How to cook tuna steak

Follow our tips for buying and cooking tuna steaks. This meaty, flavoursome fish is delicious griddled or pan-fried, especially when it's marinated in herbs and spices.

Griddled tuna steak with tomatoes and potatoes

Tuna has a meaty firm flesh and a rich, strong flavour due to its high oil content. Because tuna is oily, the flesh goes off more quickly than some other fish, so buy it as fresh as you can. Tuna will have already been skinned, boned and cut into portions when you buy it, making it a very easy fish to use as there's minimal prep to be done other than adding flavour – and it’s exceptionally fast to cook.

Buying

Tuna is mainly sold as steaks. You may also see strips of loin for making sushi and sashimi, and paler ventresca steaks (toro in Japanese) which are cut from the fatty belly. Look for firm, dense red or dark red flesh when buying tuna loin or steaks, and make sure it is from a sustainable source – check the Marine Stewardship Council website for the latest advice. Choose thicker steaks as these will cook far better (see below).

Griddled tuna steak with beans on a plate

How to cook tuna

Tuna dries out quite quickly and turns crumbly, so it should be cooked very briefly over a high heat in a frying pan, on a griddle or over a barbecue; or cooked under oil (confit), sous vide or simmered in a sauce. Tuna can be served cooked to rare, or cooked to a crust on the outside and raw in the centre, known as tataki in Japan. Pan-frying or griddling make this easier to control.

Because tuna has a fairly robust flavour, you can easily add herbs, spices and flavours to it without worrying about overwhelming the taste. Marinating tuna steaks will add flavour to the surface, but won’t make it any juicier – keeping a close eye on your steak while cooking is the only way to make sure it won’t dry out.

Tuna steak with sesame seeds and Asian slaw, on a black plate

 

Pan-fried tuna steaks recipe

Serves 2

  • 2 thick tuna steaks

  • olive oil for brushing
  1. Brush the tuna steaks lightly with oil, and season.
  2. Put the tuna steaks into a heated frying pan over a high heat and allow to cook for 1-2 mins, depending on how thick the tuna steaks are.
  3. Turn the tuna over and cook for 1-2 mins on the other side. Look at the side of the tuna to see how far through it is cooked, but remember it will keep cooking for a short while when taken off the heat. Rest for a couple of mins before serving.

Griddled tuna steak with mashed potato and soy beans

 

Griddled tuna steaks recipe

Serves 2

  • 2 thick tuna steaks
  • olive oil for brushing
  1. Brush the tuna steaks lightly with oil, and season.
  2. Put the tuna steaks into a heated griddle pan over a high heat (the pan must be very hot) and allow to cook for 1-2 mins depending on how thick the tuna steaks are. If you want to make a crisscross pattern on the surface, rotate the tuna by 90 degrees halfway through.
  3. Turn over carefully and cook in the same way for 1 min. Look at the side of the tuna to see how far through it is cooked, but remember it will keep cooking for a short while when taken off the heat. Cook for a little longer if you prefer. Rest for a couple of mins before serving.

5 recipes using tuna steaks

Moroccan-spiced tuna

Four tuna steaks topped with spices, in a white serving tray

Use your griddle to good effect with this spiced Moroccan-style tuna.

Moroccan-spiced tuna


Tuna steaks with cucumber relish

Grilled tuna steaks topped with chopped cucumber and tomatoes

Add a fresh hit of flavour by adding a crunchy relish to tuna.

Tuna steaks with cucumber relish


Salad Niçoise

Tuna steak with lettuce, beans and boiled egg salad

Posh up your salad Niçoise by using fresh tuna instead of tinned.

Salad Niçoise


Fresh tuna tortillas

Tuna, tomato, coriander and soured cream on tortilla wraps

Tuna makes a good alternative to meat when filling tortillas. 

Fresh tuna tortillas


Teriyaki tuna skewers

Tuna and vegetable skewers with a pot of teriyaki sauce

Make these teriyaki skewers by pan-frying tuna steaks and cutting them into neat pieces.

Teriyaki tuna skewers


Tuna Caesar with anchovies & cavolo nero

Tuna Caesar salad with cavolo nero, anchovies and croutons on a plate

Take a Caesar salad to the next level by using fresh tuna and cavolo nero – it’s dinner party-worthy.

Tuna Caesar with anchovies & cavolo nero

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