The best way to discern freshness—the sniff test—isn’t really an option when the fish is still behind the seafood counter. So just ask when and where the fish was caught. “You want to purchase as close to the catch date as possible,” Seaver says. To ensure sustainability, cross-reference the location of the catch with the latest information from the Monterey Bay Seafood Watch website, where you can download a printable pocket guide.
If the price has you feeling a little seasick, then seek out frozen tuna steaks. Tuna freezes well, and the frozen steaks may actually be the highest quality offering at the store, Seaver says. “The technology of freezing has advanced to a point where product is able to be preserved with little decrease in quality. Often times, seafood products that are frozen are processed very quickly after capture and so are arrested at a stage of peak freshness.”
Step 2: Select the right seasoning
Seaver likes to season his tuna steaks with wine salts. We tried this recipe from his upcoming book, Where There’s Smoke.
What you'll need:
2 Tbsp kosher salt
Pinch ground allspice
½ tsp ground coriander
½ tsp ground cinnamon
Sest of ½ orange
Leaves from 1 sprig fresh tarragon
How to make it:
Combine all the ingredients in a small bowl and mix with your fingers, gently bruising the tarragon leaves to release their aromatic oils. Cover and let sit for at least 20 minutes; use within a few hours. Sprinkle on tuna steaks to taste.
Step 3: Create the perfect sear
As with other cuts of meat with the word “steak” appended to them, this one is best cooked (1) over high, direct heat and (2) less than well done. “Tuna can dry out very quickly and lose the silken texture that we so admire,” says Seaver, who prefers medium doneness—an even band of firm, white seared flesh sandwiching a pink or red center that’s not warmed through.
1. Fire up the grill, concentrating the coals beneath the spot where the steaks will go so as to maximize the heat. Or if you’re not quite ready to break out the grill yet, crank up the heat under a grill pan.
2. Lightly oil and season the steaks. When the grill or grill pan is very hot, throw on the steaks. Now keep your mitts off until the sear is complete. This takes 1 to 2 minutes. When the time comes to flip, you’ll know the sear is done if the tuna moves easily and does not stick to the grates or pan. Cook the other side for another 1 to 2 minutes.