Because it’s packed with good fats, protein and an assortment of vitamins and minerals, tuna steak is one of the healthiest foods on the planet. It’s one of the most delicious, too, whether eaten cooked or raw.
Tuna steak can be eaten raw if it’s meant for consumption as sushi or sashimi. If the packaging says the product is sushi-grade or sashimi-grade, it can be enjoyed without cooking. Otherwise, tuna steak should be cooked to an internal temperature of 140°F to 145°F (60°C to 62.8°C) to kill pathogens.
Wondering how to please your taste buds with raw tuna steak sans risking your health? Don’t stop reading!
What Will Happen If You Eat Contaminated Tuna Steak?
The risk may be small for most healthy people if they eat contaminated tuna steak raw. For some, however, the risk can be severe. Foodborne illnesses, which can be obtained from eating raw seafood contaminated with pathogens, can result in severe abdominal pain, vomiting, diarrhea and others.
Ate raw fish and shellfish before and nothing happened? Maybe your body is capable of tolerating it. Or maybe you just got lucky and what you ate was not contaminated.
But if you don’t want to risk it, never eat seafood raw unless it’s meant to be eaten raw.
Salmonella — it’s one of the most common types of food poisoning caused by bacteria, including those that could be present in tuna steak that’s not sushi-grade or sashimi-grade. If you bought sushi-grade or sashimi-grade tuna steak from a questionable vendor, there is a possibility for the seafood to be contaminated, too.
In many instances, salmonella lasts for four to seven days. Some of the most common signs and symptoms include but are not limited to:
- Abdominal cramps
- Blood in stool
Some people do not need hospitalization. Others may require medical attention, especially if salmonella is severe.
Besides salmonella, you could also end up with a disease caused by parasites. Different parasites in tuna can cause different signs and symptoms. The severity of signs and symptoms can differ, too, depending on the parasite ingested. The risk of parasitic infection from raw tuna steak will depend on where tuna was caught and how it was handled.
The good news is that parasites can be killed by cooking. Some can be killed by freezing.
How Should You Cook Tuna Steak to Avoid Health Problems?
According to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), the internal temperature of tuna steak should be anywhere from 140°F to 145°F (60°C to 62.8°C). This should be enough to kill pathogens present, if any, and thus lower one’s risk of ending up with a foodborne illness from seafood.
Bacteria and parasites — these are the reasons why it’s not a good idea to consume tuna steak raw unless the packaging says that it can be eaten without cooking it beforehand as it’s sushi-grade or sashimi-grade.
The good news is that these microscopic critters die when exposed to high temperatures.
It’s because of this why you should cook tuna steak before consuming it, particularly if it’s not meant to be eaten raw. But refrain from assuming that exposing the product to just about any heat will get it from tainted to decontaminated. For pathogens to die, tuna steak should be cooked at the right temperature.
Regardless if you prefer tuna steak fried, grilled, broiled or baked, make sure that its internal temperature reaches 140°F to 145°F, which is the recommendation of the USDA.
Love your tuna steak close to medium but hate putting your health at risk? No worries!
You can kill anything that you don’t want to end up in your bloodstream using heat and still enjoy tuna steak the way you like it: medium-rare, which is also how seasoned chefs like to do it.
Instead of cooking tuna steak to an internal temperature mentioned above, aim for an internal temperature of about 125°F (51.7°C).
How Do You Freeze Tuna Steak the Right Way?
Freezing tuna steak helps extend its shelf life to two to three months. However, it can still be consumed beyond that date. Besides keeping it in good quality for a long time, freezing tuna steak also helps kill some pathogens present, although storing the product in the freezer correctly is vital.
The best time to freeze tuna steak is as soon as you get home from the supermarket.
However, it’s also possible to cut up tuna steak into smaller chunks first, depending on your personal preference and the dishes you will eventually be cooking with the aquatic treat.
