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Jul 30, 2008 11:44 AM

Best Canned Tuna - July 2008

Hi All,

I am interested in thoughts on the best canned tuna available - there was a thread posted but it's about a year old so I thought I would see if there is something new/different (old thread =


Basically I would be interested in hearing about your favorite brands, where you buy, what the tuna is packed in, and any other info.

Thanks for the tips!

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  1. I go through tuna phases on and off. What's best really depends on what you're going to use it for and why you're eating canned tuna in the first place.

    Tuna packed in olive oil is tasty, but then, what isn't tasty packed in olive oil? Generally when I eat canned tuna I'm in calorie-watching mode, which means no oil-packed tuna. Even though albacore tuna is considered the highest quality, I find it dry and flavorless, so I generally buy yellow fin or skip jack, which is much more flavorful on its own. I like the fillets, rather then the "chunk" and I don't want to spend as much money on canned tuna as I would on fresh. Therefore, taking all those considerations into account, my tuna of choice at the moment is:

    Tonnino yellowfin tuna fillets with lemon in spring water.

    It's not insanely expensive, either, although the price has gone up considerably in the two years I've been buying it. I just looked at their site and they show it in glass jars, but I've always bought it in those pull-tab tins more often associated with sardines.

    12 Replies
    1. re: Ruth Lafler

      Alton just did a show on tuna and leans towards the pouches as they aren't cooked as much in the canning process. He did like the canned ventrescas for dishes where the tuna was the true star of the show.

      1. re: Scrapironchef

        We did a tuna tasting a few years back, and the pouched tuna came in dead last, with comments like "cottony" and "worse than catfood."

        1. re: Ruth Lafler

          Anything more recent? I've tried a few in the last couple of weeks and found them quite good.

          1. re: Scrapironchef

            Maybe there are some good brands -- I think ours was just StarKist. What brands have you tried that you liked?

            1. re: Scrapironchef

              I think CI just did a compare and liked the pouched stuff as fresher tasting.

              1. re: coney with everything

                I often find that my taste differs widely from that of an "expert" tasting panel. In my experience tasting panels -- especially CI, which in admittedly limited samples I've found to be blandly mainstream -- skew toward the one that no one on the panel objects to, rather than the ones that individual panel members think are best. In this case, "fresher" might just be another way of saying "not strong tasting."

          2. re: Scrapironchef

            Pouch tuna gets the same thermal process the cans do....

            1. re: Pollo

              Both cans and pouches are indeed put into the retort cooker, a steam pressure cooker. But, the pouches get far less time in there.

              Clip from Starkist spokesperson:
              ...“most important advantage is that the product in the pouch is of a higher quality and better tasting [than tuna in the can] because of the process. With the [flat] pouch, we only have to retort it for 45 minutes, versus four hours in a can, to kill off bacteria.”

              From this ref:


              1. re: FoodFuser

                Both products in cans or in pouches are cooked to the same lethality (Fo). The difference in length of cooks is due to the container geometry. In the end it makes minimal or no difference to texture/flavor since all the canned/pouched tuna that is on the market right now is fully cooked before it is portioned, put in the containers and retorted.

                1. re: Pollo

                  I hope you'll tell us more, and even provide links, about the cooking processes, especially in the "less cooked" varieties that are more expensive. Could it be the pre-cooking, and not just the tuna species, that is more important?

                  What is "lethality (Fo)"?

                  1. re: FoodFuser

                    All commercially packed tuna is pre-cooked before cleaning/portioning/packing/retorting and cooked to more or less the same Fo value. Fo is the equivalent cumulative time coldest spot of the container (and product - tuna) is at 250 deg. F.

                2. re: FoodFuser

                  Like I said before: cook times depend on container geometry so a 1 lb can will be cooked longer in order for the center of the container to achieve the required lethality and the product next to the can surface will be over cooked. The same amount of product (1 lb) in a pouch will take less cook time simply because it is flat and the distance heat has to travel to the coldest portion of the product is much shorter. Tuna beeing packed in pouches is not of any "higher" quality that the stuff beeing packed in cans....that's pure marketing. Also, when retorting the product you are not targeting to kill bacteria but spores.

          3. I'll stick with my previous response: Pastene light tuna in olive oil. All tuna in water tastes like cardboard to me, and while this one is not of the super-gourmet ventresca quality, it's also a LOT less expensive (not much over $2 a can, compared to over $30 for some of the more extreme options!) and superior to any of the standard American brands.

            It's full of flavor, and great for everything from tuna salad to vitello tonnato.

            5 Replies
            1. re: BobB

              bob, do you buy your pastene brand at a national chain? i don't think i've seen it here in northern virginia (safeway, giant, harris teeter grocery stores).
              i'm paying around 2 bucks for genova brand in olive oil (on sale from a regular 2.49 pretty regularly).

              1. re: alkapal

                I don't know that we have any national chains here in New England - the two major chains are Shaw's (formerly Star Markets) and Stop & Shop, but I don't know whether they're national or not.

                I usually buy it at Shaw's but am pretty sure Stop & Shop carries it too.

                  1. re: BobB

                    Really the only "national" chain we have are Trader Joe's and Whole Foods. I usually get the Genova brand at TJ's for a decent price, like alkapal.

                1. re: BobB

                  slightly ot, but pastene has a new cookbook, but all the recipes are right here!

                2. For canned tuna I think trader joe's has a good one in both water and oil.

                  Whole Foods and Traders both have canned Tuna in a Jar, called Tonnino. I use the Tonnino to cook with. It is a little more expensive than canned tuna, so I save the Trader Joes brand for Sandwiches.

                  1. right now i'm liking the starkist gourmet light tuna fillets in olive oil.
                    also the genova brand in olive oil.

                    there is a local pizza/pasta chain with a salad bar that has the greatest "tuna-y" tuna. it is somewhat darker in color (not albacore). i wonder who supplies that? (but I'd probably have to buy it in gallon containers! the place is joe's pizza and pasta in northern virginia).

                    1. Just got back from TJ -- bought some Genova Tonno (solid light tuna in olive oil) and TJ's Albacore Solid White Tuna in oo (lots of other choices). Haven't tried either, but it's my first experiment. Also got some Alaskan Smoked Salmon because someone raved about it but haven't a clue what to do with it!!

                      4 Replies
                      1. re: Sarah

                        Thanks everyone for responding - I am going to do a round-up list of all recs in a couple of days and post it - thanks again for your time and input - it is a big help.
                        - Sue

                        1. re: suebette

                          I usually buy Chicken of the Sea and i think its good. Ill have to try others and compare them.

                          1. re: suebette

                            For a treat, especially if your making something like an Italian bean/tuna salad, you might want to consider either Flott tuna from Italy or Ortiz from Spain.

                          2. re: Sarah

                            I sometimes use the salmon in pasta. I mix it with oil, seeded tomatoes and peas, and toss it over hot pasta.

                            I use the Genova Tonno the same way.

                            I usually just warm the sauce, it breaks down the diced tomatoes and gets the flavors to "percolate".