Tuna is a versatile food item, used in sandwiches, salads, snacks and recipes like tuna noodle casserole. Initially the fish was only available in cans, but stores now sell tuna packed in pouches as well as the canned variety. Both packages contain the same basic product, but their structure and processing methods cause some noticable differences in the tuna.
Tuna is sealed in a can or pouch and heated to kill any bacteria that would otherwise contaminate the product. The Boston.com news site explains that canned tuna requires a higher temperate for proper processing than tuna in a pouch. Tuna pouches are made from the same foil and polymer film as military "meals ready to eat," and heat penetrates this thin material more quickly. Canned tuna needs added water to block out air inside the can. No water is added to tuna pouches, although you find some liquid inside that comes from the fish itself. Pouch tuna may need more mayonnaise when used for salad because of the reduced liquid, according to Chicago Tribune writer CeCe Sullivan.
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Tuna meat has a different consistency depending on whether it comes from a can or pouch, according to Nicole Weston of Slashfood. Tuna gets packed into cans in larger pieces, and the solid package keeps the meat intact. Pouches are soft-sided, providing no support, so the pieces inside are smaller and mushier, with a softer texture. Consumer preference on taste varies, as canned tuna won a taste test cited by Weston, while the pouch version was victorious in a Boston.com test.
Tuna pouches take up less space than cans and are more flexible, making them easier to store in cabinets or pantries and pack into lunch boxes. Cans are more solid, so they offer more protection for the product inside. Pouches are not reusable, while cans can be recycled, according to Weston.
Many well-known tuna brands offer both canned and pouch-packaged tuna, allowing consumers to choose the type they prefer or to buy different types for various uses, like cooking, snacking or packing into lunches. Some brand names that sell both types include Bumblebee, Starkist and Chicken of the Sea.
Pouch tuna is more expensive than its canned counterpart. Pouches cost a little less than double the price of cans when you compare the per-ounce price, Boston.com advises. The price difference is mitigated by the fact that canned tuna contains more water and less actual meet than a pouch with the same weight.