Smoked Tuna – A Complete Guide To Smoking Tuna

Smoking fish has moved from just a preservation method to more of a fine dining choice in this millennial age. And even if you’re not particularly a seafood fan, tuna might have you rethinking your skepticism towards the genre. It tastes great, is easy to prepare, and is one of those selections that would have you wow your guests or family without breaking a sweat.

So if you’re thinking about preparing some smoked tuna, great call! We have the perfect recipe to get you started, and the best part, you’ll be done in no time. Read along!

Tuna Nutrition Facts


Tuna is a salty water breed belonging to a family of fish scientifically called Thunnini. It doesn’t give off the pungent smell associated with general fish types, plus the texture is remarkably great.

Seeing as there are so many fish breeds, others preferably targeted for the smoking technique ie: salmon and trout, you may be wondering why Tuna?

Well, there are a lot of health benefits to this species, for instance;

  • It is lean and therefore high on protein but low on fat.
  • Packs omega 3 acids that have been associated with reduced risk of cardiovascular diseases and heart attack.
  • The same omega 3 acids also boost retina health hence lowering vision-related problems.
  • Tuna is a source of vitamin B 12 which helps form new red blood cells and prevent anemia.
  • It also contains potassium which is necessary for bone health.
  • Could reduce the risk of cancer by slowing down the growth of tumor cells.

The Perfect Tuna for Smoking

There are several tuna varieties that are suitable for grilling and even broiling, but Ahi and Yellowfin tuna are the best choices for smoked tuna recipes.

The perfect tuna steak selection may make all the difference, and these two premium slices are excellent for smoking. They have a better texture and won’t make you wait for the cook for hours.

Find them online, at your neighborhood grocery shop, and, if all else fails, at your local fish market, if one exists. The nice thing about the latter is that, if the steaks became confused, you might ask a fishmonger for assistance.

Ingredients and Tools You’ll Need

As mentioned earlier, this is a simple quick recipe that needs not too much beforehand preparation, however, at the very least have these ingredients in your pantry.

  • 6 Ahi tuna steaks cut approximately 1- 1.5 inches thick
  • 3 TBS kosher salt
  • 3 TBS light brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • Lemon pepper seasoning
  • Thin slices of fresh lemon
  • Fruitwood chips, such as peach
  • Weber smoker
  • Digital thermometer

The measurements below are estimated for tuna steaks weighing about 4-6 ounces each. If you’re preparing a much bigger or smaller batch you may need to adjust the proportions.

How to Smoke Tuna

Now there are different perspectives as regards whether or not you should brine your tuna. Some argue that a brine solution works averse by breaking down the muscles fibers too much and should be left for tougher pieces of meat. So, the decision is entirely up to you.

Prepare the Tuna


If you choose to go the marinating way though, the following spices make a great pick.

  • 1/2 cup of honey.
  • 1/2cup of soy sauce.
  • 1/2cup of kosher salt.
  • 1 cup brown sugar.
  • 2 cups of water.
  • 2 cups of apple juice.

Heat the mixture to dissolve the sugar and salt and allow some cooling time before submerging your cuts. Leave for about 3 hours in the refrigerator locked in zipper bags and then pat dry with paper towels.

Letting the steaks further air dry for about an hour helps develop the pellicle which is going to be useful for a flaky crust. But be careful though because you don’t want to overdo it and squeeze out all the inherent moisture.

It’s now time to add on your dry spices but before that, brushing a touch of olive oil helps the steaks hold firm to the spices. The Lemon and pepper blend is an admirable choice and for the sake of this recipe, that’s what we’ll be using. Sprinkle a reasonable amount and seal all those yummy spices in with a squeeze of lemon juice.

Time to head on to your smoker.

Prepare the Smoker

A target temperature of 175F and not exceeding 200F. If you’re using an electric smoker this is quite easy to maintain. It may require a little bit more work with a charcoal and wood smoker.

