How to grill tuna with a smoky char and a tender interior

Perfectly grilled ahi (tuna) steaks should combine a hot, smoky, charred exterior with a cool, rare center.

For a home cook, this ideal can be an elusive goal.


For grilled ahi steaks with an intense smoky char and a tender interior, start with a hot grill. Moistened the ahi steaks’ flesh with a vinaigrette to promote browning and allow the oil to penetrate the meat of the ahi steaks. And instead of using sugar in our vinaigrette, we used honey.

Both promote browning, but honey does it faster, which was important with the quick cooking times for ahi on the grill. It’s easy to add complementary flavors to this dish by mixing up the seasoning in the vinaigrette.

Grilled ahi steaks with vinaigrette

This recipe serves 6 and takes about 25 minuets to prepare. If you like your ahi cooked medium, observe the timing for medium-rare, then tent the steaks with foil for 5 minutes before serving.

3 tablespoons, plus 1 teaspoon red wine vinegar

2 tablespoons chopped fresh thyme or rosemary

2 tablespoons Dijon mustard

2 teaspoons honey

Salt and pepper

3/4 cup olive oil

6 (8-ounce) ahi (tuna) steaks, 1 inch thick

• For a charcoal grill: Open bottom vent completely. Light large chimney starter filled with charcoal briquettes. When top coals are partially covered with ash, pour evenly over half of grill. Set cooking grate in place, cover, and open lid vent completely. Heat grill until hot, about 5 minutes.

• For a gas grill: Turn all burners to high, cover, and heat grill until hot, about 15 minutes.

Meanwhile, whisk vinegar, thyme, mustard, honey, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and pinch pepper together in large bowl. Whisking constantly, slowly drizzle oil into vinegar mixture until lightly thickened and emulsified. Measure out 3/4 cup vinaigrette and set aside for cooking tuna. Reserve remaining vinaigrette for serving.

Clean and grease grate cooking grate.


Pat ahi dry with paper towels. Generously brush both sides of ahi with vinaigrette and season with salt and pepper. Place tuna on grill and cook until grill marks form and bottom surface is opaque, 1-3 minutes.

Flip tuna and cook until opaque at perimeter and translucent red at center when checked with tip of paring knife and registers 110 degrees (for rare), about 1 1/2 minutes, or until opaque at perimeter and reddish pink at center when checked with tip of paring knife and registers 125 degrees (for medium-rare), about 3 minutes. Serve, passing reserved vinaigrette.

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