3 Ways to Cook Tuna Steaks to Perfection

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tuna steaks
Photo by Yandle is marked with CC BY 2.0

Mild in flavor, yet rich in texture, tuna steaks are a delicious and satisfying meal option. Whether grilled, sautéed, or baked this versatile fish allows for a variety of delightful meal options to enjoy.  In this guide, we’ll review how to choose tuna steaks, including three poepular varieties,  as well as how to season and cook them. We’ll also detail how to buy and store fresh tuna, as well as inspiration for side dishes and more. Read on for frequently asked questions about preparing tuna. Once versed in our guide, you’ll be equipped to prepare a delicious tuna steak dinner at home. 

Choosing tuna steaks

Before choosing a recipe and cooking, it is great to know how to choose which tuna steaks to buy. Tuna is available in a few different varieties, with the most common being bluefin tuna, yellowfin tuna, and albacore tuna. 

Bluefin tuna is widely regarded as the premier variety, characterized by its deep red color, firm texture, and meaty flavor. Yellowfin tuna (also referred to as ahi tuna) is a more common variety – great for cooking as tuna steaks. Yellowfin tuna shares characteristics with bluefin in terms of color and texture, though a bit milder in flavor than bluefin. The last common variety of tuna is albacore tuna, which is characterized by pale white flesh and a distinctly light flavor profile. When choosing tuna steaks to enjoy with a rare or medium rare center, it’s best to select sushi-grade fish.  

With these differences in mind, and the below recipes to choose from, you’ll be equipped to shop for the tuna that best matches your flavor preferences. 

How to Season Tuna

In addition to knowing which tuna steaks to choose, you may also want to know which seasonings pair well with tuna. Simple aromatics like garlic and onion are delicious, as well as spices and herbs such as cumin, paprika, black pepper, parsley, cilantro, basil, and more. Though some tuna varieties boast rich flavor, they are all still mild enough to be an excellent base for an array of flavor combinations. 

1. How to Grill Tuna Steaks

One of the best ways to enjoy tuna steaks is to grill them. Combining the natural flavor of tuna with grilled smokiness and seasonings creates an exceptional savory profile that makes for a delicious meal. 


The best part about grilled tuna steaks is how easy they are to prepare. With an overall prep and cook time of less than 30 minutes, you can have an incredible meal ready in no time. 

  1. To begin, make sure you have good quality tuna on hand such as yellowfin (ahi tuna). As a reminder, look for tuna that has consistent coloring and no fishy smell. 
  2. When ready to cook, preheat the grill on medium/high. 
  3. While the grill is heating, drizzle tuna steaks with olive oil, coating each side. Season with salt and pepper, as well as any desired seasonings. 
  4. Once the grill is hot, let tuna sear on the first side for 2-3 minutes. Flipping once, sear the other side for an additional 2-3 minutes. 
  5. Remove from the grill. The outside of the tuna should have a nice seared crust with a raw, pink inside. The internal temperature for rare to medium rare tuna steaks should  be 125-140 degrees Fahrenheit. (If you’d prefer to cook tuna fully through, cook to an internal temperature of 145 degrees Fahrenheit.) 
  6. Serve immediately, enjoy! 


  1. Tuna steaks (1-inch thickness) 
  2. Olive oil
  3. Salt (to taste)
  4. Black pepper (to taste) 
  5. Seasonings (such as garlic powder, herbs & spices) as desired 
  6. Lemon wedges (optional, for serving) 

2. How to Cook Tuna Steaks in a Skillet

In addition to grilling, you can also achieve a delicious tuna steak at home by searing in a skillet. This preparation is equally as easy as grilling, and great for any time of year. 


It takes just a few simple steps and ingredients to prepare seared tuna in a skillet. 

  1. Begin by preheating a skillet over medium/high heat until hot. While the skillet is heating, prep your tuna steaks. Pat dry with a paper towel to remove excess moisture, then season with salt, black pepper, and any desired seasonings. 
  2. Once the skillet is heated, add a drizzle of canola oil to the pan, coating the bottom. 
  3. Place tuna steaks in the pan, and let sear on one side for 1-3 minutes. (Longer cook times will result in a more well done center, with the shorter times equating to a more rare tuna steak.) 
  4. Turn tuna steaks over and finish cooking on the second side for another 1-3 minutes. 
  5. Remove tuna steaks from the pan. With this preparation, the exterior of the tuna steak should have a delicious outer crust with raw (rare) inside. Look for a temperature of at leat 125 degrees Fahrnehiet for rare steaks. (If you’d prefer to fully cook the tuna, cook until the internal temperature is 145 degrees Fahrenheit.)
  6. Serve immediately and enjoy! 


