How long can you freeze tuna steaks?

In this article, we will answer the question “How long can you freeze tuna steaks?” we will also discuss how to freeze tuna for maximum quality, and how to thaw it safely.

How long can you freeze tuna steaks?

Tuna steaks kept at a steady freezing temperature of -17.8°C will last indefinitely unless stored incorrectly [1]. 

But for best quality, frozen raw tuna steaks should be consumed within 3 to 8 months, while cooked tuna last for up to 3 months [1].

In freezing (-17°C), preservation is achieved by low temperatures that reduce biochemical, enzymic, and microbial activity [2]. In general, the lower the temperature of frozen storage, the lower the rate of microbiological and biochemical changes [2].

This reduction occurs because freezing slows the movement of molecules, and causes temperature shock on microbes, which enter a dormant stage [3]. 

However, keep in mind that flavor, color, and texture will lessen after lengthy storage. Among the chemical reactions taking place in fish during frozen storage, lipid oxidation is the most important.

Tuna is high in unsaturated fat, which is a type of fat prone to undergo oxidation, resulting in the development of rancidity.

Although under freezing temperatures the rate of lipid oxidation is slowed, studies have shown that it still goes on and contributes to a decrease in the fish quality over the frozen period [4].  

Therefore, do not be surprised if after a long storage period in the freezer, your tuna tastes rancid. 

How long is tuna fish good for in the refrigerator?

According to the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) [1], raw fish should be kept in the refrigerator (4.4 °C or less) only 1 or 2 days before cooking or freezing. After cooking, store the tuna in the refrigerator for 3 to 4 days.

With regard to canned tuna, after opening, the tuna only lasts 1-2 days in the fridge at 4°C or below. Preferentially, tuna should be transferred to an air-tight container or plastic bag before storing it in the fridge.

How to freeze tuna steaks?

Tuna steaks freeze quite well. The dense meat of tuna is resistant to freezer burn unless you store it incorrectly. To successfully freeze tuna steaks, follow the steps below.

  1. Thoroughly wash the tuna after gutting it.
  1. Cut the tuna into steaks or any other shape and size you want. It depends on what you intend to do with it after thawing. 
  1. Pat dry the tuna steaks with a paper towel or kitchen roll. 
  1. Wrap each tuna steak with a plastic sheet or aluminum foil, whatever’s available. 
  1. Put the wrapped tuna inside a heavy-duty freezer bag. Double wrapping the tuna will prevent the tuna from picking up odors and ensures a prolonged shelf-life.
  1. Remove as much air as possible from the freezer bag. Minimizing air contact is what will preserve the freshness of the tuna steaks by delaying lipid oxidation.
  1. Put a clear label on the bag before popping it into the freezer. This will help you in identifying the fish once it’s frozen. It also helps you to keep track of how long the fish has been frozen. 

Tips for freezing tuna steaks and maintaining maximum quality

Have a look at these tips for good outcomes in freezing tuna, according to USDA [3].

– Freeze tuna steaks as fast as possible to maintain their quality. Rapid freezing prevents large ice crystals from forming, while slow freezing creates large, disruptive ice crystals. Large crystals will negatively affect the texture of tuna upon defrosting. 

– Ideally, tuna steaks should be 2 inches thick to be able to freeze completely in about 2 hours. 

– If your home freezer has a “quick-freeze” shelf, use it. 

– Never stack packages to be frozen. Instead, spread them out in one layer on various shelves, stacking them only after frozen solid.

How to thaw tuna steaks?

There are three safe ways to thaw tuna steaks: in the refrigerator, in cold water, or in the microwave [3]. 

Thawing at room temperature (on the counter) is not recommended because you enter the danger zone (between 4 and 62°C) where resistant microbes to freezing can again become active, and multiply to levels that can lead to foodborne illness. 

USDA [3] claims that the safest thawing is in the refrigerator. For this, leave the tuna to defrost overnight, or for a few days until you notice complete defrosting. 

For faster thawing, place food in a plastic bag and immerse it in cold water. Check the water frequently to be sure it stays cold. Change the water every 30 minutes. After thawing, cook immediately [3].

When microwave-defrosting tuna, plan to cook it immediately after thawing because some areas of the food may become warm and begin to cook during microwaving [3].

Can I refreeze thawed tuna steaks?

Yes, you can refreeze tuna provided it was safely thawed in the refrigerator, which is considered the safest method of thawing according to USDA [3]. 

However, keep in mind that the tuna will experience a loss of texture quality due to frozen and defrosting cycles because of the moisture lost through thawing. 

Cooked and leftovers of cooked tuna that have been previously defrosted are also safe to freeze. If previously cooked foods are thawed in the refrigerator, you may refreeze the unused portion.

How to tell if the tuna has gone bad?

 To tell if tuna has gone bad, examine the sensory quality. For instance, if when tasting tuna you feel it rancid, it means that the fat has been oxidized.

Eating rancid tuna will not make you sick, but I do not recommend you eat oxidized foods because depending on the oxidation extent, toxic compounds may have been produced [5]. 

Furthermore, any change in color, texture, or smell may indicate that the tuna is rotten and should be thrown away. 


In this article, we answered the question “How long can you freeze tuna steaks?” we also discussed how to freeze tuna for maximum quality, and how to thaw it safely.



2. Fellows PJ. Food Processing Technology Principles and Practice. Fourth ed, 2017.


4. Dawson P, Al-Jeddawi W, Remington N. Effect of Freezing on the Shelf Life of Salmon. International Journal of Food Science. 2018;2018:1686121.

5. Vieira SA, Zhang G, Decker EA. Biological Implications of Lipid Oxidation Products. Journal of the American Oil Chemists’ Society. 2017;94(3):339-51.

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