Tender smoked tuna steaks are bathed in a brightly flavored marinade and smoked to infuse each bite with flavor. I love this simple recipe because this mild-flavored fish requires a shorter smoked time than traditional barbecue, allowing you to get on with your day and get dinner served quickly.
What you will need
- Tuna steaks - Albacore or Yellowfin tuna both work well. Yellowfin is often sold as ahi tuna steaks. Fresh tuna is always best, but frozen works well for this recipe too.
- Kosher salt
- Brown sugar
- Lime juice - You could substitute another citrus like orange juice or even grapefruit juice. Pineapple juice would pair well along with the lime.
- Low sodium soy sauce - Regular soy sauce may get too salty.
- Fresh ginger
- Smoker - A charcoal, gas, or electric heat source will all work well.
- Wood chips - You will want a mild flavored wood chip, such as a fruit wood, for a tuna steak recipe. Apple or cherry wood are good options.
Marinating the Tuna
The marinade is a hybrid between a traditional acid-based marinade and a salty brine. Mix together water, salt, sugar, lime juice, and soy sauce in a large bowl. The ginger should be peeled and crushed slightly to release more flavor, then added to the liquid.
Once the brown sugar and salt have been dissolved the marinade can be placed in a sealable plastic bag along with the tuna steaks. Let your fresh fish soak for 3 hours then remove them from the bag, rinse under cold water and pat dry with paper towels.
How to smoke tuna
Preheat your smoker to 200 degrees and get the wood chips smoking. The tuna will be hot smoked which combines the cooking process with smoking the meat. Cold smoking can be used for fish as well, but we won't be doing that today.
Your tuna fish steaks can be placed directly on the grates, but make sure to space them apart to allow airflow around them. It isn't recommended to set the steaks on a solid surface, and certainly don't cover them. You don't want to block the smoke from flavoring the meat.
Smoke the fish for one and a half hours, or until the internal temperature reaches 140 degrees. You don't want to cook these well done or they will become dry.
Tip: Keeping a probe thermometer inserted into the fish during the smoking process is the ideal way to keep your eye on the cooking progress without having to open up your smoker. Keeping the smoking chamber shut will keep the smoke where you want it and the temperature more consistent.
Smoke tuna for one and a half hours with your smoker set to 200 degrees, or until the tuna reaches 140 degrees. The exact time will vary depending on the thickness of your steaks, which is why it is important to use a meat thermometer.
It is important to use a low heat when smoking tuna so it does not dry out. Anywhere from 175 - 225 degrees is perfect.
Mild-flavored fruit wood is best for smoking tuna. Apple or cherry wood chips are great options.
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Smoked Tuna Steaks
- 6 tuna steaks
- 3 cups water
- ¼ cup kosher salt
- ⅓ cup brown sugar
- ¼ cup Low sodium soy sauce
- 2 Limes juiced
- 1" knob fresh ginger peeled and crushed
- Add water, salt, brown sugar, soy sauce, lime juice, and crushed ginger to a bowl and mix together until the salt and sugar has dissolved.
- Place tuna steaks in a large sealable bag and pour in marinade. Place the bag in the refrigerator for 3 hours.
- Remove tuna from the bag and rinse under cold water then pat dry.
- Preheat smoker to 200 degrees and add wood chips.
- Set the tuna steaks directly on the grates and smoke until the internal temperature reaches 140 degrees, approximately 1 ½ hours.
- Remove tuna from the smoker and serve immediately.