  1. Tuna steaks (1-inch thickness)
  2. Canola oil 
  3. Salt 
  4. Black Pepper
  5. Seasonings (as desired) 

3. How to Bake Tuna Steaks

In addition to grilling and searing, baking is another fast and easy way to enjoy tuna steaks at home. This no-fuss method is great for an easy weeknight dinner or a stress-free dinner party meal. 


  1. To prepare baked tuna steaks, begin by preheating your oven to 450 degrees Fahrenheit. 
  2. While the oven is heating, drizzle tuna with olive oil and season with salt and black pepper. If desired, add a squeeze of lemon juice and garnish each steak with 1-2 slices of fresh lemon. 
  3. When the oven is heated, bake tuna steaks for about 12 minutes, flipping the steaks halfway through cooking. Once done, you’ll be left with a cooked exterior and medium rare inside. Look for an internal temperature of at least 125 degrees Fahrenheit. (If you’d prefer a fully cooked tuna steak, bake until the internal temperature is 145 degrees Fahrenheit). 
  4. Remove from the oven and serve immediately. Enjoy! 


  1. Tuna steaks (1 inch thickness)
  2. Olive oil 
  3. Salt 
  4. Black pepper
  5. Fresh lemon juice 
  6. Lemon slices 

How to Buy and Store Fresh Tuna

When buying tuna, you can find steaks either fresh or frozen. 

If buying fresh tuna, always look for a firm texture, even coloring, and no fishy smell. If you intend to prepare your tuna steaks with a rare or medium inside, always look for sushi-grade tuna. Ahi tuna is an excellent variety of tuna for grilling, searing and baking. 

If not cooking immediately after purchasing, you can store fresh tuna for up to 1 day in the refrigerator. 

To store fresh tuna in the fridge, begin by patting down the steaks with a paper towel to remove excess moisture. Place the tuna steaks in a single layer in a food-safe container. For the most optimal storage, place the container on a bed of ice. Make sure to place the tuna in the coldest part of the refrigerator. 

Store for up to one day before cooking and serving. 

Sides to serve with Tuna Steak

While tuna has a unique flavor profile, it is mild enough to be a great base for a variety of flavors, meaning the sides you can serve with tuna steaks are varying. You can select your side dishes based on the flavorings you choose to give the tuna, or if using simple flavorings like salt, pepper, and lemon, base your side dishes off of the cooking method that you selected.

For example, grilled tuna steaks can pair simply with a side of grilled vegetables like zucchini or asparagus. Skillet seared tuna can also be enjoyed with fresh vegetables like sautéed broccoli, spinach, or kale. Baked tuna would be delicious with roasted vegetables such as broccoli or potatoes. 

Nutrition Facts (per serving)

When enjoying a Tuna steak, you may be curious about the nutrition facts. A 4 ounce portion of ahi tuna is about 140 calories, with 25 grams of protein, 4 grams of carbs, and about 2 grams of fat per serving. With tuna’s high protein content and lower fat, it can be an excellent and healthy meal choice.  

Tuna Steak FAQ’s

When buying and preparing tuna, you may have some questions on how to cook and store tuna, as well as health and nutrition information. 

How Long Do You Cook Tuna Steaks For?

In terms of how long to cook tuna, the time will vary based on the preparation method that you choose, as well as if you want to enjoy your tuna steaks rare or well done. 

Cooking tuna on the grill takes up to 6 minutes (2-3 minutes per side) for a rare inside and seared exterior. 

Searing tuna steaks in a skillet also takes up to 6 minutes (1-3 minutes per side) for a seared crust and raw inside. 

Baking tuna steaks takes about 12 minutes in total (6 minutes per side) for a cooked exterior and pink center.

Does Tuna Steak Need to be Cooked Through?

When cooking tuna, you may be curious if it needs to be cooked all the way through. Many tuna recipes actually call for cooking tuna only to a medium rare temperature (at least 125 degrees Fahrenheit). If cooking tuna to this rare temperature, be sure to use high-quality sushi-grade tuna. You can also cook tuna fully through to 145 degrees Fahrenheit if desired. 

Is Tuna Steak Healthier than Beef Steak?

Since tuna steaks can be compared to beef steaks in terms of flavor, you may be curious about the nutrition of each. When comparing the average calories, protein, and fat of beef versus tuna, you’ll see that tuna steaks are lower in calories and fat, with slightly higher protein. 


We hope that with all of the information shared above in regards to choosing, seasoning and cooking tuna steaks, you’ll feel confident to prepare this meal at home. For more recipe inspiration and in-depth guides on other seafood like lobster, shrimp and clams, browse our Seafood University today.