Tuna is a great source of protein and its firm, meaty flesh is enjoyed by many in various ways. While tuna steaks are probably the most luxurious way of eating this fish, it’s also wonderful as sushi or even canned.
Depending on where you live, fresh tuna steaks may be available in your local fishmonger or supermarket. When fresh, tuna often has a deep red, “meaty” color but is it true red meat?
Read on because in this article, we will enlighten you!
Is Tuna Red Meat?
No, tuna cannot technically be termed “red meat” because only fowl or mammal meats can be termed as such.
In the majority of cases, people have this question because of the tuna’s dark pinky-red color when raw. Different tuna varieties have flesh that ranges from white, to pink, to deep ruby red.
Generally, the tuna is red when it’s the Atlantic Bluefin tuna variety. This fish swims constantly, resulting in higher muscle oxygenation. This muscle oxygenation results in the deeper red color of the meat.
Every muscle in tuna contains myoglobin and hemoglobin. Myoglobin is a protein that carries oxygen that is used by the muscles and heart when the fish exerts itself. Hemoglobin is also a protein.
It is found in red blood cells that deliver oxygen from the lungs to the muscles. These proteins are important for allowing the continuous use of muscles and lend the flesh a red color.
Different tuna varieties have different color flesh, depending on how much myoglobin and hemoglobin they contain.
Dark red muscle tissue found in varieties like the Atlantic Bluefin is there because the fish is very active and spends most of its life swimming.
Less active varieties, like the Albacore, have almost white flesh. It may have a few red muscles around the spinal area because those are the muscles that move the most.
Is It Healthier to Consume Red Tuna?
It is common for people to be attracted to red tuna because it has a deeper color and shiny texture as compared to fish with white meat.
As far as the flavor is concerned, red tuna has a more pronounced meaty flavor and is likely to remind you of beef. In addition, red meat tuna tends to achieve sweet flavor notes when it is cooked.
On the other hand, white tuna has a milder flavor reminiscent of chicken. Both are good to eat and which you choose depends on your taste.
In terms of nutritional content, all tuna is rich in complete proteins, selenium, and vitamin B12.
White Albacore tuna, however, is a better source of heart-friendly omega-3 fatty acids that lower triglycerides and prevent atherosclerosis. Red tuna, however, is still a healthier option than red meat, such as beef.
What About the Black Stuff in Tuna Meat?
If you are using red tuna, there is a high chance that you will find a black portion of muscle meat on one side of the red bit. The black flesh is usually found around the middle or side of the steak, depending on the cut and how big the tuna is.
This darker fish meat is edible and is simply more oxygenated meat with higher myoglobin content compared to other parts of the fish. It is flavorful and more filling than white meat so remember this when determining portion sizes.
However, you must smell the fish to make sure that the black stuff doesn’t mean the fish has spoiled. Fresh fish will smell of the ocean and will not have an unpleasantly strong fishy odor.
The Right Color of Tuna when Cooked
When cooked correctly, tuna must have a pinkish-red interior with a white outer edge. Cooking it all the way through will result in dryness.
Tuna should merely be lightly seared over a hot flame to achieve caramelization on the outside. It should be served at once for best results and not kept warm or reheated.
While some types of tuna have red flesh, nutritionally speaking, they are not considered red meat.