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Searing Tuna

Hello Everyone,

My girlfriend particularly likes a seared tuna recipe from Alton Brown. It is essentially a spice crusted tuna, blackened to develop a crust, and left raw in the middle. As I particularly enjoy the raw tuna, I attempt to minimize the amount of heat transfer to the middle of the tuna while still developing a nice crust.

I find it takes roughly a minute and a half to two minutes per side to properly blacken the spices. However if I bring the 1 inch thick tuna steaks to room temperature before cooking it, the interior moves well beyond raw. I find however if I take the fish directly from the refrigerator to the oil+spices and then into the pan, I can develop a nice sear without sacrificing the raw interior.

1.) Is there any reason that going directly from the refrigerator to the pan may be a bad idea? Or is the technique valid for what I am looking to achieve?

2.) Is there an alternative that will still allow me to develop a blackened crust and a raw interior while still bringing the fish to room temperature?

Thanks for any input you can provide.

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  1. I think that you have what sounds like a very good technique.

    Although I did just read one tip from Americas Test Kitchen and that is to slice the tuna as soon as you remove it from the pan. If it's the temp you want, slicing immediately will prevent carry over cooking (tuna doesn't need to rest).

    You could also get thicker steaks ;-)

    1. There is nothing wrong with going from refrigerator to pan when it comes to fish, and there is no need to rest the fish after cooking either (the ATK tip from HarryHarry).

      Apart from thicker steaks, you could also increase the heat source for the sear, which can be done with some thing like a konro grill (it's just charcoal heating) or using a blowtorch.

      1. There is nothing wrong with taking tuna, chicken, beef, pork, veal, turkey, lamb or anything else from the fridge and cook immediately.

        I NEVER bring items to room temperature when I sear, grill or broil and have not for 40 years

        1. The main reason for bringing meat or fish up to room temp is to prevent sticking, help browning, etc. If you're having no problems on that front I'd stick with your current technique, or buy mammoth steaks. Enjoy!

          1. You can take it one step further and place your tuna steaks in the freezer for about an hour before you sear them. This way you can develop a really nice charred crust and leave the center nice and raw.

            7 Replies
            1. re: ipsedixit

              This is what I always do, it's the only way to keep it red inside and still get a good char. I only put them in the freezer for 15 minutes though.

              1. re: coll

                it just seems that placing it in the freezer for 15 would keep the internal the same and bringing the outside colder thereby being a detriment versus a positive.

                1. re: jfood

                  I learned this from one of the best chefs I've ever worked with, and so far it's worked for me. Never really thought about the science.

                  1. re: coll

                    put that in the "don't confuse me with the facts" bucket

                    1. re: jfood

                      Or "If it ain't broke, don't fix it".

              2. re: ipsedixit

                Damn, that's a great tip. Thanks.

                1. re: Leibowitz

                  Thicker steaks will definitely help obviously (look for the loin as opposed to steaks), but heat will be the most important factor. If you have outdoor space and a chimney starter (about $20) - On Good Eats, Alton Brown used a chimney starter filled with lump charcoal (not briquettes) at its glowing orange stage to sear the tuna. Kept it almost all the way full with charcoal, put it on the bottom grill grate, the put the top grill grate directly over the chimney starter and grilled about 30 seconds a side on that. You will need some long tongs to keep your hands out of the heat - dont want to be flipping it with short ones.

              3. Regardless of whether you bring the fish to room temperature first, the secret to a good sear is very high temperature. Speaking of Alton Brown, I picked up a great method of generating extremely high cooking temperatures from his seared tuna show. Use a charcoal starter chimney, but instead of dumping the coals into the grill, put a rack directly on top of the chimney. When the rack is glowing red, you know it's hot enough.

                2 Replies
                1. re: alanbarnes

                  When I want something screaming hot, I place my cast iron pan under the broiler (fitted on an inverted baking dish so it's closer to the heat source). Then take it out and put it on the stovetop for searing, or grilling.

                  1. re: alanbarnes

                    That is what we do now, after watching this show. Then we use the coals to smoke some bacon or pastrami, or even eggplants. Hate to waste all those BTU's.