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Chat Leftovers: Why Is My Tuna Shining?

Once a tuna is cut open, the clock starts ticking. (The Washington Post)

Once again we’re just a few hours away from another Free Range chat, in which we take your food-related questions and throw the answers right back atcha. Today at 1 we’ll be joined by Patricia Jinich, the chef of the Mexican Cultural Institute, whose story about salsas appears in today’s section; and by David Lebovitz, the subject of our top story.

A little behind-the-scenes info for you about Lebovitz’s ice cream recipe: It is AWESOME. Here in the newsroom we were elbowing each other out of the way to dig our spoons into the bowl. Even if you’re not a big fan of white chocolate, you won’t be able to stop eating this stuff. Guaranteed.

Now back to last week’s chat, when a cook from Springfield posed this dilemma:

Last night I cooked tuna. I marinated it briefly in sesame vinaigrette. I seared it in a stainless-steel pan. It cooked like it normally does, but the pieces had an odd, sort of rainbow tint to them. Even though it tasted okay, I was nervous about what might have caused it, so didn’t serve it. It was mosly a silverish tint, and if you moved the tuna and looked at it from different angles, it had some green tint, too. What do you think?

A sheen on tuna is “very common,” says Scott Weinstein, the fishmonger at BlackSalt in the Palisades. Once the tuna is caught, he explains, the meat stays relatively fresh for a while until it’s cut off the bone. At that point, “the oxidation process starts” when the flesh is exposed, and that eventually causes iridescence.

So why didn’t you spot the sheen earlier -- say, when you started marinating it? Weinstein says that some pre-packaged tuna is exposed to carbon dioxide to help it retain its color, and that might have been the case with what you bought.

Over in Arlington, John Leary, the general manager of M. Slavin & Sons, agrees with Weinstein’s diagnosis: “It’s from the air getting into the flesh after it’s cut.” The surface sheen doesn’t necessarily mean you shouldn’t buy the fish. “Go by the usual things: scent, texture and color,” he advises.

Hope that answers the question. Don't forget to set your computer’s alarm clock to join us today at 1, chat time. And you can always go to the site sooner and leave a question in advance.

-- Jane Touzalin

By Jane Touzalin  |  August 5, 2009; 7:00 AM ET
 | Tags: Free Range, Jane Touzalin  
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So is such tuna safe to eat or not? It seems like a lawyer wrote this: "The surface sheen doesn’t necessarily mean you shouldn’t buy the fish."

I think the translation is that this is fine to eat; it's a normal process and doesn't indicate anything wrong with the fish, as a bad smell or clear discoloration would. Can you please get more expert opinion here to inform your readers on this question you've taken up?

Posted by: enaduris | August 5, 2009 3:06 PM | Report abuse

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