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Seared Tuna - Cooked Through?

  • jfood Mar 28, 2007 05:22 AM

Looking for opinions.

I understand that "seared" means quickly cooked with very high heat. But where does it say that seared means raw on the inside? The Jfoods have this discussion often and I am looking for help from my Chowhound buds. Mrs Jfood does not like rare fish but cooked through. When she she's sees seared fish on a menu she usually moves on. I tell her to order the fish if that is what she wants and ask for it "cooked through". On the occasions where she takes my advice the server always gives us a weird look, but always complies.

So here's the question. My opinion is that seared is a method and, although usually means rare/raw inside, it is the method, like grilled, not the doneness. So is it within reason to order seared tuna or salmon to medium doneness as one would order a steak medium rare or medium well?

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  1. If the fish is "seared" and finished off in the oven, Mrs. Jfood could order it however she likes it. I've always considered the searing as a way to seal and crisp up the outside of the meat or fish. The cooking part takes place in the oven. Just my take on it!

    1. As you know, seared means just what we all agree....cooked on a very hot surface to seal in all the jucies of the meat. A menu should describe the tuna as "seared rare"(as that is mostly the case)if that is the way it is being served. I think that by now most food people realize that seared tuna means served raw/pink in the center, even if the menu does not say that... A customer may order the meat/fish any way they prefer,,,including cooked all the way through

      1. If I ordered seared tuna and it came to me cooked through, I'd be pretty disappointed. That's how people who don't know how to cook fish cook it in my experience. But tuna is different than say salmon. Salmon should be finished in an oven generally where a thick tuna steak should be raw in the middle. This is just how I cook though I don't know what's "correct". So you shouldn't really have to specify the doneness on the salmon I guess but on the tuna she might, since she's basically asking to have it over cooked.

        2 Replies
        1. re: luniz

          Actually salmon is often served raw in the middle as well. I think both of these fish, esp tuna, is best this way. But that's just my opinion, she should feel free to ask for it cooked through.

          1. re: prunefeet

            Agree with prunefeet. I especially like my salmon more on the raw side.

        2. you are correct that searing is a method, but it's one with a rather specific definition. sear means to char/scorch the surface. it has no implication for anything below the surface (ie "doneness"). so, if it's listed as seared, i would assume that means charred on the outside, raw, maybe even cold, on the inside.

          that said, it's your money, order as you wish, weird looks be damned. just be aware that the meat is no longer simply seared; it will then be grilled, roasted, etc (whatever method the cook uses to finish it off) in addition to being seared.

          1. The reason that tuna loin is ususally served cooked to rare or med-rare is because there is so little fat in it that the more it is cooked, the drier it is. (BTW, searing it will not seal in any moisture, it just refers to browning it on the outside.) One of the chief reasons to eat tuna loin is for the texture of the uncooked (or only warmed through) muscle. Once you get to medium or medium well, the fish becomes dry and flaky. Oftentimes cooks (and servers) think it is sort of beside the point to order well-cooked tuna, as it loses that silky texture. Though any kitchen should honor your request. FWIW, it is difficult to cook a perfect medium or med-well tuna steak. Once the center starts getting hot, since there is no fat to buffer the heat conduction, it is easy for the fish to go all the way to well done.

            Salmon is a different story. It is much fattier, and perfectly acceptable to order cooked to medium or even meduim well. It does not dry out the way tuna does.

            1. Yes and no. Seared is a method, but one that allows two flavors and textures. Seared gives you a firm layer benefiting from the Maillard reaction on the outside; and a core that is warm, tender, and uncooked. The attraction is the contrast.

              If you like fish cooked through, however, you would need to ask for either another method (under the salamander) or two methods, e.g., seared and then finished in the oven. If you seared the fish and just kept going you would have a leather-crusted piece of ex-fish.

              By the way: it is a myth that searing seals in juices of fish and meats. You can test this. Take two equal (by weight and shape) pieces of meat; sear one and not the other; put both in the oven; weigh them again when they are done and come out. They will have lost the same amount of weight.

              4 Replies
              1. re: Sam Fujisaka

                SF

                I read that as well. I also read in ATK that washing mushrooms does NOT increase the water absorption. So you can wash aor wipe for the same results and given what they are grown in, Jfood is washing those puppies.

                1. re: jfood

                  jf, thanks for that. I had always suspected as much. Now, I'll have an answer to people's expressions of shock when I wash them.

                  1. re: Sam Fujisaka

                    Alton Brown tested that too, and the difference in weight before and after washing was negligible. I wash mushrooms because I don't have the patience to brush the damn things off one by one, so I was glad to learn that it was ok.

