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Old 07-02-2009, 10:32 AM   #1
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Ahi Tuna Steaks - Difference in Quality Among Grocers

I love tuna steaks, but purchasing them from a place that keeps high quality tuna is quite expensive. At Whole Foods, I know I will get a good ahi tuna steak and so I go ahead and pay the crazy $20/pound for it. I can make four nice meals out of a pound, so to me, it is worth it. With this tuna, I can do a very simple asian marinade or S/P/EVOO and sear one minute on each side. I love the tuna nice and rare.

Moving on, I was in Safeway yesterday and saw their tuna steaks were only $7/lb. I asked to smell and feel the tuna, and after it checked out I decided to take a piece home to test it out for fun. First off, I am sure this is the tuna they put the red dye into, as red liquid came out of it as it thawed/came to room temperature. The Whole Foods tuna did nothing of the sort. I am going to cook this Safeway tuna today for lunch, but I wonder if I can really risk eating it rare. I am going to do S/P/EVOO, but should I maybe sear it 2-3 minutes a side instead of the normal 1 minute? It is a 1" thick steak, pretty standard.

Also, if anyone has any other experiences with grocery store tuna steaks, I'd definitely like to hear it. Trader Joe's has some frozen tuna steaks in their seafood freezer...but they are an off-white color instead of red. Not sure why, unless it is a different kind of tuna. Know if these are any good?

So yeah, will I die if I cook this Safeway tuna steak to rare? :D

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Old 07-02-2009, 12:29 PM   #2
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I have used supermarket tuna steaks for sushi and lightly seared and eaten rare with no problems.

In order to do a fair comparison, the tuna has to be cooked the same way you cook the Whole Foods tuna.
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Old 07-02-2009, 12:40 PM   #3
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You also may want to ask the fishmonger what day the fish comes in to insure freshness.
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Old 07-02-2009, 12:51 PM   #4
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First off, let me respectfully say that I believe you're a bit confused re: fish color. No fish is "injected" with dye to alter it's color. Market tuna flesh these days is nearly always "gassed" to keep it that pristine blood-red color for as long as possible, but no dye is injected into it. Other fish - like farmed salmon - are fed natural dye-products (carotene in particular) in their food to increase the orange color of their flesh, but again, they're not "injected" with anything. I suspect the red liquid was just natural liquid pooling as the fish thawed. From what you wrote, I assume your pricey Whole Foods tuna was fresh? Or previously frozen but purchased already thawed? As for the odd color of Trader Joe's fish, it most likely wasn't gassed before being frozen.

Second - I've NEVER been a fan of Safeway's seafood department. Any of it. Always too sad-looking & way overpriced for the quality.

Regardless, I hate to give you cardiac arrest re: fish prices, but just a few days ago I purchased the most GORGEOUS sashimi-grade tuna at Harris Teeter's here in Warrenton, VA, for $4.99/pound. That's right folks - $4.99 a pound. GORGEOUS thick steaks. I bought 2 luscious ones for my husband & I (we'd NEVER get FOUR meals out of one pound of fish - lol!!!!!), encrusted them with coarsely-ground black pepper & seared them briefly in an extra-virgin-olive-oil laced cast-iron pan for a couple of minutes. They were fresh, rare, & meltingly-buttery. Can't wait to do it again!

Harris Teeter has one of the very best supermarket seafood departments around - definitely on a par with Wegmans & Whole Foods. In many ways, even better. That said, I NEVER cook/serve tuna rare unless it's sashimi-grade (which, in supermarket parlance only, means that it's been frozen for at least 48 hours at zero degrees or lower to eliminate any possible parasites).
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Old 07-02-2009, 01:08 PM   #5
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Breeze I am sooo jealous!
$4.99 a lb? The best that I've seen at my local grocery stores has been $6.99 a lb. and that's not even sushi grade......
I've been buying the vacume sealed frozen tuna from Costco which I cook rare. I've never had any problems.
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Old 07-02-2009, 01:36 PM   #6
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I know - I almost fainted when I saw it at Harris Teeters this past Friday. And it was truly gorgeous - not just something low-quality they were trying to get rid of. I've bought the vacuum-sealed tuna too on occasion, & while I don't incinerate it, I also don't cook it quite as rare as I do sashimi-grade labeled fish. Although, chances are better than excellent that the vacuum-sealed tuna are frozen well enough to be sashimi-grade. That's how many high-end Japanese restaurants purchase their tuna.

