A Quick Recipe for Smoking Tuna
Tired of slaving over a hot grill only to end up with the same old beef or chicken or pork? Maybe you should try fish. But not just any fish: tuna. Recently I found this simple recipe for smoking tuna and gave it a try. Tuna is great food: high protein, low fat. It’s also surprisingly easy to cook. You can grill it or broil it, but I loved this recipe for smoking it. It was such an efficient, low-fuss way to impress my family and friends, I thought I’d share it with you. All you have to do is follow this simple step-by-step tutorial I picked out of many other tuna recipes!
What You Will Need to Follow This Recipe
Increase or reduce the amounts of these ingredients accordingly if your batch of tuna is bigger or smaller!
Step One: Prepare the Brine
Brine is crucial to add moisture to the tuna. Mix all of the ingredients listed above into the water. Stir vigorously to blend all those flavors together. I also heated the brine for a little while to help the salt dissolve. Bring the brine back down to room temperature, and pour the mixture into a bowl or shallow pan. Add the tuna, making sure it is submerged. (Make and add more brine if necessary.) If you use a bowl rather than a pan, you can divide the tuna along with brine into zipper-style plastic bags for the next step.
Step Two: Refrigerate to Marinate
Leave the pan uncovered and put it into your refrigerator. Or take your plastic bags of marinating tuna and put them in your refrigerator. Allow at least three hours for the tuna to marinate well. Some people leave it in the refrigerator for six hours, or even overnight. The original recipe I used called for six hours, but I found that a lot of the tuna flavor was lost with that length of time. Three hours seemed to be just about perfect.
Step Three: Pat Dry
While the original recipe said to rinse the tuna before patting it dry, it just didn’t make sense to me to rinse off all of the good stuff I’d put in the brine. So I patted the fish dry using paper towel, leaving on as much of the good flavorings as I could.
Step Four: Air Dry
Once you’ve pat-dried the tuna, air dry it for one to two hours on a cold grill rack or similar stand. You can speed up the drying process by putting the tuna in front of a fan, but make sure the meat doesn’t get too dried out. Depending on your own environmental conditions even an hour of air-drying may be too much. The goal is to let a good pellicle develop and stop there, so keep a close eye on that tuna.
I hear you. “Wait a minute, I’m new to smoking meat. What’s a pellicle?”
The pellicle is the coating or skin on the surface of the tuna (or other meat) that allows smoke to adhere. It’s useful in smoking any kind of meat, but is especially important for smoking fish. The pellicle protects the meat from being over-smoked, but enhances the flavor and color from smoking.
Step Five: Dredge the Tuna in More Brown Sugar
Once you are satisfied that the pellicle is well formed but the tuna still somewhat moist, dredge the tuna in some more brown sugar. “Wait—dredge?” That’s another word of culinary art. It means to coat a moist food (such as marinated tuna) with a dry ingredient (such as brown sugar) prior to cooking. In other words, simply roll the tuna through some brown sugar, making sure to coat each piece evenly. Another recipe calls for fresh lemon juice, garlic powder, ground black peppers or other spices add subtle flavors, but really - it's all up to you!
Step Six: Start Smoking!
Place the dredged pieces on racks, or directly on your grill. The type of wood chips you're going to use depends on the type of smoke flavor you want to get. Fruit wood like cherry wood usually isn't used for smoked fish, so you might wan to explore other options. Smoke the meat at 175 degrees for 60 to 120 minutes. If your thermometer tends to reflect a higher temperature than has usually really been achieved, move the temperature up to 190 degrees. I’m sure you realize that the last thing you want is undercooked fish. The smoking time may vary by the size of your batch. I found that smaller pieces were finished (and delicious) in under an hour. Larger cuts require more time. Experiment with your own cuts and the time necessary to perfect each piece.
Step 7: When Is It Finished?
Check your temperature regularly to make sure you are staying in range. You’ll notice a change in color to the tuna. To be extra certain that your tuna is well-cooked, use a meat thermometer and look for a temperature at the midpoint of the meat of about 140 degrees. Once you reach that, you can pull the tuna out of the smoker. If you see a flakiness to your tuna, you’ve done a perfect job!
I’m not a seafood lover in general, but the smoked tuna I cooked with this recipe made a terrific change from the same old beef or chicken or even pork and it was so easy that I wanted you to have the same opportunity. So, what did you think? Were the directions easy to follow? Did you enjoy the results? Please write a review in the comments!
Once you’ve mastered this recipe, play around with some other herbs and spices and see what they might add. Let us know your favorite flavor combinations, as well as what you find goes best with your beautiful smoked tuna. Grilled tomatoes, a leafy salad, garlic bread? Even better, snap a picture and show us your finished result in its plated, best presentation form.
Share your favorite innovations with us, and if you liked this recipe share it with your friends!
Frequently Asked Questions
How long does it take to smoke a tuna?
In general, it should take about 2 hours to smoke yellowtail tuna at 200 degrees F. This is the ideal smoker temperature because it helps the tuna reach its final temperature of 145 degrees F as quickly as possible, infusing the maximum amount of smoke into the fish without drying it out.
How do you smoke tuna in a smoker?
If you follow our step-by-step instructions above, you’ll turn out with a perfectly cooked, smokey piece of tuna in no time at all. It all starts with brining the tuna before allowing it to dry, dredging it in sugar, and finally placing it on the smoker until it reaches its final temperature.
Why should you brine tuna for smoking?
Since tuna has very little fat, it’s important to brine it in a simple salt and sugar solution before hitting the smoker. Without the brine, the tuna would be very dry and it wouldn’t taste as good. The brine infuses the meat with flavor while also keeping it juicy and moist as it cooks.
What can you do with smoked tuna?
You can eat smoked tuna as-is, as it tastes very full flavored and delicious. You can also used the fish to make smoked tuna dip, which is perfect for eating with crackers or pita bread. Finally, smoked tuna sandwiches are especially tasty, especially when served with a wasabi mayonnaise.
What is the best tuna for smoking?
There are a few different types of tuna that work really well for smoking. Ahi tuna steaks or yellowtail tuna have exceptional natural flavor, so they are our first choices. But albacore tuna has a nice and meaty texture, making it an excellent choice for smoked tuna.