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Got a nice piece of tuna, help me sear it properly, please!

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I just bought a lovely piece of sushi grade tuna from Eataly. I want to sear it tonight so that it's still quite pink in the middle. I find I often over do it and it ends up cooked through.

Please give me your step by step tips on how to get this right. I read on another thread that putting it in the freezer first helps, but one person said 15 mins, one person said an hour, and the issue never got resolved. Do you use cast iron? Any oil needed? How many minutes each side?

Help me make the most of my $25 piece of fish!


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  1. Hot pan with a high smoke-point oil would work. So would a hot grill. Timing is dependent on the size and shape of the fish (i.e.: no one-size-fits-all solution), but you're only looking to sear it on the surfaces so a minute or two should be plenty.

    Don't see why you'd need to freeze it.

    Have fun!

    1. Hey there,
      I'm not sure how you want to season it but here's a very neutral recipe that can be adjusted in lots of different flavor combinations.

      Preheat 1 tablespoon of vegetable oil and 1 tablespoon of olive oil in a cast iron skillet on high heat

      Pat tuna dry and season liberally with salt and cracked pepper (the fish can take a lot of seasoning)

      Sear the tuna for 1 minute on each side for very rare in the middle, longer for closer to medium rare. I would probably cut into it after 2 minutes though and see if it is approaching the level of doneness you're looking for. Better to undercook than overcook!

      Let the fish sit for a few minutes then slice. I like this with some raw olive oil and some red wine vinegar on top with another pinch of salt. Serve with some good vegetables and you have a nice meal! Enjoy!


      1. I know a lot of people do freeze it first; 10-15 minutes would be plenty. An hour would be much too long. That said, I don't feel a need to do so. Hot cast iron pan is fine; use a little oil and put the fish in for about 2 minutes per side. It should release easily; if you're tearing it that will ruin the sear. Always keep in mind that it will continue to cook a little after you take it out or off the heat. I judge by the outside and once the cooked, white flesh just starts to show then I flip it if I want to keep it raw inside. If you want it cooked a little more inside, just let the cooked flesh rise up the side a bit more. As BGM suggested, grilling it is a nice if it's an option available to you.

        1. Temper your Carbon steel or Cast iron pan over medium heat. Season the tuna. Turn heat to Medium high, add a small amt of oil (pref. rice bran, grapeseed, peanut heat tolerant oil) and tuna. Count to 20, Turn count to 20 repeat until all sides are seared.

          Rest on a rack for a minute or two. Slice, Plate, Serve. It's not necessary to freeze but you can if you are nervous, just work fast have your pan hot, fish spat/tongs, resting rack handy before you begin

          1. No need to freeze, you'll want high heat and some olive oil to get a good sear on it. Season first depending on how you'll serve (ponzu, soy sauce, etc.). Then just a minute on each side (for a large piece). IMO you have a great piece of fish that could be eaten raw, don't overdo it. Have fun!

            1. Alton Brown did it by placing his grill grate right over his chimney starter. Only took 15-30 seconds per side. If you have that equipment, look up the video.

              1. I'm probably too late since I imagine you bought it to cook the same day. In any case...

                As others have said, please don't freeze that gorgeous piece of sashimi grade tuna. You'll lose too much if you do.

                In terms of cooking, treat the tuna ex-ACT-ly the same way you treat your steak. No one can give you the precise length of time it should be on the grill or grill pan without knowing how thick it is and how you like your steak. Here are some basic steps I do.

                - Remove the tuna from your fridge about an hour before it's going to hit the pan. You'll avoid uneven cooking and a cold centre.
                - Season it as you like, but be careful of using liquids for seasoning. They can and will overtake the tuna's delicate flesh in mere moments. Better to use liquids (soy sauce, whatever) at the moment the pairing will be hitting your mouth.
                - Coat your cast iron grill pan with low smoke oil (I use peanut) and take her up to high
                - Grill per side as you would steak. I generally have them cut it about 1.5" thick so I go 2 min per side.
                - Finish in a 200 degree oven for about 5-10 min again depending on thickness in order to warm, but not cook the centre. If you've done it right, it should still be vibrantly pink in the middle and lightly warm.
                - I don't slice before I serve. I plate it just like a steak.

                6 Replies
                1. re: Googs

                  Sorry, but taking a hot cast iron pan and putting it in an oven (don't care that it's "only" 200 degrees) for 5-10 minutes will completely overcook the tuna. Steak, perhaps not. But tuna for sure unless it's 3" thick. Also, a cast iron pan behaves better if it's hot first, then the oil goes in. I've done it both ways and hot pan, cold oil is the way to go.

                  1. re: gourmanda

                    Oh, no not cast iron pan and all. The heat retention in cast iron would turn it into a tuna chip. I should have written, "finish by transferring tuna from cast iron pan to roasting pan in 200 degree oven."

                    I guess I don't have the knack for writing a cookbook. I always complain when there's an obvious missing step. Does this explanation make it clear to you now gourmanda?

                    1. re: Googs

                      That's better, but I still think it's going to overcook if the OP wants a rare center. just my opinion from my extensive experience with fresh tuna.

                      1. re: gourmanda

                        Without a quick finish in the oven you risk having a cold centre. With a thinner piece, your method works fine. The ones I buy are always thick and so require a few minutes in the oven to warm the centre.

                        If you're treating it like a steak, your finger poke check should tell you how long to leave it in the oven. Sometimes not at all, but mostly a few minutes will put the perfect finish on it. I like my steaks blue and will apply this too when indoor cooking. Of the dozens of sashimi grade tuna I've cooked, I think I've only had an oops maybe 2 or 3 times and generally because I didn't trust my instincts.

                        1. re: Googs

                          If you like yours blue then by default you will have a cold center. That being said, you cook your tuna and I'll cook mine and we'll both be happy :)

                          1. re: gourmanda

                            Oh no, it's easy to have a warm, but blue centre. I do it all the time. You should give my way a whirl. If you like tuna as much as I, you might surprise yourself.