This easy and versatile Smoked Tuna recipe takes inexpensive albacore tuna fillets and transforms them into gourmet smoked fish that rivals expensive pre-packaged varieties. We hot-smoke the tuna which fully cooks it while infusing a delicious smoky essence.
The result is fork-tender smoked tuna loins that make excellent additions to charcuterie boards, salads, dips, sandwiches, pasta dishes, casseroles and more. The smoked tuna also stores well in the fridge so you can enjoy it all week long in various dishes.
What You'll Need
- Albacore tuna loin or steaks - Either fresh or thawed frozen will work great. This recipe will also work for ahi tuna.
- Ingredients for the brine: water, kosher salt, and white or brown sugar.
- Wood for smoke - Go with a mild flavored wood like apple, cherry or you can even use alder, which is what I prefer for smoked salmon.
See the full recipe card for specifics on ingredients and quantities.
How to Smoke Tuna
Step-by-step instructions for smoking albacore.
- Brine the tuna in a simple solution of water, salt and sugar. After it is done in the brine, give it a rinse and pat it dry.
You can add a dry rub or some black pepper before it heads into the smoker.
- Smoke the tuna at a low temperature of around 200° F.
- Cook until the internal temp reaches between 125 and 135° F, depending on the doneness you prefer. Be careful not to overcook it, or this lean fish will dry out.
- Enjoy it right away as is, or incorporate into your favorite other dishes.
3 Tips for Better Smoked Tuna Every Time
- Use Low, Indirect Heat - Keep temperatures between 190°F and 200°F to gently cook the fish without drying it out. Avoid direct heat which can cause overcooking.
- Don't Overcook the Fish - Tuna has very little fat and will quickly become dry if smoked over 145°F internal temperature. For best moisture and texture, remove tuna at 125°F for medium-rare doneness and use a leave-in probe thermometer for perfect doneness.
- Brine the Tuna First - A salt and sugar brine seasons the fish and helps it retain moisture during long, low-temperature smoking times.
Why Brine the Tuna?
Brining is a key step that helps keep the tuna moist, flaky, and juicy while it cooks in the smoker. The salt solution is absorbed into the meat, seasoning it through and through while also helping it better retain moisture. This prevents the lean tuna from drying out too and enhances the flavor of the fish, imparting a subtle sweetness and seasoning that perfectly complements the smoky aroma.
Proper brining is especially important for a very lean protein like tuna. Brining will help keep the albumin (white protein liquid) from seeping out as it cooks.
How Long to Smoke Tuna Steak?
At a low smoker temperature around 200° F, it will take approximately 1 ½ to 2 hours to cook a tuna loin or steak to around 130° F internal.
Favorite Uses for the Smoked Tuna
The possibilities are endless when it comes to using your homemade smoked tuna. Creamy Smoked Tuna Dip is always a party favorite, or flake the tuna into salads and sandwiches, shred it into fresh pasta, make the most delectable tuna melt, or can it for long-term pantry storage.
Smoked Tuna Recipe
- 1 lb albacore tuna loin or steaks (fresh or frozen)
- vegetable oil
- wood chips or pellets for smoke (apple, cherry or alder)
- optional: dry rub
- 2 cups water
- ¼ cup Diamond Crystal kosher salt
- ¼ cup brown or white sugar
- Brine the tuna: Combine the water, salt and sugar in a medium bowl by whisking to fully dissolve. Place the thawed tuna loins in the brine, cover and refrigerate for 2 to 3 hours.
- Preheat your smoker according to the manufacturer's instructions to 190°F to 200°F (with super smoke or smoke boost setting if available) and set up for indirect heat cooking.
- Remove the tuna from the brine and rinse under cold water, then pat dry with paper towels.
- Drizzle a little oil on the tuna to prevent it from sticking to the grates. You can optionally dust the fish with a dry rub if you are going for a BBQ flavor. Insert a remote probe thermometer and set the alarm to about 5 degrees below the desired finished temperature.
- Place the tuna in the smoker and cook until the internal temperature reaches 125°F for medium-rare, 130°F to 135°F for medium, or 145°F for well done. I wouldn't recommend going above 145°F as it will be too dry. Approximate cook time will be 1 ½ to 2 hours, depending on the thickness of the fish.
- Remove from the smoker and enjoy immediately, or chill in the fridge to use for tuna salad or smoked tuna dip. You can also can the smoked tuna to preserve it longer.
- Yellowfin or bigeye tuna can also be used for this recipe.
- The recipe can be scaled up.
- Steaks will cook faster than loins because they are usually thinner cuts.
- Store sealed in the refrigerator for up to 5 days.