Tuna is an expensive investment for dinner, so it's important to pick a cut that's both fresh and delicious. If steaks have been pre-cut, look for flesh that is moist, translucent, and shiny. Though color can vary, most types of tuna will possess a deep red or pink. Avoid grey or brown meat at all costs and ask your fishmonger to cut directly from an entire filet, if possible.
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If your tuna is cut into steaks or filets, they can be patted dry, wrapped, and stacked in plastic wrap. Tuna has one of the shortest shelf lives among fish, so it should typically be consumed within 24 hours of purchasing.
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Tuna is effectively frozen as an ice block. Place an individual steak or filet into a zip-top plastic bag, fill with water, and squeeze out the remaining air. The tuna can remain frozen in the ice block for up to three months. Note: most grocery store tuna has been previously frozen. If this is the case, you do not want to refreeze it.
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The best way to store fish is over ice. Remove the fish from its original packaging, rinse under cold water, and dry with paper towels. Set fish on a cooling rack and place inside a container filled with crushed ice. The ice should reach just beneath the fish, but shouldn’t touch it. Cover the container, rack, and fish with plastic wrap or aluminum foil and place in the fridge. If the fish is stored longer than 24 hours, be sure to swap out the melted ice with a new batch. Ideally, any fresh fish should not be stored for more than two days.
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Some fish can be frozen for up to year (with three months as the standard), but its freshness depends entirely on its exposure to air. To limit this from taking place, you should first clean the fish, wrap it in aluminum foil or freezer paper, and place it in a freezer bag. Press down on the bag before closing to eliminate any excess air.
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Thawing frozen fish is quite an easy process. Simply leave it in the refrigerator overnight or place the wrapped fish in a bowl of cold water. Don’t microwave the fish, as some sections will cook while others are continuing to thaw.
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Ari Weinzweig, founder of Zingerman’s, passed along this recipe for his favorite picnic nosh: “Pan bagnat is the classic sandwich eaten on the beach in Nice. The key is to get a good crusty roll that will hold up to the oil, because the longer you let pan bagnat sit, the more the flavors soak into the bread, and the better the sandwich.”
What to buy: Look for good tuna, especially something from the Mediterranean.