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Sep 8, 2006 11:30 PM

Partially "cooked" Fish ---- Safe? [moved from General Topics board]

It seems like every other menu and every cook book contains a form of "seared" tuna. You know, cooked half an inch or so around the outside and raw in the middle. This has always puzzled me as I was lead to believe that you should either eat something

2)cooked but cold;

but that halfway is the worst breeding ground for bacteria. If this is true, WHY do so many people endorse this method of preparing tuna and is it in fact safe?


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  1. One might ask the same question about a rare steak. Absence any widespread anecdotal evidence that people are constantly getting sick because of this, I wouldn't worry about it.

    In terms of the tuna, I like it totally raw, or seared, if it is cooked too much (i.e. all the way through) the taste and texture change to cardboard, in my opinion.

    1. the bacteria aren't going to be on the inside -- they are on the outside of the fish. If it is seared, or keep cold (raw), no problems should arise. (This is why some say that chopped meat/hamburgers shouldn't be rare, as they were all external, exposed, etc.)

      1. The main risk isn't bacteria but parasites, most of which are killed by freezing. Also, saltwater fish are less likely than freshwater fish to host parasites dangerous to humans. All in all, you're probably safe buying sushi-grade tuna from a reputable fishmonger.

        That said, I once heard a parasitologist claim that even thinking about sushi made him nauseous. Of course, he also told the interviewer he would eat lettuce only if it had been cleaned with a flamethrower.

        1 Reply
        1. re: carswell

          Is it just me, or does that just sound like the kind of profession that would turn one's life into an unending parade of misery?

          1. re: Robert Lauriston

            No offense, Robert, but these are hardly authoritative sources and pretty much rely upon anecdotal evidence.

            A few years ago, a bunch of folks did get parasites from eating fish in California. But none had eaten sushi. Turned out they got the infections from undercooked rockfish (Pacific snapper). At that time, some health official said that he knew of no case of anyone in California getting parasites from eating sushi because the types of parasites that infect most fish (a cold blooded ocean temperature critter) are not the ones that infect people (different types of flesh at different temperatures). One of the exceptions was the particular parasite that affected the rockfish consumers because it is primarily a seal/sea lion parasite that finds a temporary home in the rockfish waiting for them to be eaten by the seal or sea lion. Salmon may pose a similar risk because of its time in rivers.

            I have eaten raw fish now for over 20 years and have never been sick. Almost every time I get food from a Burger King (maybe 10 times in the last 10 years), I get a mild case of food poisoning. A number of years ago, Consumer Reports did a study on choloform levels in fast food and found alarming choloform levels at most restaurants mostly caused by parking cooked food under heat lamps or in other warm moist locations which are perfect bacteria breeding grounds.


            1. re: Phoo D

              I hail you, brother.

              People give me a hard time about my tendency to eat raw or less cooked things, but the reality is every time I eat fast food I feel pretty damned awful afterwards.

              A night of sushi offers no such ill effects.

              1. re: Phoo D

                I got wary about raw fish after talking with a well-trained, very experienced Japanese sushi chef about why he wouldn't serve certain fish unless they'd been frozen.

            2. Given the ridiculous lengths to which American health departments go to keep us safe from ourselves, if it were the least bit dangerous, they'd not allow it at all... but every fancy restaurant in the country serves some kind of seared tunny.

              I love it. I hate it when people cook it all the way through.

              2 Replies
              1. re: Das Ubergeek

                You are giving the government way too much credit. Americans are sold products containing all kinds of potentially unhealthful ingredients (for example, Olestra, the fake fat in Wow chips that can cause severe gastrointestinal distress) because the FDA is entirely politically and bows to powerful lobbys. And U.S. meat inspection - ouch! Makes me glad I gave up red meat.

                1. re: lvecch

                  Yes, the federal government are a bunch of buffoons -- but I'm talking about the local public health authorities, who tend to be MUCH more vigilant, and have much broader purview to ban potentially (in their theories) unsafe practises.