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Grilled tuna approaches

I was surprised to find rather few threads on grilling tuna steaks, so I'll add to the number here. In this case, my local fishmonger has lots of "sashimi-grade" small steaks (yellowfin). Important point: they're small--about 4-5 ounces each and not more than 3/4 inch thick. I bought three to do some test-cooking.

The thinness leaves little room for the seared-outside-and-raw-inside approach, for which I have limited affection, in any case. Approaches I've considered:

1. A 1998 Cooks Illustrated method involves soaking the steaks in just olive oil for an hour at least, which allows the fish to hang on to moistness better, even done to medium.

2. I'd like to revisit a sweet Asian-style marinade approach, but my efforts in the past have been merely okay. I've found that my marinade is a bit runny, so the fish is not richly colored or flavored at the time I have to remove it to avoid overcooking.

Thanks in advance for any tips.

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  1. Not much help here. Assuming the tuna is of very good quality than anything beyond a quick sear ruins it.

    1. 1/4 cup maple syrup
      3 tablespoons dark soy
      3 cloves garlic, crushed with side of knife
      3 slices ginger, 1/4" thick, crushed with side of knife
      1 lime, juiced

      Combine first 5 ingredients in stainless bowl. Add tuna steaks and marinate up to 3 hours in refrigerator, turning once or twice. Grill tuna quickly (2-3 minutes per side).

      3 Replies
      1. re: Foodlum

        sounds ok except the cooking time. 2-3 minutes a side calls for thicker tuna. using the 3/4 inch supplied by the op, they would be overdone in a flash.

        1. re: davmar77

          Of course you are correct - you should adjust time on the grill based on thickness of tuna and personal taste. Some people eat beef well-done, too...

        2. re: Foodlum

          Sounds like a long time to marinate the fish, especially with lime juice in it, which will cook the fish, ceviche style. I think I would only marinate for an hour, then if that's not enough, next time do a little more, until you get it to taste the way you like it.

        3. Actually, I see that the tuna is closer to 1" than 3/4", so that's some help. Sorry for the error. And thanks for the thoughts so far.

          1. I like a marinade with sesame oil, ginger, garlic, dark soy and maybe a touch of maple syrup marinated for only up to an hour. I dry it off, brush with a little more sesame oil and then barely sear; for inch thick steaks it is done properly for us in two minutes per side.

            1. Freeze, then cook before thawing.

              You can get a nice pan seared crust without overcooking.

              But if it were me, and I had thinly sliced "sashimi grade" tuna, I would dice them up and make poke. But that's just me.

              3 Replies
              1. re: ipsedixit

                Intriguing idea! Around here in the USA Midwest, "poke" is an enormous weed with poisonous berries. With some Googling, I see that you have something Hawaiian and non-toxic in mind. Must try.

                1. re: ipsedixit

                  That's interesting. The freezing doesn't destroy the texture?

                  1. re: magiesmom

                    No. Just about any fish that you buy from the market is frozen at some point.

                2. Hey, if it's sashimi-grade tuna, what's wrong with sashimi? Doesn't get much better than that.

                  The recommendation for ahi poke is also a good one. Use Aloha brand shoyu if you can get it. And if you can't get kukui nuts, substitute macadamias.

                  But If you're going to cook the tuna, you want the hottest possible fire to sear the outside before the inside overcooks. Alton Brown had an interesting method - cook the fish over charcoal, but use a charcoal starter chimney instead of the grill. Once the fire starts drawing heavily, it's like a blast furnace; you get a good sear in a matter of seconds.

                  3 Replies
                  1. re: alanbarnes

                    Or how about an ahi tartar? Chop the tuna into dice, add diced scallion or red onion & avocado, garnish with salmon roe and black sesame seeds, and serve with crispy wonton strips.

                    1. re: Phurstluv

                      Oooh, yum! Maybe instead of salmon roe go with tobiko - especially if you can get the wasabi-flavored stuff.

                      1. re: alanbarnes

                        I was able to buy 2oz. jars of wasabi-flavored tobiko in this incredible Asian market in Seattle. For $3!!!!! We ate it like caviar.

                  2. I use this very simple sauce:
                    1/2 cup olive oil
                    3 tablespoons chopped fresh mint leaves
                    3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
                    1 tablespoon chopped fresh basil leaves
                    1 garlic clove, minced
                    Salt and freshly ground black pepper

                    I brush each steak with it and grill them in a grill pan for about 3 min per side (depends on thickness of steak) then pour the sauce over. So easy, so simple and so good.