When water-packed canned tuna came on the scene, Julia Child declared it an abomination. Because tuna is a fatty fish, packing it in water leaches out the flavor and ruins the texture as well, or so she said. Yet “packed in spring water” sounds so much healthier, doesn’t it? Today, facings of water-packed vastly outnumber oil-packed at most stores, assuming you can find oil-packed tuna at all.
Well, the other day both varieties, Starkist brand, were on sale for the same price. Taste test time! The results of this one really surprised me: eating right out of the can, taste, texture and appearance were indistinguishable. The water-packed was just as flavorful as the oil-packed and just as dense and meaty. (Note that I did not test the liquid in the can on its own because you’re going to drain that off before you use your tuna, right? Otherwise you are going to have some really gross tuna salad.)
The can says that oil packed has 4 grams of fat per serving vs 2 grams for water packed, but that’s probably due to the packing liquid you’re going to pour out. And anyway, the mercury will get you before the fat does.
Conclusion: when it comes to cheap supermarket tuna (fancy Spanish tuna packed in oil being a whole different animal), this choice doesn’t matter. From now, I’ll buy whatever is on sale.