The heat is on for perfect tuna steaks

DANIEL J. VAN ACKERE/America's Test Kitchen via APThese tuna steaks are flavored with a vinaigrette made with red wine vinegar, herbs, Dijon mustard, honey and olive oil.

Perfectly grilled 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 tuna steaks with an intense smoky char and a tender interior, we started with a hot grill. We moistened the tuna steaks’ flesh with a vinaigrette to promote browning and allow the oil to penetrate the meat of the tuna 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 tuna on the grill. It’s easy to add complementary flavors to this dish by mixing up the seasoning in the vinaigrette.

GRILLED TUNA STEAKS WITH VINAIGRETTE

We prefer our tuna served rare or medium-rare. If you like your tuna cooked medium, observe the timing for medium-rare, then tent the steaks with foil for 5 minutes before serving.

Start to finish: 25 minutes

Servings: 6

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) tuna steaks, 1 inch thick

For a charcoal grill: Open bottom vent completely. Light a large chimney starter filled with charcoal briquettes (6 quarts). When top coals are partially covered with ash, pour evenly over half of grill. Set the 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 the vinegar, thyme, mustard, honey, 1/2 teaspoon salt and a pinch of pepper together in a large bowl. Whisking constantly, slowly drizzle the oil into the mixture until lightly thickened and emulsified. Measure out 3/4 cup vinaigrette, and set aside for cooking tuna. Reserve remaining vinaigrette for serving.

Pat the tuna dry with paper towels. Generously brush both sides of tuna with vinaigrette, and season with salt and pepper. Place tuna on grill (on hotter side if using charcoal), and cook (covered if using gas) until grill marks form and bottom surface is opaque, 1-3 minutes.

Flip tuna, and cook until it’s opaque at perimeter and translucent red at center when checked with the tip of a paring knife and registers 110 degrees (for rare), about 11/2 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.

Nutrition information per serving: 560 calories; 333 calories from fat; 37 g fat (6 g saturated, 0 g trans fats); 81 mg cholesterol; 398 mg sodium; 3 g carbohydrate; 0 g fiber; 2 g sugar; 50 g protein.