When cooked properly at the right temperature for the right amount of time, Seared Tuna Steaks are a gorgeous blushing pink in the middle with a light sear on the exterior served a bright Niçoise inspired vinaigrette on top. My favorite way to cook tuna steaks, this is how I like to Sear Tuna Steaks.
People ask me all the time how to cook tuna steaks, or what temperature to cook tuna steaks. My answer is always sear tuna steaks over high heat for a very short time in a cast-iron skillet.
Pan-seared tuna is one of our favorite healthy seafood dinners and is easy enough for a weeknight supper and elegant enough for a special occasion or date night. In the photo below I serve the tuna with panfried potatoes with charred sweet summer corn. When it comes to searing tuna steaks there are only a few simple culinary rules you need to know to make an excellent Tuna steak, I’ll walk you through them.
How to Sear Tuna Steaks
- First, Food Safety: I prefer and I recommend that you buy ‘previously frozen’ tuna when making rare seared tuna. Eating raw or rare tuna has its risks, and the quick cooking time for seared tuna isn’t sufficient to kill all of the bacteria or parasites that fish can carry. The only thing that kills the bacteria and parasites is temperature, either extreme cold or heat. So, for your safety, only use tuna that you have purchased from a reputable vendor.
- Second, Dry the Surface: One of the best things I learned from watching Julia Child and Jacques Pepin were to dry meat before attempting to sear it. If the tuna steak is wet, it will steam rather than sear. I place paper towels under the tuna and press one onto the surface to dry the tuna prior to searing. Often you will need to replace the paper towels several times in order to get the surface dry. It takes a few extra minutes, but it is absolutely worth the effort.
- Third, Sear Tuna Steaks on High Heat: Searing tuna happens quickly, only 45-60 seconds per side in a lightly oiled pan. I prefer a cast-iron skillet or a frying pan with a heavy bottom. Overcooking will result in a dry piece of tuna.
- Fourth, Salt Only: ¾ teaspoon of salt per pound of tuna. I don’t use marinades, herbs, or even black pepper prior to searing the tuna, it doesn’t need it. Any sauces, herbs, or seasonings are added to the finished tuna on the plate. I find this to be a better approach and allows you to have more control of the flavor.
Best Sauce for Seared Tuna
Okay, the sky is the limit as far as great sauces for tuna steaks. Asian inspired, French sauces, and vinaigrettes and Latin influenced flavors are some of my preferences. One of my favorite sauces for fish, especially this tuna is inspired by the Salade Niçoise, a French tuna and tomato salad originating in the city of Nice. My version of this vinaigrette starts with lemon, white wine vinegar, and Dijon mustard, anchovies and garlic add an incredible flavor and I mix everything with good quality olive oil and chopped flat-leaf parsley. It is my personal favorite tuna steak recipe, don’t be afraid of the anchovies!
Here is my recipe for Seared Tuna Steaks and Niçoise Vinaigrette
Seared Tuna Steaks
- 2 6-Ounce Tuna Steaks
- 1/2 Teaspoon Salt
- 1 Tablespoon Olive Oil
- 1 Tablespoon Fresh Lemon Juice only
- 1 Tablespoon White Wine Vinegar
- 1 Tablespoon Dijon Mustard
- 2 Anchovy Filets or Substitute 1-teaspoon salt
- 1/2 Teaspoon Red Pepper Flakes
- 1 Teaspoon Shallot Finely chopped
- 1/2 Cup Olive Oil
- 1/3 Cup Flat-Leaf Parsley Chopped
- Add either Anchovies or salt, but not both, I prefer Anchovies
- Combine everything except flat-leaf parsley, whisk until emulsified
- Add parsley, mix to combine
Seared Tuna Steaks
- Preheat a cast-iron skillet or heavy-bottomed frying pan over high heat
- Dry both sides of the tuna with paper towels until very dry
- Season the tuna with salt
- Add olive oil to the pan, add the tuna steaks. Sear for 45-60 seconds per side
- Remove the tuna from the pan and place onto a cutting board to rest briefly, slice the tuna on the bias and serve with the vinaigrette