[Photograph: Vicky Wasik]
A fresh and beautiful tuna loin deserves to be treated right: Kissed with heat on each side, then whisked away before the center can overcook and dry out. That’s because tuna is an extremely lean fish. One of the best ways to cook tuna steaks is over the high heat of the grill, which slaps a flavorful sear on the fish in no time. Just be sure to source fish that’s fresh enough to be eaten raw, and that it’s a sustainable variety (many kinds of tuna are not). Check the Monterrey Bay Seafood Watch recommendations to find out.
Why It Works
- Properly preparing the grill by cleaning and oiling the grill grate reduces the chances the fish will stick.
- Drying and lightly oiling the tuna also helps ensure it doesn’t glue itself to the grill grate.
- Using thick tuna steaks makes it easy to leave the center rare.
- 4 tuna steaks, about 6 to 8 ounces (170 to 225g) each and 1 1/4 to 2 inches thick
- Vegetable, canola, or other neutral oil, for oiling the steaks
- Kosher salt
- Freshly ground black pepper (optional; see note)
Light one chimney full of charcoal. When all the charcoal is lit and covered with gray ash, pour out and spread coals evenly over half of coal grate. Alternatively, set all the burners of a gas grill to high heat. Set cooking grate in place, cover grill, and allow to preheat for 5 minutes. Clean and oil grilling grate.
Dry tuna steaks well with paper towels and lightly brush them all over with oil.
Just before cooking, season tuna steaks all over with salt and, if desired, pepper. Then set over hot side of grill. Cook tuna until first side is well-seared and the fish releases from the grill grate, 1 to 2 minutes. If the fish sticks, try to gently lift it from below using a thin metal spatula or the tines of a carving fork inserted down between the grill grates. Turn fish and repeat on second side.
For an ideal doneness of rare, cook the fish long enough to sear each side, and no longer. You should be able to watch the heat penetrate the fish from each side because tuna changes color so dramatically, from a deep purple when raw to a beige when cooked. Use the side of the fish to gauge doneness: if you want it very rare in the center, the sides of the steaks should still look purple, with the color of the cooked fish just starting to creep in from above and below. If you want it a little more done, let the cooked color creep up a bit more from both sides. We don’t recommend cooking tuna steaks beyond medium-rare.
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