But there is a right way to go about this. Making sure that you take the correct steps is important if you want tuna steak to remain in excellent condition in the freezer for several months. Storing tuna steak in the freezer in the proper manner also helps kill some of the pathogens, which makes it suitable for raw consumption.
The following are the steps to take:
- Thoroughly rinse tuna steak under running water.
- Gently pat dry using a clean kitchen towel or some paper towels.
- Chop up tuna steak into sizes of your liking.
- Place small batches of tuna into freezer-safe ziploc bags.
- Label and add the date.
By the way, consider placing ziploc bags with tuna steak in a large ziploc bag. This will help keep other food items in the freezer from being contaminated with the unmistakable smell of fish.
What’s the Proper Way to Thaw Frozen Tuna Steak?
Frozen tuna steak can be thawed in a couple of ways. First, allow tuna steak to thaw in the refrigerator for several hours. Second, submerge tuna steak in room-temperature water, changing the water every 30 minutes. Thawed tuna steak should be cooked unless it’s sushi-grade or sashimi-grade.
Storing tuna steak in the freezer the right way for extending the shelf life and getting rid of some contaminants is one thing. Thawing tuna steak from the freezer the correct way is another.
Especially if frozen tuna steak is sushi-grade or sashimi-grade, thawing it properly is a definite must.
Otherwise, you are risking allowing disease- and infection-causing microorganisms to flourish in your tuna steak while waiting for it to be thawed. And if you eat fully thawed tuna steak raw, even if it’s manufactured to be consumed raw, you could wind up having all sorts of digestive issues, which, if severe, could warrant a trip to the doctor’s office.
As the name suggests, refrigerator thawing entails transferring tuna steak from the freezer to the refrigerator. This is something you should do at least half a day before planning on enjoying tuna steak.
That’s because thawing frozen tuna steak can take up to 12 hours to complete, depending on the quantity and size of each tuna steak piece. But what’s nice about refrigerator thawing is that you can forget about it (well, until it’s time to do some culinary magic in the kitchen) as tuna steak is safe inside the fridge.
To thaw frozen tuna in the refrigerator, place it on a shallow dish lined with paper towels. There is no need to remove tuna steak from its original packaging or ziploc bag. If you see water pooling on the dish, replace wet paper towels with new ones to keep the inside of the fridge from flooding.
It’s on the bottom shelf where frozen tuna is best thawed in the refrigerator.
If you are in a rush to enjoy tuna steak, cold-water thawing is what you need to do. That’s because it allows frozen tuna steak to thaw so much faster than refrigerator thawing.
While it yields results faster, cold-water thawing requires considerably more work!
To get started, place frozen tuna steak in a large bowl without removing it from its original packaging or ziploc bag. Fill the bowl with room-temperature water until tuna steak is completely submerged. Leave the bowl in the sink, on a countertop, or where your pack of tuna steak is safe.
After 30 minutes, replace water. You will have to keep doing this until frozen tuna steak is completely thawed. As a general rule of thumb, a pound of tuna steak takes about 30 minutes to thaw.
Just Before You Prepare Tuna Steak
Tuna steak is both nutritious and delicious. It can also be eaten either cooked or raw. While all tuna steak products can be eaten cooked, not all of them can be eaten raw. Before enjoying tuna steak without frying, grilling, broiling or baking it beforehand, make sure that the packaging says it’s sushi-grade or sashimi-grade.
Does vinegar kill pathogens in tuna steak?
Vinegar is known to have antimicrobial properties. As a matter of fact, it can help prevent the spread of some foodborne illnesses. Unfortunately, vinegar is not capable of killing all pathogens known to man, including some of those that can be found in contaminated tuna steak.
Can you eat canned tuna without cooking it first?
It’s perfectly fine to eat canned tuna straight from the can. That’s because the canning process exposes tuna to heat high enough to cook it. In some instances, canned tuna is not the best tuna for cooking. Because it’s already cooked, it could end up overcooked when used as an ingredient.