Start the charcoal in a chimney and wait until red hot. Transfer into the firebox and begin to place wood chunks one after the other, until you get to the desired temperature range. Beware that you want to avoid very thick smoke whips, otherwise, your tuna may turn out bitter.

Begin the Smoking

Now that you have your smoker set, place the steaks directly onto the grates. Using a baking sheet may hinder the smoke flavor from penetrating enough so avoid that. What is acceptable though is a water pan between the fire and fish adding to the moisture during the smoke.

For those willing to step outside the box, a little wine added to the bath, coupled with celery stalks or rosemary could give that extra kick needed to elevate the final flavor. But even without it, the tuna is still a delight in itself.

The kind of wood used to smoke plays a big role in the outcome, so choose wisely. Some sweet peach and cherry combination imparts a subtle fruity touch, just the right kind to interest an elevated palette.

Give about 1 hour to 1 hour 45 minutes depending on the quantity and all the while maintaining a closed lid for the most part.

Maintaining the Fire

A smoker thermometer will come in handy here. If you notice the temperatures overly rising, regulate the air vents and check the firebox.

You may want to hold out on another log as you gain control of the situation and if absolutely necessary you can open up the hood. Invest in an instant-read thermometer that tells you exactly what temperature your chamber is operating at or else you may suffer the repercussions of losing too much fire.

Still keep a close eye on how your tuna is coming along and have your timer close to track the duration.

Removing Tuna from the Smoker

You know your fish is ready when it hits the magic number 140F internally. How you can measure this is by using a calibrated meat thermometer pushed to the middle, the thickest part of the tuna. And when the outside changes color to a nice brown that’s flaky, you truly hit the sweet spot.

Experts recommend a brief resting period so that the cuts come up to the ideal temperature. After this, by all means, have your steaks plated up.

Suggested Beverages

Of course, this will majorly lean towards your liking and previous experiences, but if you’re a first-timer and don’t know what to pair the dish with some pale ale or Moscato wine may be a crowd-pleaser.

For non-alcoholic drinks, keep it simple with some lemon sparkling water.

Finest Side Dishes

What is smoked tuna without some great side dishes to go along with it? Not only do they make the whole meal filling but versatile as well. Luckily, tuna can go with a variety of sides, and these include;

I. Corn Salsa

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For the ingredients you will need;

  • Pre-smoked corn or grilled
  • 2 large ripe red tomatoes
  • 1/2 tsp ground cumin
  • 2 to 3 jalapeño peppers
  • 1 bunch of scallions, white and green parts
  • 1 clove of garlic, ground
  • 1 small bunch of fresh cilantro, or basely leaves finely chopped
  • 1 TBS olive oil
  • lime juice
  • kosher salt

Smoke the vegetables and corn just to add an extra smoky flavor. Proceed to pluck out the seeds from the cob and once done, chop up the rest of the ingredients (tomatoes, cilantro, peppers, scallions) into sizeable bites.

Transfer into a bowl large enough to fit and toss everything in. Add the grounded garlic and give it a good stir. Squeeze in a good amount of lime juice before tying everything together with some oil drizzle and salt to taste. If you like, you can add some thin avocado slices to the salad to make it look fancier. And there you have it!

Leaving the salad to cool in the fridge as the tuna gets ready is advisable.

II. Garlic Bread

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It’s as simple as it gets. Some freshly baked bread topped with a garlic spread is all the magic you need. You could decide to roast this in the oven and garnish with a sprig of thyme or simply have it as it is.

III. Potato and Green Bean Salad

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In this case, potato wedges will work well. Parboil briefly then finish by giving them a toss over hot oil seasoned with minced garlic. You can then top with some basil.

Green beans come in to balance the whole nutritional equation and having them sautéed is a wonderful idea.

Final Thoughts

Next time you think of having tuna, try smoked tuna for a change. The recipe is easy to follow and the taste is out of this world. It makes a great quick snack or with enough side dishes, a worthy dinner treat for your family and loved ones. Go ahead and try it today.

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