The Best Guide on Smoking Tuna: How to Prepare Fish like a Professional

Recently I have been spammed with quite a few emails asking for advice on smoking tuna. So, instead of answering each email one by one, why not just write a whole article on it?

Tuna is a piece of fish that is not as fatty as salmon, and the flavor is not as strong either. Most people do end up smoking tuna the similar way they smoke salmon, which is not necessarily wrong, just not ideal.

If you are wondering what’s the proper way to smoke tuna here is everything you need to know.

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Your Guide For Smoking Tuna

1. Marinating Overnight - The Secret to That Flavor

smokin tuna on a traeger grill

Here is usually how it goes, you are hanging out with your buddies and thinking about what to do, and one of them suggests a BBQ party. You are now at the supermarket buying ingredients, see a piece of yellowfin, and suddenly there is the urge to serve fish steaks.

As a result, you buy it out of a spur of a moment, smoke it, and then a piece of bland tasting tuna disappoints your taste buds. Then here you are, reading my article for an explanation of why your tuna tasted so bland.

Alright, sorry, maybe I am not a good Sherlock Holmes, but I promise I am a way better tuna smoker that a detective.

The point of the example above is that tuna is generally not as naturally flavored as salmon. That’s why marinating it for a few hours is not enough and often results in a bland-tasting smoked tuna.

Marinating it overnight is the way to go and here is a list of ingredients for proper seasoning.

2. Wet Brine Seasoning Method

Ingredients

  • One cup of white sugar
  • One cup of brown sugar
  • 2 cups of soy sauce
  • One-third of a cup of hot sauce
  • A gallon of water

How to Process

  • Pour all the ingredients into the mixture and stir well.
  • Then place your yellowfin or, whatever piece of tuna you have, into the pot.
  • Then place a plate that fits the pot on top to keep the tuna immersed at the bottom, and put in the refrigerator to marinate overnight.

PRO TIPS

If the piece of the tuna you are marinating is at room temperature but not frozen, add ice cubes to keep them cold.

The reason is that, if the tuna is put into the fridge at the room temperature, you run the risk of bacterial infection happening during the marinating process.

3. Wood Chips

smokin tuna on a green mountain grill

Usually, for lamb or beef, some people like to mask the strongly scented meat, but for tuna, we generally want a different approach.

The majority of people will enjoy a smoked tuna, or seafood in general if they have a fresh feeling to it.

However, since we are smoking it (and you probably bought frozen fillets too), “natural freshness” is not an option here.

That’s why I recommend using apple or cherry wood chips to bring back that freshness in the tuna. The smoker box is an indispensable item

4. Temperature

There are wet brine and dry brine tuna, and they should be prepared on different smoking temperature.

This article focuses on wet brine tuna for richer flavor so that the ideal temperature will be 190 to 200 degrees F.

5. Getting the Tuna Ready

Smoking tuna is not the same as smoking beef or pork, so you need to make a slightly different setting. 

The pieces of tuna should be marinated well after a night of sitting inside the fridge.

Rinse it and dry it on a checkered cooling rack (or cut it into smaller slices if yours are a bit too big). Use paper towels to speed up the drying process.

After that, sizzle the tuna with additional spices of your choice. My personal favorites include crushed garlic, salt and pepper, and a few drops of olive oil.

Place your wet brined tuna in the cooking chamber, preferably away from the firebox to avoid the fire sparking during startup.

A Secret That You Should Know

To avoid drying the tuna, some people place a pan of water to provide moisture during smoking. Now you replace that water with white wine and sprinkle with rosemary.

Ever wonder why the fish fillets you order at the restaurant always have the sweet and slightly acidic taste, which you always fail to replicate at home? This is the secret they do not want you to know. 

6. Smoking Process

You must constantly monitor the grill thermometer when the tuna is being smoked.

Depending on the type of offset smoker (what people usually use these days), there might be heat retention issue and smoke leakage leading to temperature fluctuation.

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Open the damper for airflow and increase the temperature and add more coals to maintain the fire. Try to do whatever it takes to keep the temperature between 190 and 200 degrees F.

Note on the Thermometer

A common issue among most smokers is the unreliable grill thermometer. So ensure that the reliability of the thermometer has been tested.

If necessary, purchase an additional thermometer and install it on your smoker.

7. Checking on the Smoked Tuna

Generally, it is not recommended to open the lid and peek inside the cooking chamber constantly. Doing so will risk temperature loss and smoke leakage.

However, that doesn’t mean you are entirely prohibited from checking it.

Although, please only do so after at least 2 hours smoking the tuna. The color should have quite a drastic change now.

Stick the meat thermometer and check if it is 140 degrees F. If it isn’t, close the lid for another 20 to 30 minutes until it is.

Tips for Serving Tuna

1. Extra Healthy

smoking tuna on a pellet grill

Drizzle Greek yogurt on top of the slices of tuna and garnish with coriander.

Squeeze a little bit of lemon juice and add a pinch of salt or pepper if needed. 

2. For the Creamy Touch

smoking tuna steaks

Put a small block of cream cheese and mayonnaise into a bowl, mix them up a bit.

Then throw in some red onions, parsley, squeeze a quarter of a lemon, a pinch of salt and pepper and mix it up a bit more until the mixture looks saucy enough. 

3. Killer Guacamole Dressing

smoking albacore tuna recipes

For folks who like eating tuna-like chips with dips, the creamy avocado dressing is going to be perfect.

Put the avocado in a blender (or two for extra serving size), add peeled and crushed garlic, and squeeze a quarter of a lemon, 3 tablespoons of olive oil, a pinch of kosher salt, black pepper and ¼ cup of water.

Blend everything until it turns into a smoothie looking sauce. Dip the sliced tuna in the dressing and enjoy. 

4. Time to Smoke (Tuna)

Smoking tuna is an art. There are so many variations with different marinating methods, smoking process, dressing, and serving preferences.

You have to experiment with all of them to really figure out what your favorite combo is.

My article serves as a general guideline which you can add or alter wherever you see fit to create something new.

If you think the recipe turned out to be super delicious, share with us. Let us know your opinion in the comment box.

Enjoy your tuna!

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