Pan Grilled Tuna

Pan Grilled Tuna

This is a very simple cooking method but the dish's success depends upon three things:  one, use a well-seasoned cast iron grill pan; two, buy top quality tuna steaks; and three, don't take your eye off the pan or otherwise the fish may quickly become over-cooked.

Although storage space is usually a luxury in small city kitchens, I make room for a square cast iron grill pan that I use only to cook fish which I do often enough to grant this pan its special status.  The cast iron surface is porous and thus can absorb some fish flavor, which makes it less than ideal for cooking other foods.  Cast iron pans are not costly -- most frying and grill pans cost less than $30 and will last a lifetime.

Pan grilled tuna steaks are an easy and quick-cooked weekday dinner, special enough for company, and a treat when sliced and used to replace canned tuna in an otherwise traditional Salade Nicoise.

You can use this cooking method also for fresh swordfish, salmon, halibut and any other steak-like fish.

Tip: Remember to clean cast iron with a quick scrub and dry it immediately so to not damage its seasoned surface,which can make a cast iron pan as non-stick as Teflon (minus the chemicals).



  1. Place a well-seasoned cast iron grill pan on the front burner of your stove with the handle sticking out away from the stove. Place a flame-resistant potholder on the handle -- this is an important reminder that as the pan heats the handle will, too, and the potholder will protect against burns.
  2. Without adding any oil to the pan, place the pan over very high heat and let it become blazing hot, about 1 to 2 minutes.
  3. Drizzle the olive oil over the fish and use your hands to lightly coat both sides of the fish. You want the steaks to gleam from the oil but not be wet.
  4. Sprinkle both sides with a pinch of salt and several grinds of black pepper.
  5. When the grill pan is blazing hot, place the tuna steaks in the pan. You'll hear a nice sizzling sound. Lower the heat to medium high (the cast iron will retain the high heat so you won't see an immediate change in the cooking). Let the steaks sit, undisturbed, for 2 minutes. While they cook you'll begin to see the surface against the heat change color while the rest of the fish remains red.
  6. After two minutes turn use tongs or a spatula to over each steak, keeping the heat at medium high. Let the steaks cook for an additional minute. You'll be able to watch the fish cook as the center of each piece becomes decreasingly red.
  7. Remove the steaks from the pan either after one minute or as the center redness decreases to the desired doneness. But one minute (for a total cooking time of 3 minutes) should produce tasty, browned surfaces and a rare interior.
  8. While you can serve the fish immediately, it can also sit for a few minutes as it comes to room temperature, which may be preferable if the fish is part of a main course salad.



FishTuna (fresh)

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