When I got married, I asked my mother this same question, “What kind of tuna should I buy?” And she answered, “Solid white packed in water.”
It made sense. Solid white is always the most expensive, but I assumed that it’s the best. So, for 16 years, I bought solid white tuna. Sure, sometimes I went for more premium types of canned tuna (like Finer Fin’s tuna, which is much more gourmet than your typical cans), but the regular week-to-week tuna was solid white. (As far as water vs. oil, that is a personal preference.)
Then, last summer, I opened up cans of tuna that had landed in my pantry and made some tuna salad. And as I mashed it in the bowl with some mayo, my thoughts were, “Wow, what is this tuna? It’s the softest, moistest tuna I ever used.” It was a Jewish brand that I hadn’t used before. I searched for that brand in a couple of stores but didn’t find it. Then I realized, it wasn’t the brand that made it different. It was simply chunk light tuna! I was so used to using solid white I didn’t even know what chunk light was.
So, now I buy chunk light. I love that it’s already broken apart so it’s easy to make tuna salad and I don’t need to smash and smash and smash with a fork. I find solid white to be dryer and this moister.
Now for the differences?
- Solid white tuna is made from larger, firmer pieces of albacore tuna. The fish is cut and placed in the can without chopping. If you’re looking for a tuna steak-like feel, perhaps to top a Nicoise salad, this would be the pick.
- Similarly chunk white tuna is made from smaller, chopped up pieces of the same fish. I find chunk white to be very similar to solid white. Some say that solid white is a milder tuna taste while chunk white is stronger. I haven’t noticed that so much, but I assume there would be a difference if one tasted them side by side.
- Now for chunk light. This is made from smaller varieties of tuna, not those big albacores. It’s moisture and darker in color. If you’re smashing it up for tuna salad, I find that this is much better. Because it’s made from broken up pieces of smaller fish that are caught in nets (vs. on a fishling line), it’s cheaper.
- There’s also solid light yellowfin tuna newly on the kosher market. Some of our readers have commented that they like it, and since we’re liking yellowfin vs. albacore lately, I might like it too.
So, now I personally switched to buying chunk lite. Since we never eat tuna plain, and only in tuna salad, I’m enjoying having to smash so much less. So, next time you’re standing in the tuna aisle of the grocery store and see so many gazillion types of tuna, you don’t need to wonder, “I wonder what the difference really is.”
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