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12 Common Mistakes to Avoid When Handling Canned Tuna

12 mistakes everyone makes with canned tuna

Canned tuna is a convenient and nutritious food that can be a lifesaver when you need a quick meal. It’s packed with protein, omega-3 fatty acids, vitamins and minerals. Not to mention, it’s delicious and versatile. But despite its popularity, many people make mistakes when it comes to handling and preparing canned tuna. In this article, we explore 12 common mistakes people make with canned tuna and provide valuable tips to help you avoid them.

1. Not draining the tuna properly

One of the most common mistakes people make with canned tuna is not draining it properly. While you don’t technically have to drain the water or oil from a can of tuna to enjoy it, most people prefer to avoid soggy sandwiches. Draining tuna also has a nutritional impact. Tuna packed in oil has twice as many calories as tuna packed in water. By draining the oil, you can significantly reduce the calorie content of your meal. There are several methods you can use to drain tuna, including turning the can upside down, using a strainer, or squeezing out the liquid with your hands. Choose the method that works best for you and make sure your tuna is properly drained before you eat it.

2. Tossing too soon

Canned tuna has a longer shelf life than you might think. While some people tend to throw out cans or leftover tuna too soon due to food safety concerns, canned tuna can actually be stored for an extended period of time. Unopened cans of tuna can be stored in the pantry for up to five years, while opened cans can be refrigerated for up to three days. If you have leftover tuna from a cooked dish or tuna salad, you can freeze it for up to two months. Just be sure to store it in an airtight container to preserve its quality and flavor.

3. Storing canned tuna near heat or light

Proper storage is critical to maintaining the quality and freshness of canned tuna. Storing near heat or light sources can cause spoilage or deterioration. It’s recommended to store canned tuna in a cool, dry place away from sunlight. Ideally, the temperature should be below 85°F, preferably between 50°F and 70°F. Avoid storing canned tuna over your stove or on open shelves near a light source. Also, store cans on a shelf, not on the floor, to prevent bruising or rusting. Remember to use the oldest cans first to minimize the risk of expiration.

4. Storing leftover tuna in the open can

Refrigerating leftover tuna in an open can is safe from a food safety perspective, but it may affect the quality and flavor of the fish. It’s best to transfer leftover tuna to a plastic or glass container before refrigerating. This will prevent your refrigerator from getting a fishy smell and preserve the quality of the fish. It’s also worth noting that some metal cans contain bisphenol-A (BPA), a chemical linked to health risks. If you’re concerned about BPA, look for BPA-free cans or transfer any leftover tuna to a non-metallic container.

5. Not choosing a low sodium option

Canned tuna can be higher in sodium than fresh. If you’re watching your sodium intake, it’s important to choose low-sodium varieties of canned tuna. Labels can be misleading, so read the ingredient list carefully to make sure no salt or sodium-containing additives have been added. Look for labels that say “no salt added,” “low sodium,” or “reduced sodium. If you can’t find low-sodium tuna, you can rinse canned tuna in water for three minutes to reduce the sodium content by 80 percent.

6. Eating too much canned tuna

While canned tuna is a healthy food choice, it’s important not to overconsume it due to its potential mercury content. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recommends eating two to three servings (8 to 12 ounces) of cooked fish, including canned tuna, per week. However, it’s important to be aware of the mercury levels in different types of tuna. Canned light tuna is a low-mercury option that can be eaten two to three times a week. Albacore tuna, on the other hand, is higher in mercury and should be limited to once a week. To make sure you’re eating the right portions, you can measure 4 ounces of tuna on a kitchen scale or use your hand as a rough guide.

7. Not inspecting the cans

Inspecting canned tuna is essential to ensure food quality and safety. Check for dates, dents, bulges, rust, and leaks on the cans before consuming the tuna. While the product date on the can is more about product quality than safety, it’s still a good practice to choose cans with later expiration dates to ensure freshness. Dented, bulging or leaking cans should be discarded as they may indicate bacterial contamination or compromised packaging. Rust on the cans can also be a sign of deterioration, so it’s best to avoid rusty cans. By inspecting cans before you buy or use them, you can ensure that you’re eating safe, high-quality canned tuna.

