In this article, I’ll discuss how tuna is processed and canned, why it’s okay to eat tuna from the can, and if canned tuna is healthy. I’ll also explain how to heat canned tuna and share the benefits of canned tuna over fresh.
Canned tuna is cooked. Most canned tuna is cooked twice during the processing and canning process to ensure the tuna meets quality standards. There’s no need to cook canned tuna again after opening, and it can be eaten straight from the can.
Please read on to learn more.
Processing and Canning Tuna
The tuna processing process is as follows:
- Tuna is delivered to a cannery from a fishing vessel or a reefer ship. Reefer ships deliver the tuna brought in from foreign fishing companies.
- The tuna is transferred from the vessel into cold storage at a cannery.
- The tuna are divided into groups based on their size and weight to ensure proper thawing and cooking.
- Specialists at the cannery inspect the tuna and the vessel to ensure everything is in the right condition.
- Tuna are moved from cold storage into thawing tanks.
- After thawing, the tuna is placed on metal racks and moved into pressure-cooking chambers.
- The tuna is baked. How long and at which temperature depends on the size and weight of the fish.
- After they’re baked, the tuna are moved to a temperature-controlled room to cool.
- After cooling, the tuna are brought to cleaning tables where the separation of the loins from skin and bones occurs.
The canning process follows the processing of tuna:
- Cans are filled with cleaned tuna loins via a filling machine.
- As the cans move down the line, they receive the right amount of salt, water, and/or oil, depending on the brand and product.
- The cans are lidded.
- Cans enter a vacuum sealer that withdraws the air and seals the lid hermetically.
- Depending on the cannery, the cans may go through a water bath to clean off any leftover residue from step two.
- The cans go back into the pressure-cooking chambers and cook again.
- Cans are moved to the temperature-controlled room to cool again.
- After cooling, the cans are labeled.
- Quality control personnel check to ensure the cans meet appearance, smell, texture, cleanliness, and flavor protocols.
After these processes, the cans are ready to be sent to a warehouse for shipment to stores worldwide, where you can buy them!
Heating the cans helps ensure that any germs or microorganisms attached to the fish are killed. However, this method also overcooks the tuna, which changes the taste and texture.
The following video demonstrates how tuna is processed:
Can I Eat Tuna From the Can?
You can eat tuna directly from the can. It’s safe to eat canned tuna without cooking it because it’s cooked twice during the processing and canning processes. These processes are what make canned tuna taste different than fresh tuna.
However, many prefer not to do this because canned tuna tastes completely different than fresh tuna, and many dislike the taste.
The pressure-cooking that tuna undergoes before and after canning changes the flavor and texture of tuna. You can try to boil canned tuna for a while to mimic the taste of fresh tuna if you’d like. You can also use different spices to change up the flavor.
Is Canned Tuna Healthy?
Canned tuna is a healthy and nutritious protein source that contains selenium and vitamin D. Canned tuna is a great way to eat omega-3s, which are good for heart, brain, and eye health.
Canning a food always strips some of its nutrients away, but canned tuna still has the same nutrients as fresh tuna, just less of them.
Before you go crazy eating canned tuna, though, keep in mind that tuna is high in mercury content. To keep your mercury intake down, try eating smaller tuna, like light or skipjack tuna, and only occasionally should you eat the larger species, like albacore and ahi.
The FDA recommends eating two to three four-ounce servings of seafood a week, just to ensure that mercury isn’t overconsumed.
My favorite canned tuna is this brand, available on Amazon. It features the best cuts of its wild-caught and hand-filleted tuna. I also like that it’s packed in olive oil, which helps with the flavor, and makes it so I can heat the tuna on my stovetop without worrying about it sticking to the pan. This brand is also responsibly sourced.
How To Heat Canned Tuna
If you want the temperature of your tuna to be hotter, you can heat the canned fish. However, heating it the wrong way may change the taste and texture and make it inedible. Here are the best ways to heat up canned tuna:
- In the microwave. Simply transfer the tuna from the can to a microwave-safe dish and microwave it, and it’ll be ready quickly and easily! Avoid microwaving tuna in the can, as it cannot go in the microwave.
- On the stove. Heating canned tuna using the stove is just as easy as using a microwave, but it isn’t as fast. Empty the can into a pan and put the pan over low to medium heat. As soon as the tuna is at your preferred temperature, it’s ready to eat! Use tuna canned in oil to avoid having the fish stick to the pan.
- Mix into a recipe. Another way to heat up canned tuna is to cook it with other ingredients or add it to a finished dish. For example, when making a tuna casserole, the tuna will heat up as you cook the casserole.
Keep in mind that keeping a can of tuna open for too long increases the chance of bacteria growth.
To avoid overcooking, keep an eye on the tuna and take it away from its heat source whenever you believe the tuna is at your preferred temperature.
Benefits of Canned Tuna
Why would anyone choose canned tuna over fresh tuna? There are many reasons! Let’s look at a few:
- Canned tuna is cheaper. Depending on the brand and what it’s canned in, canned tuna can cost as little as eighty cents per can. Fresh tuna can cost eight to fifteen dollars a pound, if not more. For example, sushi-grade yellowfin tuna can cost $30 per pound.
- You don’t have to debone canned tuna. Deboning a fish is no easy task, and if you’re not experienced, you can waste a lot of meat. Canned tuna is deboned for you.
- Canned tuna stays good longer. You can keep cans of tuna in your pantry for a while, so whenever you’re in a pinch or don’t know what to make, you have tuna to reach for.
- If stored in olive oil, canned tuna has even more omega-3s. Omega-3s help your brain, heart, and eyes.
- Canned tuna has the same nutrients as fresh tuna. Even though the canning process strips some of these nutrients, canned tuna still has many health benefits.
Fresh tuna is great, too, and whichever kind you buy, tuna is a healthy protein source when eaten in moderation. However, your lifestyle and budget are likely more suited for canned tuna, as there are many benefits to enjoying tuna in this form.
It’s perfectly safe to eat tuna directly from the can, and there’s no need to cook it again. Tuna is cooked, often twice, during processing and canning, so cooking it again would only overcook it. Regardless, canned tuna maintains many of the nutritional benefits of fresh tuna, just in smaller amounts.
For more, don’t miss Can You Eat Canned Food Without Cooking It?
Anne James has a wealth of expertise in a wide array of interests, including quilting, cooking, gardening, camping, and making jelly.
She has a professional canning business and has been featured in the local newspaper, and has been her family canner for decades. Anyone growing up in the South knows that there is always a person in the family who has knowledge of the “old ways,” and this is exactly what Anne is.
With over 55 years of experience in these endeavors, she brings a level of hands-on knowledge that is hard to surpass.
Lovingly known as “Jelly Grandma” by her grandkids, Anne hopes your visit here has been a sweet one.