Can You Heat Canned Tuna In The Microwave?

Hot Tuna isn't just a legendary jam band still making an impact on today's music scene. It's also how some folks prefer their skipjack, yellowfin, and albacore, which true devotees of canned tuna might recognize as the three major varieties of tuna used in most canned tunas in U.S. supermarkets. 

The fact is, while cold or room-temperature canned tuna works great in sandwiches and salads, tuna served warm or hot also deserves a seat at the table. After all, where would tuna noodle casserole be without canned tuna? Or a good ole tuna melt, whether open-faced or grill pressed? But those aren't the only uses for hot tuna. Some of these top-notch additions to canned tuna actually work their optimal magic when the tuna is served at least warm. 

And while these dishes prove that warm tuna is delicious and that it's certainly okay to heat up canned tuna, the question of whether it's safe to do so in the microwave still arises more often than you might think. That's because, nearly 80 years after the invention of the microwave oven, there remains some confusion as to how microwaving works and whether it's safe. 

The simple answer is that microwave ovens use electromagnetic radiation and are "generally safe when used correctly," per the FDA. It's definitely okay to microwave canned tuna as long as you remove it from the can first.

You can, but do you really want to reheat canned tuna?

Although you can heat up canned tuna in the microwave (and otherwise), there are reasons why you might not want to, especially in the microwave, and they pretty much all come down to the fact that the tuna that's used in canned tuna has always been cooked before canning. Accordingly, when you heat (i.e., reheat) canned tuna, whether in the microwave or otherwise, you may be compromising its flavor and its texture. 

As such, whenever you reheat canned tuna, you run the risk of causing it to come out overcooked. While this is true of any mode of reheating you might use, the margin for error may be even smaller when it comes to using the microwave. Microwave cooking proceeds faster than other cooking methods because microwave cooking directs all of the heat into the food, itself. In just about any other form of cooking we can think of other than searing, the heat is ambient and, therefore, indirect.

Longer cooking of tuna also pulls moisture from the flesh — even if your tuna was canned in oil. The resulting concentration contributes to both a fishier flavor and a dried-out, if not hard, consistency. Moreover, the results of a 2010 study published in the Journal of Food Science and Technology would tend to suggest that if you reheat canned tuna in the microwave, you run the risk of diminishing some of the tuna's nutritional benefits. 

All-in-all, though it's safe to reheat canned tuna in the microwave (assuming you remove it from the can), you'll likely have better results with a different method.