fb pixel

Log In

Reset Password

Tuna: not just another fish in the sea

Whether it's albacore filets right off the Oregon coast, tombo albacore shipped in from Hawaii or fresh or frozen ahi steaks imported from Southeast Asia, tuna is the seafood of choice for many contemporary cooks. Just as importantly, tuna's mild flavor pairs well with lots of family-friendly preparations.

"It makes my mouth water sometimes just to see a good tuna steak," admits Connie Benham, seafood manager at Medford Center Safeway. Benham oversees sales of the popular fish, giving advice to customers as to how to cut and prepare tuna.

"There are three types of tuna," says Benham. "Albacore, tombo, which is Hawaiian albacore, and Japanese ahi tuna, which is the real red one you see in the sushi bars and it's best marinated and just seared on the outside and served still rare in the middle."

If buying fresh tuna, be careful to buy it in season, advises Benham. Albacore is available in July and August, caught off the west coast from Southern Oregon to Mexico. "You can catch a tuna boat out of Brookings, Gold Beach or Newport," she says. "It makes some of the best canned tuna you'll ever get."

Fresh ahi, which is better for steaks and sushi, isn't as readily available.

"Not a ton of retailers will carry it fresh because of the expense - frozen is a lot cheaper," says Jim Godin, sales manager at Ocean Beauty Seafood in Central Point.

The only Rogue Valley retailer that regularly stocks fresh sushi-grade tuna is the Ashland Food Co-op, Godin reports. It's also possible to special-order fresh ahi through Safeway and other fish counters. Priced at over $20 a pound, fresh tuna is precious and should be carefully handled.

"You want it to be really bright, moist and not dried out and the blood line that runs all the way through the loin should look fresh, you don't want it really dark," says Benham. Translucent flesh and soft, oily texture are other clues of a quality fresh tuna.

Quickly put the fish on ice to avoid spoilage and histamine poisoning. Although the fish does have a three- to four-day shelf-life if stored at 32 degrees, it is best used within 24 hours of purchase or catching.

Ahi is more widely available as economical frozen 8-ounce packages that sell for about $8 or $9 a pound. "They do a wonderful job flash freezing it with vacuum sealing to keep all the air out," Benham says. "So if you have to buy it frozen, you still get pretty good quality."

Previously frozen and defrosted tuna should be used within a day. Although cooked tuna is fine to freeze, never re-freeze thawed, uncooked meat.

In most cases, tuna loin is the cut featured at the fish counter, either individually packaged as steaks or sold as a whole piece. "If you buy the whole loin, you can cut it into steaks at home or ask the fishmonger or fish cutter at the seafood counter to do it," Benham says. Because most people follow the rule of cooking fish for 10 minutes per inch of thickness, steaks are usually cut to a thickness of about an inch to an inch and a half.

Coating tuna steaks with a mixture of crushed tri-colored peppercorns can create a sophisticated, restaurant-inspired preparation. Sear over high heat until cooked just a quarter-inch through on both sides. The result is a rare to medium-rare interior that is meltingly tender. Served with a side of wasabi (Japanese horseradish) mixed into soy sauce, this is sure to tantalize.

Tuna: not just another fish in the sea