                    Ahem. Fish talk, yes. In the restaurant where I work, I usually will remark, "The seared tuna is normally served very rare; will that work for you?" That way it gives an opening if they prefer it all the way cooked, and if they have never ordered seared tuna then I don't get that scared/shocked look if it isn't what they expected.

                  2. re: jfood

                    It is supposed to be "sterile" crap! You don't believe or trust them??

                2. I'd say, to be sure not to be dissapointed, give full instructions as you might with ordering a steak:
                  "Seared and crusty on the outside, cooked to medium well inside". That way the server gets full instructions and can relay that to the chef.

                  1. Searing creates a browned, caramelized surface, and that's all. It affects the appearance and flavour of the food but, as Sam Fujisaka notes, it doesn't seal its surface or preserve any juices. (You need an intact coating to actually seal a food. Fried chicken steams in its own juices inside the seal created by the crust.)

                    The interior of a seared food can be raw, rare, or cooked through to any degree of doneness you want. Restaurants typically finish cooking seared food in a hot oven, since "searing until cooked through" will dry out many foods. Restaurants often sear a thick steak on the grill and finish it in the oven rather than grilling it beyond rare.

                    It's very easy to sear salmon, which can be quite fatty, and then cook it through to medium or even well done.

                    If you cook tuna beyond rare, it tends to become dry and mealy, and off-putting to many people. Nevertheless, there is no reason why seared tuna can't be cooked in the oven until medium or well done, if that's how Mrs Jfood likes it. But unless the restaurant soaks the tuna in olive oil for, perhaps, half an hour before cooking, chances are it won't taste very good. This is outside the routines used by most kitchens. Searing tuna until medium or well done is a risky culinary procedure.

                    1. Making Blackened Tuna for the first time quite awhile back, I got it done. Real done.
                      I flaked it and made tuna salad. Much better than the stuff I grew up with out of the can.
                      I will still do it when in the mood for a sandwich.

                      1 Reply
                      1. re: Bobfrmia

                        I loved my tuna seared and served raw too, but what temperature is the middle? Is is warm or cold?

                      2. jfood

                        In the UK, "seared" is pretty much a dual purpose description. It's the process but also an indication that you are going to get it raw on the insde. I am with Mrs Jfood on this - and I suspect some of our sniffy chefs would get very sniffy if they were asked to cook it through. As such, I don't order it when this is the description.

                        It was a pleasure to eat "properly" cooked tuna in your country last September.

                        1. Although I do expect seared tuna to be rarish on the inside, I have noticed that numerous foods have been described as "pan seared" when these particular items, including meat, fish and fowl are served as restaurant specials. To be clear, these are terms used by servers to describe the specials as the written menu does not usually refer to cooking methods. My perception is that there is some, to me, unknown cache in using the term "pan seared;" I hope this confusing trend is almost over.

                          1 Reply
                          1. re: Sinicle

                            I think "pan seared" is used to avoid using the F word (fried). But as others have said, it just refers to the cooking of the outside at high heat on a flat surface, doesn't actually indicate degree of doneness of the interior.

                          2. I'm not an expert, but I would say that Seared implies the quick cooking, just on the outside. I mean, a grill or a pan is really hot, so what would the difference be in searing or just cooking if you're leaving it until it's cooked all the way?
                            If it were a piece of steak that's seared so it has a crust, I don't think seared would be an appropriate term. Of course, this is just my opinion.
                            Where I work we serve our Ahi seared and rare inside, the salmon is also automatically served rare (and gets sent back pretty frequently to be cooked more through.) You can definitely order any fish cooked through, just tell them you want it well done and they'll know what to do. But, like others have said, don't complain if it's dry.

                            1. I think you're mixing definitions with conventions. Whatever "sear" can mean in other food contexts, on menus "seared XXXX" all but invariably means "pretty much raw in the middle, the size of the middle varying." I think you have to pay attention since some dishes just don't really work "over"-cooked, but if you like it, by all means. But this is the sort of weird look I smile and shrug at - it's understandable enough IMO.

                              1. Methinks this horse has been beaten to a dry, tasteless pulp.
                                I will add that many times I have been told by the waitstaff, " you will get it rare, unless you specify otherwise!". I guess I look like a dullard that needs the information....
                                If I don't get any information like this, and if I have any doubts of the competence of the kitchen, I may make a request or verify that it will be rare. I think anyone wanting it cooked otherwise should know to speak up immediately.
                                They could also pour something over it and tent it with foil, etc. I think any caring professional would not respond by saying, "they get what they deserve!". I say that, but I hate it when someone wants their steak or fish well done! But, I'm not a professional chef...