Charcoal-Grilled Tuna Steaks with Charmoula Vinaigrette

Published May 1, 2010. From Cook's Illustrated.

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Why this recipe works:

For a grilled tuna steak recipe that turned out fish with an intense smoky char and a tender interior, we started by covering the grates with aluminum foil to superheat them. We moistened the tuna steaks’ flesh with a vinaigrette to promote browning and allow the oil to penetrate the meat of… read more

For a grilled tuna steak recipe that turned out fish with an intense smoky char and a tender interior, we started by covering the grates with aluminum foil to superheat them. We moistened the tuna steaks’ flesh with a vinaigrette to promote browning and allow the oil to penetrate the meat of the tuna steaks. And instead of using sugar in our vinaigrette, we used honey. Both promote browning, but honey does it faster.

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Serves 6

We prefer our tuna served rare or medium- rare. If you like your fish cooked medium, observe the timing for medium-rare, then tent the steaks loosely with foil for 5 minutes before serving. To achieve a nicely grilled exterior and a rare center, it is important to use fish steaks that are at least 1 inch thick.

Ingredients

  • Vegetable oil for cooking grate
  • 3 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon red wine vinegar
  • Table salt
  • 2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
  • 2 teaspoons honey
  • 1/4 cup minced fresh cilantro leaves
  • 2 tablespoons minced fresh parsley leaves
  • 4 minced garlic cloves
  • 1 teaspoon sweet paprika
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
  • 3/4 cup olive oil
  • 6 tuna steaks, 1 inch thick (about 8 ounces each) (see note)
  • Ground black pepper

Instructions

  1. 1. Light large chimney starter filled with charcoal (6 quarts, about 100 briquettes) and allow to burn until coals are fully ignited and partially covered with thin layer of ash, about 20 minutes. Build modified two-level fire by arranging all coals in even layer over half of grill, leaving other half empty. Loosely cover cooking grate with large piece of heavy-duty aluminum foil; position grate over coals, cover grill, and heat grate until hot, about 5 minutes. Remove foil with tongs and discard; scrape grate clean with grill brush. Lightly dip wad of paper towels in oil; holding wad with tongs, wipe grate. Continue to wipe grate with oiled paper towels, redipping towels in oil between applications, until grate is black and glossy, 5 to 10 times. Grill is ready when coals are hot (you can hold your hand 5 inches above grate for 3 to 4 seconds).

    2. While grill heats, whisk vinegar, ½ teaspoon salt, mustard, honey, cilantro, parsley, garlic, paprika, cumin, and coriander together in large bowl. While whisking constantly, slowly drizzle oil into vinegar mixture until lightly thickened and emulsified. Measure out ¾ cup vinaigrette and set aside for cooking fish. Reserve remaining vinaigrette for serving.

    3. Brush both sides of fish liberally with vinaigrette and season with salt and pepper to taste. Grill fish without moving until grill marks form and bottom surface is opaque, about 1½ minutes. Carefully flip, cooking until grill marks form on second side, about 1½ minutes longer for rare (opaque at perimeter and translucent red at center when checked with tip of paring knife) or 3 minutes for medium-rare (opaque at perimeter and reddish pink at center). Transfer to large plate and serve immediately, passing reserved vinaigrette.

Technique

Not-So-Great Grilled Tuna: The Ins and Outs

NICELY CHARRED BUT OVERCOOKED

Tuna with a smoky, well-browned crust, usually features dry, overdone flesh.

PERFECT INTERIOR BUT NO CHAR

Tuna with a cool, rare center often has a pale, tasteless exterior.

Step-by-Step

Vinaigrette for Foolproof Grilled Tuna

A simple dressing of oil, vinegar, mustard, and honey not only adds flavor but is the secret to grilled tuna with a hot smoky crust and rosy interior (plus less fishy odor!). Each component brings its own particular benefit to the mix.

MOISTURIZER

Oil keeps the fish moist and traps the fat-soluble compounds responsible for smoke flavor, leading to richer grilled taste.

ODOR NEUTRALIZER

Vinegar neutralizes the odoriferous compound trimethylamine, created when fish is exposed to heat.

MASTER EMULSIFIER

Mustard helps hold the vinaigrette together so it properly coats the tuna steaks.

BROWNING BOOSTER

Two teaspoons of honey help the tuna brown quickly before the interior has a chance to overcook.

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