When To Season Tuna Steaks To Avoid Drying Them Out

Tuna steaks can be tricky at the best of times. Not only do you need to consider the sustainability of the fish you're purchasing, but, when it comes to cooking the steaks, you need to follow a few rules to make sure that they don't end up dry. Tuna has a tendency to turn tough and crumbly if it is overcooked. One of the ways to avoid this outcome actually occurs before the fish even hits the heat.

Preparing your tuna for the grill or skillet is important to its eventual success. Seasoning your tuna steak too early in the process can lead to drying it out. All seasoning calls for salt, and salt crystals draw out moisture. And too much moisture drawn out of the tuna will leave you with a steak that's dried out before you've even had a chance to cook it. 

So then, when exactly should you season a tuna steak? You should season it shortly before you are about to cook it so that the seasoning flavors the meat but doesn't draw out too much moisture for the time being. And as for the moisture, it actually does more damage to your tuna steak apart from drying out the interior of the meat — it can create the perfect conditions for sticking. 

Season your tuna steaks right before grilling them

It may seem oxymoronic to say that you need to dry out your tuna before you cook it, but you do. Allowing your tuna to come to room temperature and drying it thoroughly with a paper towel will greatly reduce the surface moisture on the meat. Once the steaks are dry, you can rub them with an oil of your choosing. You could use a flavorless oil, such as canola or vegetable oil, but if you're seed oil averse, a light olive or avocado will work just as well. 

After oiling your tuna steaks, season them liberally with about 1 ½ teaspoons of kosher salt and any other seasonings of your choosing — ground coriander, paprika, and cayenne can add a nice kick. For a perfect sear on the outside, lay it on the grill for about a minute and a half on each side until you see the exterior color change to a light beige. You want that steak on and off the grill in under five minutes, otherwise you really run the risk of dry, crumbly tuna.