mix of sour cream and mayo and don't remember the rest but they all said that's what made the tuna so good.

                                                2. a
                                                  AGM/Cape Cod

                                                  I always wonder about deli shop tunafish. It is totally white. I mix chopped sweet red pepper, onion, black olives and cornichons with shredded carrots and the tuna, then lemon juice and mayo. Colorful and tasty.

                                                  4 Replies
                                                  1. re: AGM/Cape Cod

                                                    I'm so happy to find someone else who puts this much stuff in their tuna! I grate in carrots and celery, mince kosher pickles and dill, grind in green pepper, then add yogurt and mayo in equal quantities. It's more like a salad, but it tastes fantastic.

                                                    1. re: Kaetchen

                                                      Try adding cubed granny smith apples too. YUM crispness.


                                                      1. re: THM

                                                        OK here it is the recipe for TUNA LISA

                                                        white Tuna packed in water
                                                        FInely diced celery,
                                                        finely diced red onion
                                                        Small dice of granny smith apples
                                                        s & P
                                                        optional; Add chopped walnuts

                                                        tastes best on Eli's Multigrain Bread which is available around NYC and also in COSTCO believe it or not!

                                                        another recipe that is very good is

                                                        tuna in oil
                                                        spiral pasta
                                                        extra parmesan

                                                        mix well - yum

                                                      2. re: Kaetchen

                                                        I'm 10 years too late to charge Kaetchen with stealing my mother's recipe! The statute of limitations has kicked in, I am sure. But these many years later, its interesting to know Mom wasn't the only one who doctored the family's tuna sandwiches like this.

                                                    2. It could be the brand of mayo. I worked in a place that exclusively used Erewhon's mayo for tuna and they got compliments and questions all the time. Also, I think deli tuna is starchy and tasteless, but you might be lucky with your delis. In general, I don't think they use cheap tuna, but they add a lot more fillers.