I grew up on the Long Island waterfront, & after moving to Virginia the one thing I really & truly miss is really great fresh seafood. I can't even begin to say how happy I am that Harris Teeter opened a store in Warrenton last month. Both their seafood (& produce) are so fresh & wonderful. At the same time I bought the tuna, I also scored 4 pounds of soft-shell steamer clams ($5.99/lb.) that were so fresh they were still squirting as the guy bagged them. And every single one was a winner - no broken or dead ones. Sand/mud free. Some melted lemon butter - we were in HEAVEN Friday night! (I saved the tuna for the next day, obviously - lol!!)

The seafood selections at other supermarkets close by (Giant, Safeway, Food Lion, WalMart) is always SO sad. Except for the usual shrimp, crab legs, catfish, & farmed salmon - everything else usually looks like it crawled up on the shore & died. I would usually end up with just one choice - the one fresh-looking/smelling one - lol!! At Harris Teeter, there are so many really fresh selections at great prices that I actually sometimes have trouble deciding!! Plus, they carry two brands of frozen squid, which I LOVE to have in my freezer for impromptu "Calamari over Linguini" or "Fried Calamari" or an Asian stirfry, etc., etc. No other markets in my area bother with squid unless it's Xmas Eve. So sad. Well, now that Harris Teeter is here, Giant & Safeway are definitely going to be paying for their hindsight.
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Old 07-02-2009, 07:00 PM   #7
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Thanks for the info about gassing. You're right, I should have thought about my science. They expose tuna to carbon monoxide in order to keep the iron atoms in red-colored myoglobin from oxidizing and turning brown. Same principle as with ground beef or steaks in the store. Some websites mentioned a process of "injecting dye," and I never gave it a second thought.

Everything in this area, unfortunately, is really expensive by default. The Harris Teeter around here does indeed have sashimi-grade tuna steaks, but they are closer to $10.99/lb. Also, I went in one day to purchase their tuna (they were the very first place I went to look when I started my tuna craze, actually), but there were two flies flying around in the seafood display case...I lost my appetite and left, haha. Overall, if the quality is good, I'll pay the price because the remainder of my diet is pretty cheap (beans, rice, pasta, veggies, a few health food items here & there).

I seared the steak today to about a medium doneness and didn't die. But, I could die at any moment. Who knows? I have one piece left which I'll be eating for dinner. Might go a little more rare!

I think I will be trying out TJ's and Costco brand steaks as well. Harris Teeter will probably also receive another visit in the near future =]

Thanks for all the input, all.
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Old 07-02-2009, 07:26 PM   #8
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Wow - sorry to hear about the fly incident. Maybe you should log onto the Harris Teeter website & mention this, along with the store location.

The two Harris Teeters we have nearby have always been uber clean, & the customer service has been excellent. If you're standing in an aisle too long, someone always walks up & asks if you need help finding something. And when I was buying 5 pounds of clams once, the seafood guy made a point of finding a box to put the bags in. Plus, when I made my above-mentioned tuna purchase, the seafood guy made a point of asking me to wait a moment while he brought out a fresh tray of steaks. And I'll never forget the time they accidentally ran up a duck I bought at full price rather than the sale price. When I went back the following week with my receipt, simply looking for the dollar difference in price, they absolutely INSISTED that I accept the ENTIRE price of the duck, since it was their error that I was charged more. Unbelievable customer service - always more than accommodating at both stores. Supermarket competition is really REALLY high these days, so I'm sure HT headquarters would want to hear about the flies.

But it is true that individual stores do differ, & ours are fairly new. One is, I think, maybe 2-3 years old; the other, just a few weeks. Not that that should excuse poor sanitation. But heck - do give your HT another chance & report back. :)
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Old 07-02-2009, 11:41 PM   #9
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Will do! I think there's another HT downtown, closer to work/school as well. I should probably check that one out instead.

Thanks again for the help, tuna is the best eva.
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Old 07-03-2009, 07:48 AM   #10
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Well, I buy ahi at my local piggly-wiggly, don't remember what it costs, but sear it and eat it rare and no problems so far.

Yes, there are many kinds of tuna, ahi just being one of them. And there are different parts of a tuna's body. I go by what I was used to seeing in Hawaii. If it looks good and smells good, I -- so far -- haven't had a problem.
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