What Are the Best Tips for Grilling Tuna?

Marty Paule

Tuna makes an excellent choice when it comes to grilling fish. Its delicate flavor and firm, steak-like texture is enjoyed by people who aren't necessarily seafood enthusiasts, and its compatibility with many different marinades, dressings, and side dishes offers lots of preparation and serving alternatives. It's worth making the effort to seek out the freshest tuna possible by shopping at specialty seafood stores when possible. Ahi, yellowfin, and albacore tuna steaks are three varieties that make good choices for grilling tuna. A delicious meal is assured by following a few simple grilling tips.

Hot charcoal in a grill.
Hot charcoal in a grill.

There are a number of herbs, spices, and marinades that can enhance the flavor when grilling tuna. Most chefs include lemon juice and olive oil as the two most basic ingredients in marinades. Other commonly used ingredients include black pepper, tarragon, and red pepper flakes, as well as garlic and soy sauce. Adding a little sesame oil and ginger can impart some Asian character, while sprinkling oregano into the marinade can give the tuna a hint of Italy.

Tuna only needs to be grilled for a few minutes on each side.
Tuna only needs to be grilled for a few minutes on each side.

After the tuna has been washed under running water, it should be patted dry with paper towels to absorb excess water. The marinade can be basted on with a brush, or the tuna and marinade can be placed in a plastic bag and shaken to thoroughly coat the fish. Before grilling tuna, it should be allowed to soak in the marinade in the refrigerator for anywhere from two to eight hours, keeping the time on the shorter side if soy sauce is used in order to avoid a strong flavor. Also note that any acid used, such as lemon juice, will begin to cook the tuna, so a shorter timetable for more acidic marinades should be used.

After the appropriate amount of marinating time, the grill should be readied by getting the grate extremely hot. When a gas grill is used, the burner should be on its hottest setting and the grill's lid closed to maximize heat. If a charcoal grill is being used, the charcoal should be stacked into a chimney shape to focus heat on the area of the grill used for grilling tuna. Oiling the heated grill or rubbing it with a piece of raw potato will prevent sticking. Depending on the thickness of the steaks and personal preference, the tuna should be grilled from two to four minutes on each side.

Placing the steaks at an angle to the grill then repositioning them at the opposite angle while they cook creates a pleasing crosshatched pattern on the fish. When grilling tuna, many chefs prefer a relatively rare steak. Avoiding overcooking will bring out the tuna's natural, delicate flavor as will serving it at room temperature. Complementary side dishes include rice, baked potatoes, fresh green salads, and a host of different vegetables. By making extra marinade, the vegetables can also be grilled using the additional liquid; never reuse any marinade that raw fish, poultry, or meat has been in as it could potentially cause food poisoning.

When grilling tuna, impart an Asian flavor using ginger, soy sauce, or sesame oil.
When grilling tuna, impart an Asian flavor using ginger, soy sauce, or sesame oil.

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