Chefs and Tuna Lovers: Are You Getting Good Grades?

From by Luxe Gourmets
Chefs and Tuna Lovers: Are You Getting Good Grades?


Home chefs take pride, whether cooking an elegant dinner for one, for their families, or for a dinner party, in their ingenuity at finding "the right" ingredients. They would never, for example, opt for a common apple cider vinegar when the best choice for their recipe would be a fine white balsamic vinegar with truffles. Nor would home chefs ever choose an ordinary "Swiss" cheese from the nearby grocery store when they could use an aged emmental au lait cru (raw milk). 

TunaPhoto Courtesy of Luxe Gourmets

Yet many very talented and experienced home chefs believe that there are only three types of tuna in the world: canned from the grocery store; frozen; and fresh, raw from the fish market. Many chefs don't even hesitate to use canned tuna, and consider fresh, raw tuna from their local fish market to be "very special," reserved only for the "truly best" recipes. Seldom does a chef know that he or she may be making a mediocre dish by using tuna that is only Grade #2 in quality. A true gourmet chef will always use Grade #1.

TunaPhoto Courtesy of Luxe Gourmets


All canned tuna in the USA (that is labelled "white meat tuna") is Albacore. Albacore is considered an inferior tuna. It is pale in color, and the taste is rather bland. The advantage of it is that it has a long shelf life. It is also low in fat, but high fat content in tuna is considered a good thing (tuna fat is healthy, and rich in Omega-3 oils!)

TunaPhoto Credit: iStock / peilien

The best tuna—which all aspiring chefs should know about—is Bluefin tuna. In Japan, this prized fish has sold for as much 4.5 million dollars for a single fish! Fortunately, this luxury item can be found in Grade #1 quality at reasonable prices through a few US suppliers, such as Luxe Gourmets. Bigeye tuna is considered the second best after Bluefin, although with the exception of a few gourmet online suppliers, it is extremely hard to find in the US. What chefs in the United States use most often when they want to cook a magnificent meal is the fresh tuna from their local fish market. But most do not realize that they are usually buying Yellowtail tuna, which is only the third best tuna (thus making recipes that are third-rate cuisine!). Yellowtail is still a very good fish when it is Grade #1; although all chefs should all know about the Bluefin and Bigeye, so as to choose which taste is right for each recipe. Still, no matter which kind you buy, you must know that more goes into tuna than the species...

TunaPhoto Courtesy of Luxe Gourmets


Chefs and tuna lovers should know that great tuna goes beyond what your local fish market will tell you. Tuna is graded by four criteria:

  • Is it a desired species?
  • Is the fish the right size? Are there any defects to the body?
  • What is the muscle quality, clarity, color, and fat-content?
  • What is the end use of the fish? (In other words, will it be used raw for sashimi, or will it be cooked or smoked?)

TunaPhoto Courtesy of Luxe Gourmets

If your fish market won't tell you, you can estimate the grade of your own fresh tuna by looking carefully at the meat. The texture should be firm, rather than soft. The color should be bright red, rather than brown. The clarity should be translucent, rather than opaque. And the fat content should be visible (a fat "marbling" similar to beef is considered ideal).

  • Grade #1+ tuna is the best grade possible—it is truly a perfect fish. In America, this grade can be found with difficulty, by visiting various Michelin-starred seafood restaurants. The easiest way to get this perfect grade is through the trusted American supplier:
  • Grade #1 is next-to-perfect. This grade of tuna tastes exceptional when eaten raw as sashimi. In fact, many gourmet chefs will only prepare tuna of this highest grade raw, because they think it is a waste to cook such luxurious fish. Unfortunately, they are missing out on an unforgettable experience. Yes, Grade #1 tuna is extraordinary when eaten raw as sashimi, but to cook with it? ...Now that is luxury!
  • Grade #2 tuna is pretty good, and is high quality enough to be eaten raw as sashimi. This grade is still a luxury food for those who cannot obtain Grade #1.
  • Grade #2- should always be cooked (its quality and shelf-life are too poor for it to be used for sashimi). Grade #3 and #4 must always be cooked! These grades do not make for very high quality meals. There is a big chance that the tuna you eat in restaurants, and even cook at home, is only Grade #3 or #4.

If you live in the USA, you can find fresh tuna that is guaranteed to be Grade #1 by visiting (They ship overnight to anywhere in the States).

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