Catching tuna is one of the most rewarding experiences that an angler can experience. Some bluefin tunas can reach the length of 10 feet and weigh more than a horse. Moreover, their specialized fins allow them to swim as fast as 43 miles per hour.
So if you’ve just caught a big and delicious one, you need to know how to cark a tuna to get every piece of its mouthwatering flesh. So keep on reading to learn how to cut a tuna without wasting any of its goodness.
Tuna fish represent a desirable game fish for beginner and experienced anglers because the fish are active and delicious to eat. The problem is that after catching a big fish, some people will just be overwhelmed by its size.
As a matter of fact, breaking down and carking a big fish like tuna can be a daunting task if you don’t know where to start or what to do. Since there are many kinds of cuts that you can use for various purposes, it’s crucial to learn how to cark a tuna properly.
But using the right tips and tools, you can cark a tuna and release all its delicious flesh, so you can prepare it and eat it however you like.
Author Note: This carking or butchering technique follows a Japanese method called the “5 Piece Cutting”, which divides the tuna into five different cuts or parts, two back loins, two belly loins, and the bones.
Having good and sharp knives is the first step in carking and cutting down your tuna without wasting any of its flesh. You can use multiple knives to cut your tuna, and in some cases, you might use more than one on the same spot to remove all the flesh.
You’ll need the following tools to cark your tuna.
- A Yanagi knife, a long and thin knife that is typically used for sushi cuts.
- A Mioroshi Deba knife, has a thin blade for filleting and slicing.
- A Deba knife or butcher knife, a single-edged knife for filleting the fish without damaging the flesh.
- A Gyuto knife, the Japanese take on the European chef’s knife that comes with a slightly curved edge for different cutting purposes.
- A Yo-Deba knife, a sturdy knife to cut through minor bones.
But if you’re to choose one tool to cut all your tuna, then you need to stick to a high-quality chef knife.
The first step in carking a tuna is to remove the head and collars. When you start with the collar, you need to use a strong knife like a Deba or a Yo-Deba to separate the strong scales that connect the fin to the body.
Start at the fin and cut all the way through the shoulder. When you cut through the collar on the other side, you need to cut to the spine, as this will remove the head as well. After that, you need to carry the fish from the dorsal fin to start removing the scale material from the back. When you’re done, you’ll be ready to move to the next step.
Author Note: You don’t need to cut the bones, but you have to move the knife just above them. Don’t apply much pressure, as the knife should glide smoothly, or you have to adjust its position. When the knife is sharp enough, it will glide quickly.
In most cases, the tuna’s head is removed on the boat. All the parts of the tuna are edible, except for the scales. These need to be removed, or you won’t be able to fillet your fish.
Put the fish on its back and trace the lateral line from the ribs. Use your Deba knife to cut through the skin on the side of the fish, then move to the Gyuto knife, which is much more flexible. You need to press a little hard and move your knife at an angle so it doesn’t hit the bones.
Switch to a smaller Yo-Deba knife to cut through the tough skin, so you can separate the back from the belly. Because it’s a double-edged knife it works better than a Deba because the single-edged knife goes a little deeper in.
After that, use the Gyuto knife, which is much larger, thinner, and more flexible, so you can feel the bones better. Not all types of tuna have strong bones in this spot that connects the belly to the back.
Use your knife to cut under the neck bone, and the whole piece of meat will come off if you’ve done things right.
This is the thicker loin on the tuna’s body. Start at the belly or pelvic fins, and just like the back loin, the first thing is to use your Deba knife to cut through the skin to make an entrance for the Gyuto knife.
However, cutting the belly can be harder than cutting the back loin because the strong ribs are attached to it. Moreover, it’s hard to trace the shape of the ribs because they’re covered with the skin of the stomach.
It’s important to turn the fish around, so you can see where you’re cutting. In this case, the belly loin will come attached to the ribs. Removing the ribs will be easier once you separate the belly loin and put it on a cutting board.
Repeat the process on the other side without flipping the fish. You just need to insert your knife under the bone and move it to separate the bones from the meat. This position allows you to see where your knife is going while you use your hand to hold the bones.
Use your Deba to lift the bones and start from the bottom up as you move towards the head. The knife will be used to separate the back and belly loins on the other side.
Deboning the belly loin is easy once you’ve separated the belly loin. Just use your Deba or Yo-Deba to cut straight along the ribs without wasting any of the meat.
Next, use your knife to remove the stomach skin from the other side of the belly loin. This can be a delicate job because you don’t want your knife to penetrate where it’s not supposed to, so this step might take more time.
Finally, remove the belly from the belly loin so you have meat that you can cut into blocks.
Use your hand as a measurement to cut the belly loin into equal blocks. Some people prefer to cut the meat into bigger blocks, while others prefer smaller ones.
The next step would be to separate the skin from the loin. Again, a Mioroshi Deba knife is suitable for this job because it has a thin blade.
You also need to use the same knife to remove the bloodline, which is very distinct in color. When you put the knife in the right spot, you’ll be able to remove the bloodline, which comes off easily. The bloodline is usually discarded, although some Japanese restaurants use it to make ramen.
Saku blocks are the ones that you usually eat in sashimi. When the tuna fish isn’t raked to bleed out the gills, the flesh might be cooked from the inside or what anglers and chefs call burned.
Author Note: When the fish is caught, the stress can increase its internal temperature to the point that the flesh seems cooked from the inside. This is why fresh tuna should be killed right after they’re caught, or the flesh will be whitish and sour.
Using your Yanagi knife, you need to make equal cuts that can be later cut for sashimi or used for any other purposes. The belly can also be used to make blocks for ramen and broth.
Knowing how to utilize every part of your tuna means that there will be no waste, which also means that fewer fish will be caught in general. For sushi, it’s always recommended to cut against the grain, so the meat breaks easier, and it’s too chewy. This is a crucial tip for how to cark a tuna.
The tail part isn’t suitable for making sashimi, so you can scrape the meat to make tuna tartare or spicy tuna mixes. The bones contain collagen and have lots of flavors, so you can use them to make a delicious broth. But first, you need to use a spoon to scrape all the meat off. This tuna scrape can also be used for spicy tuna. You should also remove the meat from the collars to make a broth.
Cut the bones and collars using kitchen scissors into smaller pieces so they can cook easily. Roast the bones in the oven for 10 minutes at 500 degrees Fahrenheit, then use them to make ramen broth that is rich in flavors.
Although it might seem challenging, carking a tuna and using every part of it is an easy job if you have the right tools and follow the adequate steps. The idea is to go slow at first until you master the technique, so you can enjoy every part of this delicious fish.