Albacore Tuna Fresh From the Coast

High summer is prime time for the best fresh albacore tuna (probably caught yesterday in our local ocean).

By Kristin Belz July 26, 2013 Published in the July 2013 issue of Portland Monthly

Fresh albacore tuna pairs well with strong flavors (like the capers, red bell pepper, parsley and lemon shown here) prepared very simply on the grill.

This is tuna season. Didn’t know tuna had a season? We see it year round, and the long-lasting, always available canned variety is likely the first fish many of us ever ate (remember tuna noodle casserole made from "chicken of the sea?").

But real tuna, fresh albacore swimming in the Pacific just yesterday, caught and at the fish counter today? This is tuna’s prime time, the weeks from the end of July through the beginning of September.

In the fish market this season, you’ll find fresh albacore tuna loin. What is tuna loin vs. a tuna steak? The “steak,” whether tuna or another fish commonly served as such, is a slab-like cut of uniform thickness. By contrast, a loin or other fillet will have a varying thickness depending on the natural shape of the fish. It’s suitable for many preparations on and off the grill, (indoors or outside), and in the oven. 

Albacore tuna is fresh in Oregon this time of year - caught yesterday, eaten today. This piece, weighing just over a half-pound, is a good portion for one to two people.

Image: Kristin Belz

Oven baking is probably the best way to cook tuna loin, with its uneven profile, evenly throughout. Many people like their tuna rare, however, and so for that, searing and/or grilling can be best: you can crisp up the skin and edges, but the innermost parts of the fish will still be rare. (Leave the sushi preparations to the professionals, however.)

The simplest way to prepare fresh albacore tuna loin involves turning on your oven: 

  • Brush the cleaned fish with soy sauce (and perhaps a dab of sesame oil), or a drizzle of lemon juice and freshly ground pepper.
  • Wrap it in a packet of tin foil.
  • Bake it at 350 degrees F. until it is cooked enough for your tastes – maybe 10 minutes or so.

Tips and toppings and to consider:

  • Salsa – either a traditional tomato salsa, or one flavored with soy and lemon juice and based on papaya, mango, pineapple or peaches.
  • A la Nicoise – with boiled potatoes, tomatoes, and green beans, for a take on the traditional salad of Southern France. 
  • Put it to bed – on a layer of lettuce and sliced citrus, drizzled with a good olive oil and touch of fresh lemon juice.
  • With spaghetti or other pasta – cut into chunks and mixed with the strong flavors of tomato, capers, and/or olives. 
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