BrokeAss Gourmet

BrokeAss Gourmet

Smoked Tuna Salad

Evan told me about can-smoked tuna yesterday as we were discussing cool ways to apply fire to food. His friend David Ruderman, an Orthodox rabbi, showed him how to do it once, when he was visiting from Israel. David picked it up during his time in the military, where this trick originated. I have to admit, at first I was skeptical; the process involved packing a can of oil-packed tuna with a wad of toilet paper and setting it on fire. It sounded dangerous and kind of gross.

Still, I was intrigued. And now, having just done it, I can confirm that it’s actually quite easy, tasty and really, really fun to make. Though the fire actually stays quite small and is surprisingly non-smelly, there’s something just awesome and rustic-feeling about setting up a “smoker” on your back deck.

And the results are just incredible. The smoking process gets rid of that fishy, tinny flavor, replacing it with a complex, smoky one, making it perfect for this smoked-whitefish-style salad preparation.

I happened to have some fresh bialys, which I toasted and served it on top of. It’d be good plain too, or heaped on top of some dressed greens.

Note: I highly recommend using very basic toilet paper or tissue. Don’t use anything with fragrance or lotions in it.

  • ingredients
  • 1 can olive-oil-packed tuna $2
  • unscented toilet paper or tissue, preferably organic
  • 2 tbsp finely-minced onion $0.50 for a whole onion
  • 1 tbsp finely-chopped flat-leaf parsley $1 for a bunch
  • juice of half a lemon $0.50 for a whole lemon
  • 1 hard-boiled egg, cooled and chopped $1.50 for 6 eggs
  • 2 tbsp mayonnaise Pantry
  • salt and pepper to taste Pantry
Total Cost of Ingredients: $5.50


Carefully open up the can of tuna without removing any of the oil. Discard the lid.

Place the tuna can in a large pot and bring it, with some toilet paper or tissue outside. Keep a pitcher of water nearby, just in case.

Take about 4 squares of toilet paper (or the equivalent amount of tissue) and fold it up into a little stack. Press it into the tuna, allowing the edges to hang off the sides. The paper should soak up quite a bit of oil.

Carefully light a dry edge of the paper and watch it while it burns. The whole thing will catch on fire and continue burning (using the oil as fuel). Stay nearby, and keep an eye on it. It should keep burning for 10-15 minutes.

Eventually, the flame will go out, which means that the fish has finished smoking. Let the can sit for 5 minutes to cool down.

Use a fork to carefully remove the ashy paper (it should just peel off). Discard it and transfer the fish into a mixing bowl. Refrigerate for 5-10 minutes, to cool it down.

Stir the cooled fish together with onion, parsley, lemon juice, egg, mayonnaise, salt and pepper.

Serve immediately or chill for up to 24 hours.

Serves 2.

Category: Meals

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What They're Saying

Jess, on Apr 2, 01:35 PM, wrote:

so this has to be the sexiest tuna recipe I’ve ever seen ;-} Looks amazing! So want to try this, just for the playing with fire part.

PJ, on Apr 2, 02:10 PM, wrote:

(now where this is supposed to be) I wonder how safe this is, given the possibility of tuna cans with BPA? I’m assuming that heating a container not intended for cooking doesn’t do you any favors.
I’m also surprised that this prep actually imparts any smokiness. It does sound tasty, and I’ll probably try it (after dumping the tuna into a tiny cast iron skillet).

Mark, on Apr 17, 11:42 AM, wrote:


I love this recipe and idea. But I do have to say that certain kinds of toilet paper, I think, will work better than others. As someone whose father is concerned with septic systems, and as someone who in and of himself is constantly broke… I have to say that if a person uses a thinner… Less comfortable sheet… That person will likely need to use a little more paper in the tuna smoking.

Thanks for the help and the idea.

Garrett deRosset, on May 5, 09:10 AM, wrote:

Ok everyone, let me set this record straight. PJ, I think you’re looking for the food network. I suggest maybe Good Eats with Alton Brown where they can afford creme fraiche on the daily, but last time I checked this is BrokeAss, and man, having just done this, I can tell you I have never felt more broke in my life. Not that my account is completely empty, but just that the act of lighting and watching a couple of tuna cans burn reminds me of homeless people crowding around a burning 55 gallon drum to stay warm.

In Japan, scented TP is the standard. However, in the spirit of Japan, I can indeed say, “There was not a peculiar flavor, and it finishes with a mellow tasting.” Don’t let your fragrant wipes stop you from trying this fun recipe.

Garrett deRosset, on May 13, 04:24 AM, wrote:

Just a tip for everyone, in case you’re feeling lazy, you can throw in those eggs raw, cook them with all the other ingredients and it still turns out ok! Hobo tuna forevah!