Aging Tuna - Article by Chef George Krumov

Aging tuna is something that only high-end sushi bars and gourmet enthusiasts know how to do properly and there is not much information available about the topic. However, given the high cost of raw tuna, it is essential to do it, so you can get the most value of the tuna you buy and have a pleasant dining experience. Aging tuna is not as difficult as it seems, and if you can handle it in a sanitary way you can even do it at home.

Sushi tuna

For start you need to buy some very fresh tuna. When you go to the store ask a piece to be cut in front of you. Do not opt for the pieces that are on display, as they are usually older, slightly oxidized and discolored, even if they look great under the display lights.

When you get the fresh tuna, the texture of the flesh is usually a little bit mushy and it has a fairly strong flavor. You will need to age it in order to develop the unique clean taste and firm texture, usually found in good sushi restaurants. The tuna is at its best usually after three to six days of aging, but most of the time even one day will do to improve the taste and texture. If you are planning to age the tuna for longer you should really know how the tuna has been handled before you bought it. If it has been handled in unsanitary ways it can actually deteriorate instead of improve. For example, if the tuna cuts have been touched with bare hands, then the bacteria from the hands will start to grow on the fish and spoil it fast. It doesn't have to be bad bacteria, even the harmless bacteria on people's hands can find a good breeding ground on the fish and make it spoil fast. So, it is best to handle the tuna with latex gloves, and only use very clean containers to store it.

How to age the tuna:

Place the tuna in a clean plastic container and cover it with plastic wrap tightly to protect it from the air. Place the container in the coldest section of your fridge. Check the tuna the next day, change the container and the plastic wrap and wipe off any blood and excess moisture off the fish with a paper towel using latex gloves. Place the container in the fridge again and repeat the following day. If you are planning to age the tuna more than 3 days it is better to hold the container over ice for a safer temperature. Usually tuna can be consumed raw for up to 20 days after capture, provided it has been handled properly at the correct temperature.

If you do not need to use all the tuna you can freeze some of it after aging. The best way to do that is by vacuum-packaging it or wrapping it tightly with cling wrap. If there is any air in the packages it will allow for freezer-burning. When you are thawing frozen tuna you need to allow for about 24 hours of thawing in the fridge. After that remove the tuna from its package and dry the excess moisture with paper towel. There will be more moisture compared to tuna that has never been frozen, due to the braking of the cell walls during thawing. Previously frozen tuna is best used for 2-3 days after thawing.

Albacore tuna is another option and a great way to enjoy sushi and sashimi, and it doesn't need aging. I usually find the albacore in stores frozen and vacuum-packed, on loins or cut to small chop-sized pieces. Albacore is a more sustainable fish than the yellowtail and bluefin tuna and is also much cleaner from pollution.

And now, after I gave you all of this info, you tell me where I can catch one of those.

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Chef George Krumov
About the author: George Krumov is a Red Seal certified chef with many years of culinary experience working around the world in Europe, the Middle East, the cruise line industry and North America. In the last two decades he has headed the kitchens of several restaurants in Canada, and ran his own restaurant.

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