Fresh tuna is a great choice for the grill, but since it can be expensive, it’s important to know how to tell if you’re getting your money’s worth.
The best-tasting tuna—bluefin, yellowfin, bigeye, or albacore—will range in color from deep red to pink. Ideally, tuna will be displayed as a whole loin, and steaks will be cut at your request. But if your store displays steaks already cut, look for moist (but not wet or weepy), shiny, almost translucent meat. This means the steak is fresh and recently cut. Cut steaks will begin to oxidize and turn brown fairly quickly. If they look dull and matte, or very brown, then they’re probably old. Another sign of age is “gapping,” when the meat of the muscle starts to separate into flakes. If you’re in doubt about freshness, ask for a smell; the fish should have a fresh sea-air smell, not an overly fishy odor.
All tuna steaks will have a strip of darker meat running through them. This nutritious meat is perfectly edible but has a strong flavor that many people don’t like. You can cut it out, or better yet, choose steaks with a minimal amount of it.