Seared Ahi Tuna

A couple months ago Kim and I tried to make seared ahi (yellowfin) tuna for the first time.  Of course what makes this dish so great is the rawness of the tuna: it’s only seared on the outside, with the majority remaining raw -- not rare, but raw.  Cooked tuna tastes completely different and to me is just totally gross.  Anyway, a few internet recipes said to cook the tuna for 2 minutes per side (on the grill) for rare, and even though that sounded way too long to me, we decided to go with it.  And of course, it got cooked all the way through.

Last night I tried again, with a plan loosely based on some internet recipes and on my memory of what the dish is like at Outback Steakhouse and PF Chang’s.  The thing that sticks out in my mind is the pepperyness of the seared outside, so the main part of my plan was to use lots of pepper.  Here’s what I did:

1. Take out a plate and grind some pepper onto it.  We have one of those small disposable glass pepper grinders where you can actually see the peppercorns inside, and my plan was to open it up and grab some of the peppercorns to manually crush them.  But it turns out that the lid/grinder portion isn’t removable, so I had to just grind the pepper as you normally would.  I did about 30 grinds, which gave me about 1-2 spoonfuls of pepper.

2. Add some salt (preferably sea salt, though we were out of that) to the plate, probably about half or a quarter as much as the pepper, so maybe half a spoonful.

3. Add half a spoonful of minced garlic.  We have this in a small jar in the fridge, which is the only reason I added it; if I’d’ve had to mince it myself, forget it.

4. Mix that all up, then put the tuna steak on the plate and spread the mixture all over it.

5. Use a few spoonfuls of Italian breadcrumbs to further cover the outside of the tuna.

6. Put a pan on the stove, put a few spoonfuls of olive oil into it, and set it to as hot as it’ll go.  Give it about 2 minutes to get hot.

7. Put the tuna in the pan.  Have a shield ready; I used the lid from the pan, or an apron would probably work.  Do not cover the tuna with the lid.  Let it cook for 45 seconds per side.  Even a little less time might have been good, but certainly not any more than 45 seconds per side.  (The tuna steak I used was half a pound, and about 3/4 of an inch thick.)

8. You’re done.  Serve it with Asian sesame dressing and wasabi sauce for dipping.  At restaurants it generally comes cut into thin slices (about 1/4- or 1/2-inch thick) so be sure to cut it that way as you’re eating it for maximum effect.

With this recipe, it turned out awesome, and I’ll definitely make it this way again.  But I also want to try this other recipe, which I didn’t have all the ingredients for this time.  And OK, which is more complicated so Kim’ll probably have to handle it for me.

Posted by Anthony on 10 replies


01. Jan 5, 2008 at 06:31pm by Kev:

Thanks for the recipes and links. I have bookmarked them for future personal reference since I have been into fish, particularly sushi during the past year. These recipes are of course good for fish of the cooked variety.

02. Nov 23, 2008 at 07:44pm by Jessica:

I will try this, Outbacks seared tuna is my favorite, I plan on using this recipe tomorrow night, I’ll keep you posted, were do I get the the Asian sesame dressing or the wasabi sauce??? Any info is great for I LOVE this DISH!!!!

03. Nov 24, 2008 at 01:22am by Anthony:

I’m pretty sure we got the sauces at one of our plain old local grocery stores (Giant, Wegmans, etc).

04. Mar 29, 2009 at 12:13am by Anthony:

Update: a couple months ago, Kim discovered that it’s much easier to set it to medium heat and then cook for say 60 seconds per side.  The timing isn’t so critical when it’s less hot; an extra couple seconds won’t ruin it.

05. Jan 2, 2010 at 02:04am by po:

Ill give you a hint you freeze the ahi block first. Then defrost for a few minutes. Next season, immediatly then after sear for like 20-30 secs on all 4 sides. finish by thawing in fridge.

06. Jan 2, 2010 at 06:55am by Anthony:

Sounds like a good idea, thanks!  I do like the outsides to be warm or even a little hot, though; but on the other hand, whenever I get this at Outback Steakhouse it’s entirely cold, and I still love it.

07. Jun 16, 2011 at 12:59pm by Geese:

I ate three plates of this at Outback once and still wanted more! If this is how to make it I’ll make it every other week. I need a platter of it now!

08. Jun 27, 2011 at 03:01pm by Mom:

Oh yeah, so when are you coming over to create that meal for your ’ole Mom?  Ok, I’ll come to your place ;^}

09. Aug 2, 2011 at 03:48pm by Sarah:

I use 2 T minced fresh thyme and 1 T minced fresh rosemary, jest of 1 lime, 1 t sea salt, 1 T black sesame seeds, 1 T white sesame seeds, and 1 t white pepper. Brush the ahi with walnut, pecan, or peanut oil (I use walnut oil) and press the herb/seed mixture all over the ahi.  Cover with plastic wrap and freeze for a couple of hours.  This helps to keep the ahi raw inside when you sear it.  Heat a pan until it’s screaming hot.  Wipe with a little canola oil.  Sear the ahi on both sides for no more than 2 minutes...less if you don’t freeze it beforehand.    Serve with a wasabi vinaigrette and sesame soy dressing.

10. Oct 17, 2014 at 05:21pm by Tanesa:

Outback sears the tuna in a hot skillet of sesame oil

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