Smoked tuna is enjoyed all over the world. This saltwater fish varies greatly in size depending on the species, but it’s generally sold in thick, large steaks. The firmness of the fish makes it a great candidate for grilling and smoking. Smoking tuna is a fairly simple and straightforward process that’s similar to smoking other types of fish. The first step – and key to delicious, moist tuna – is to brine the fish.
First Step: Brining the Tuna
If you’re preparing freshly caught tuna, you’ll need to gut, clean and fillet the fish before brining it. If this is your first time preparing tuna, check out Wikihow’s step-by-step guide on how to fillet tuna.
Brining will help add moisture and flavor to your tuna. You’ll find dozens of brine recipes on the web,
but here is a basic recipe that you can build off of:
Brine Recipe For Tuna
- 1 gallon of water
- 1 cup brown sugar
- 2 cups salt
- 1 tbsp. onion powder
- 1 tbsp. garlic powder
- 1 tbsp. allspice
- 2 tsp. pepper
Tuna may react with aluminum or other metals, so choose a glass, ceramic or plastic container to hold the brine. Once your brine is mixed and prepared, submerge the tuna in the solution. If need be, place plates on top of the fish to ensure that it remains submerged. Place the container in the refrigerator.
How long you brine your tuna will depend on the weight of the fish. As a general rule of thumb,
you’ll want to brine the tuna for:
- 30 minutes for 1/4lb.
- 45 minutes for 1/4-1/2lb.
- 1 hour for 1/2-1lb.
- 2 hours for 1-2lbs.
- 3 hours for 2-3lbs.
- 4 hours for 3-4lbs.
- 5 hours for 4-5lbs.
Second Step: Drying The Tuna
After the brining process is complete, you’ll need to remove the tuna from the solution and dry it. Depending on your own personal taste preferences, you may or may not want to rinse the tuna before drying. If you do rinse, do so lightly and with fresh water. If you decide not to rinse, keep in mind that the final product will be saltier. Generally, a light rinse is recommended.
To dry the tuna, place the fish on elevated racks. You may just want to use the racks from your smoker for convenience. Place the racks in a cool area. You may want to use a fan to speed up the drying process. Drying typically takes one hour. By this time, a thin glaze (a.k.a. the pellicle) should form on the fish. The pellicle helps preserve the flavor, color and moisture of the fish.
Final Step: Smoking Tuna Meat in Your Electric Smoker
Before smoking, you will need to soak your wood chips an hour or two beforehand. Hardwoods, such as cherry, pecan, apple and oak, are excellent for smoking fish.
Generally, fish is smoked at a lower temperature and for a longer period of time. Smoking at 190 degrees is the norm for tuna and most other fish. Be sure to follow the directions included with your electric smoker to prepare and start the smoker.
Here are some general guidelines for smoking times when smoking at 190 degrees:
- 1/4-1/2lb. – 1 1/4 to 1 1/2 hours
- 1/2-1lb. – 1 1/2 to 2 hours
- 1-2lbs. – 2 to 2 1/2 hours
- 3-5lbs. – 2 1/2 to 3 hours
Keep in mind that the cooking time may need to be extended depending on the equipment you use and how many times you open the door to check the fish’s progress. The tuna will be done smoking when it reaches an internal temperature of 140 degrees. The fish should flak easily when pressing it with a fork or knife.