8. Do not experiment with different recipes

Canned tuna is incredibly versatile and can be used in a variety of recipes beyond the classic tuna salad sandwich. Many people limit their culinary exploration with canned tuna and stick to familiar recipes. However, by experimenting with different flavors and ingredients, you can discover new and exciting ways to enjoy canned tuna. Try adding it to pasta dishes, casseroles, sushi rolls or salads. Explore different seasonings, herbs and sauces to create unique flavor profiles. Don’t be afraid to get creative in the kitchen and make the most of this versatile ingredient.

9. Not considering sustainable options

When buying canned tuna, it’s important to consider the sustainability of the product. Overfishing and unsustainable fishing practices can have a negative impact on marine ecosystems. Look for labels such as “pole-and-line caught,” “dolphin-safe,” or “MSC certified” (Marine Stewardship Council) to ensure that the tuna was sourced sustainably. These labels indicate that the tuna was caught using methods that minimize harm to other species and preserve the health of the ocean. By choosing sustainable options, you can enjoy your canned tuna while supporting responsible fishing practices.

10. Ignore the potential for food waste

Canned tuna can be an excellent way to reduce food waste and make use of leftover ingredients. Instead of letting fresh vegetables or herbs go to waste, consider adding them to your canned tuna recipes. You can make a delicious tuna pasta salad with leftover vegetables, or add canned tuna to a stir-fry with other leftover ingredients. By being mindful of food waste and using your canned tuna in creative ways, you can contribute to a more sustainable and eco-friendly kitchen.

11. Not researching different brands

There are many brands of canned tuna on the market, each with its own unique qualities and flavors. Many people stick with one brand without exploring other options. However, by trying different brands, you may discover varieties that better suit your taste preferences or offer higher quality products. Read reviews, ask for recommendations, and be open to trying new brands to find the one that best meets your expectations. You may be pleasantly surprised by the difference in taste and quality that switching brands can bring.

12. Don’t use it as an emergency pantry staple.

Canned tuna can be a valuable emergency pantry staple. It has a long shelf life, does not require refrigeration, and can be used to create quick and nutritious meals during times when fresh foods are scarce or unavailable. By keeping a few cans of tuna in your pantry, you can have a reliable source of protein that can be used in a variety of recipes. Whether it’s during a natural disaster, a busy week with limited cooking time, or unexpected circumstances, canned tuna can provide a convenient and nutritious option for your meals.
In conclusion, canned tuna is a versatile, nutritious and convenient food that can be enjoyed in a variety of ways. By avoiding common mistakes such as improper draining, storage, and handling, you can ensure that you get the most out of your canned tuna. Remember to drain it properly, store it in a cool and dry place, and avoid wasting leftovers. Explore different recipes, consider sustainability, and be open to trying new brands. By following these tips, you can maximize your canned tuna experience and enjoy delicious, nutritious meals every time.


Why is it important to properly drain canned tuna?

Properly draining canned tuna helps prevent soggy sandwiches and reduces calories, especially if it’s canned in oil. It also improves the overall texture and flavor of your dishes.

How long does canned tuna keep?

Unopened cans of tuna can be stored in the pantry for up to five years, while opened cans can be refrigerated for up to three days. Leftover tuna can be frozen for up to two months.

Can I store canned tuna near heat or light?

No, it’s best to store canned tuna in a cool, dry place away from heat or light. Proper storage will help maintain freshness and prevent spoilage.

What are the health considerations when eating canned tuna?

While canned tuna is a healthy choice, it’s important to be aware of your sodium intake and the mercury levels in different types of tuna. Choose low-sodium options and limit consumption of high-mercury tuna, especially for pregnant women and children.

How can I ensure the quality and safety of canned tuna?

Before consuming canned tuna, inspect the cans for dents, bulges, leaks, or rust. Choose cans with later expiration dates for better quality. Discard damaged or compromised cans to avoid potential foodborne illness.

Can canned tuna be used in recipes other than tuna salad sandwiches?

Absolutely! Canned tuna is incredibly versatile and can be used in a variety of dishes including pasta, casseroles, sushi rolls and salads. Get creative in the kitchen and explore different flavors and ingredients to maximize your canned tuna experience.

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