When you smoke fish on your pellet grill, you usually want to go with the low and slow method for even cooking and a great smokey flavor—but when you grill tuna steak, the rules change.
Instead of cooking low and slow, the key for great grilled tuna steak is a high heat that delivers a beautiful sear.
It’s easy to overcook tuna and ruin the expensive fish, and we don’t wish that misfortune on anyone. So, we’ve created this ultimate guide to grill tuna steak the right way every time, from choosing the best cut of fish to what temp to grill tuna steak when the time comes.
Table of Contents
How to Choose a Good Tuna Steak
When shopping for tuna, you want to choose something that is sushi-grade—which simply means it’s been frozen to such a low temperature that it will kill any dangerous living organisms that could make you sick.
Make sure you purchase your tuna steaks from a reliable source that you trust and double check that the tuna steaks are sustainably sourced. Overfishing in some regions has made tuna an incredibly unsustainable fish to include in our diets. But some types of tuna from certain regions are better to buy.
Equipment and Ingredients to Grill Tuna Steaks
You’ll need just a few basic things to make these grilled tuna steaks. Once you see this list, you’ll get a taste of just how simple these seared tuna steaks are.
Equipment to Grill Tuna Steaks
Ingredients to Grill Tuna Steaks
Instructions for How to Grill Tuna Steaks on the Grill
Many cooks struggle to cook that perfect tuna steak—but not you (at least, not with this complete guide to grilling tuna steaks on a pellet smoker). Follow our lead, and you’ll end up with wonderfully seared, rare tuna steaks that delight and impress.
1. Preheat Your Z Grills Pellet Smoker
First things first. You’ll need to preheat your Z Grills pellet smoker to the highest heat setting, which will be around 450-500°F depending on your specific pellet smoker.
Although the general rule for smoking fish is to use a mild wood pellet like applewood, you can really use any wood pellet you want for this smoked tuna steak recipe.
Because we’re simply searing the tuna rather than smoking it for an extended period of time, strong flavors are less likely to overpower the tuna. So, get creative! You can’t go wrong with a classic choice like these Z Grills Competition Blend BBQ Grill Pellets.
Once the grill is preheated, grease the grill grates by spraying them generously with cooking spray or wiping a paper towel soaked in vegetable oil along the grates. Keep your paper towel or cooking spray around for when you flip the tuna steaks.
2. Prepare the Tuna Steaks
To get your tuna steaks ready for the grill, pat them dry with paper towels. Then, lightly oil the tuna steaks on all sides and transfer them to a clean plate.
Right before you throw your tuna steaks on the grill, salt and pepper them. Although you should definitely salt your fish, adding pepper is optional.
3. Grill Tuna Steaks for Two Minutes
Tuna steaks do not take long to cook at all. Since we’re simply searing the outside and leaving in the inside rare, it won’t take more than 4 minutes total to cook your tuna steaks.
The Best Times and Temperatures for Grilled Tuna Steaks
Grilled tuna steaks taste best when served rare or medium-rare. Any more than that, and you’ve overcooked your fish.
That’s why 450°F to 500°F is what temp to grill tuna steak. High heat for cooking tuna steaks will deliver a beautiful sear that looks as great as it tastes.
At a high temperature on your pellet smoker, the tuna steaks grill time will be less than four minutes total. You only need to give each side 1-2 minutes to cook.
Tips and FAQS About Grilled Tuna Steak
Grilled tuna steaks are incredibly easy to make on a Z Grills pellet smoker, but that doesn’t mean you won’t have questions. Here’s what you need to know.
1. How can you tell when a tuna steak is ready to come off the grill?
To cook the perfect tuna steak every time, set a timer for two minutes when you place the tuna on your preheated grill (it should be on high heat). Watch as the tuna’s color changes dramatically from a deep reddish-purple or pink color to an opaque beige. You’ll see the beige color creep up the side of the steak.
Your tuna steaks are done when the beige color creeps up just a bit on both sides—you should still be able to see the pinkish purple color on the sides of the steak. Remember, you want the inside of the steak to be rare, and the exterior of the tuna cooks slightly faster than the interior.
When the timer goes off at two minutes, remove the tuna steaks from the grill. If you wait any longer, you will overcook your grilled tuna steaks.
2. What temp to grill tuna steak?
Tuna steaks taste best when seared on the exterior with a rare interior. To achieve this result, sear your tuna steaks on high heat between 450°F and 500°F for 1-2 minutes on each side.
Grilled Tuna Steak
- Paper towels
- Metal tongs
- Z Grills Pellet Smoker
- Z Grills Apple Wood Pellets
- 4 2-inch thick tuna steaks (about 6-8 oz each)
- Vegetable oil
- Kosher salt
- Black pepper, optional
- Cooking spray, optional
- Preheat your Z Grills pellet smoker to the highest heat setting around 450°F to 500°F.
- Prepare the tuna steaks by patting them dry with paper towels. Then, brush a light layer of oil all over the tuna steak.
- Once the grill is preheated, grease the grill grates with cooking spray or a paper towel soaked in oil.
- Season the tuna steaks with salt (and pepper if desired) on both sides, then place it immediately on the hot grill.
- Grill each side of the tuna steak for 1-2 minutes. Before or during flipping, oil the grill grates with more cooking spray or your reserved paper towel to prevent sticking.
- Tuna steaks are best when served when the inside of the tuna steak is rare, and you don’t want to cook it any more than medium-rare. After four minutes total on the grill, remove your tuna steaks.
- Slice with a sharp knife and serve.