Tuna is the best type of fish to cook in steak form. It is a great alternative if you want to switch things up from your regular steak options. It is healthy and extremely delicious when you get the cook right. But like most other steaks, it is important to know the right temperature to cook tuna steak to perfection.
Tuna is more than just a piece of meat that is manufactured and sold in cheap cans. It is one of the most sought after types of fish in the world, known for its great flavor and health benefits.
The Best Temperature to Cook Tuna Steak
Getting the temperature right on the tuna steak is trickier than other types of steaks, especially beef. This is because tuna is prone to overcooking. Proper temperature control during the cooking process is a must.
Unlike beef steaks, the connective tissues in a tuna steak are easier to break down. If you cook tuna steak for too long, it can turn into a dry and crumbly mess. It takes a fine line to turn a beautifully cooked steak into one that comes with a sharp and metallic flavor.
Since it is easy to overcook tuna steak, the first step to getting the perfect cook is to aim for thermal mass. You need to buy steaks that are at least one inch thick. That way, you can maintain proper temperature control and not risk overcooking your meat.
It is also recommended that you keep the tuna chilled (not frozen) right before you cook it. This is important for safety reasons, but also so it facilitates a barrier in the heat transfer. If the tuna is slightly cold in the middle, it’s not prone to overcooking (versus room temperature tuna).
If you want a beautifully rare tuna steak with a slight pink in the middle, you need to aim for a final temp of 32 degrees Celsius. At this temperature, the tuna steak has a luxurious texture. You can start to take the tuna off the pan once it reaches 18 degrees Celsius and it will continue to cook in the middle.
As for the cooking temperature, the best temperature to cook tuna steak in the pan is at 218 to 232 degrees Celsius. If you are using a heavy-bottom or cast iron pan, you need high heat to achieve the perfect sear on the tuna. Add a high smoke point oil in order to facilitate heat transfer from the pan to the tuna while also keeping the meat from sticking onto the pan. Only add the fish to the pan once you’ve reached at least 218 degrees Celsius.
At this temperature, it will take approximately one minute per side to cook the tuna steak. However, it is best to use a meat thermometer to read the internal temp. As soon as you flip the tuna to the other side, you can start checking for its temperature.
Secrets to Cooking the Perfect Tuna Steak
The ‘doneness’ and quality of the tuna steak is not just about temperature; although it is a crucial element to making sure that the meat is juicy and flavorful. It is also important to know other cooking techniques to help you achieve the perfect cook.
Here are some cooking secrets to make sure that you can enjoy your tuna steak:
- Tuna cooks rather quickly. And when you cook it past being done, it hardens. And no one likes to eat hard and tough steak – even for tuna.
- Aim for a pinkish or light red center on your tuna steak. This will ensure that the meat is still juicy, flaky, and tender.
- When grilling tuna, you can choose to wrap it in foil so that the meat stays juicy. It will also prevent the tuna steak from overcooking too quickly. By keeping the heat wrapped inside the foil, it ensures even cooking on all sides.
- The best way to cook tuna steak on a grill is over medium high heat. It is best to preheat your grill before cooking.
- When baking tuna steak, you should cook it for 5 minutes (for half an inch thick tuna steak). You can adjust the cooking time based on the thickness of the tuna steak. It is also important to preheat the oven prior to baking.
- To achieve the best flavor, you can opt to marinate the fish prior to cooking. However, this isn’t necessary since the meat itself is quite flavorful and you can do with just salt and pepper to season as you cook.
- Cooked tuna steak with some pink in the middle is perfectly safe to eat. In fact, it is safe to eat raw tuna as long as it is handled properly and that it is chilled prior to serving.
How to Get the Temperature Right
To ensure ‘doneness’, you need a reliable and accurate tool such as a meat thermometer. It’s already been established that tuna is very sensitive to the heat. It can overcook rather quickly if you don’t know how to monitor its internal temp.
You can use the thermometer as soon as you see browning on the outside of the tuna steak. You will also notice that the meat will start to become flaky.
When cooking tuna on a grill, the ideal temp is 65 degrees C for well-done tuna. The best temperature for medium tuna is 60 to 62 degrees C. And the ideal temperature for medium rare tuna steak is 54 to 60 degrees C.
Whether you are pan searing or grilling tuna steak, it’s important to be armed with the right tools. A meat thermometer is a handy tool to have in order to achieve the perfect tuna steak every single time.
Always keep in mind the best temperature to cook tuna steak as mentioned above, as well as to closely monitor its internal temp. This will ensure that you can enjoy flaky, flavorful, and tender (not dry) tuna steak at home, just like how you get them from professional chefs or restaurants.