Charcoal-Grilled Tuna Steaks with Soy-Ginger Vinaigrette

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

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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.


  • Vegetable oil for cooking grate
  • 3 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon rice vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
  • 2 teaspoons honey
  • 2 medium thinly sliced scallions
  • 3 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 1 tablespoon toasted sesame oil
  • 2 teaspoons minced fresh ginger
  • 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 3/4 cup olive oil
  • 6 tuna steaks, 1 inch thick (about 8 ounces each) (see note)
  • Ground black pepper


  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, mustard, honey, scallions, soy sauce, sesame oil, ginger, and red pepper flakes 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 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.


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


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


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


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.


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


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


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


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

Detail cvr sfs grilled tuna index 063 article
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