For a change of pace for your grill and for your taste buds this fall, try grilling swordfish that is lemon-butter basted over flavorful charcoal flames. This dynamic ocean roamer will add some adventure to your plate.
Summer is considered “grilling season,” but grilling in the fall gets you outside to feel the chill in the air amid the changing colors. The smoke from your charcoal grill mixes with the scents of autumn to invigorate your precious outdoor time.
Grilling in the fall feels different, so try something different on the grill: swordfish. This powerful ocean predator is perfect over charcoal. Treat your swordfish like a steak, because that’s what it is. Swordfish is ideal for grilling: it’s firm and can take the heat, but cooks quickly and easily.
A Little About Swordfish
There is only one species of swordfish (Xiphias gladius), which roams the world’s oceans, and has been prized seafood since ancient times. Since swordfish can grow to over 10 feet and 1,000 pounds and feature a distinctive sword-like bill they use to slash and injure prey, they were traditionally hunted by a harpoon. Harpooning is less used today with the advent of modern long-line fishing. The swordfish fishery was in decline in the 1990s, but with better management and improved techniques and gear that do less ecological damage, the swordfish has rebounded.
What Does Swordfish Steak Taste Like?
Swordfish is firm, meaty, and lean with a mild taste. It’s moist and a touch sweet, with a taste that even those who dislike other fish tend to enjoy. Swordfish is also a healthy choice, high in protein and minerals. But as swordfish is a top predator, it can be high in mercury, which accumulates as you move up the food chain. So swordfish, like tuna, is best enjoyed only occasionally, and young children and pregnant women should skip it.
How to Buy Swordfish
Swordfish isn’t always locally in season. Even when it is in season, be careful about its freshness. Buying frozen swordfish that has been frozen fresh at sea (sometimes called “clipper” swordfish) is a great option for getting the best product.
Swordfish meat ranges in color from white and ivory to pink to orange, depending on the diet of the fish. Color does not signify quality, but any brownish color means the fish is no longer fresh.
Always store fresh swordfish in the coldest part of the refrigerator, and storing it against ice will keep it even fresher for longer.
While swordfish have bounced back in recent years, not all swordfish are caught in a sustainable way. U.S. and Canadian fisheries are well-managed and abide by international treaties, so it’s best to buy swordfish caught in the USA or Canada by handline, harpoon, or buoy gear. Driftnets and drifting longlines are considered ecologically harmful, as they kill marine life that is not targeted.
Whenever possible, support your local fishermen. The swordfish in this post was from Tuna Dockside Market here in San Diego.
You can find out more about Swordfish recommendations from the Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Seafood Watch Program.
Marinades for Grilling Swordfish
High-quality swordfish tastes amazing simply seasoned with salt and pepper. But giving it a quick marinade for 10 to 15 minutes in soy sauce, lemon zest, crushed cloves, fresh herbs, and spices really amps up the flavor for some great variety.
How Should Swordfish Be Grilled?
Because swordfish is so lean, it is not nearly as forgiving as fattier fish like salmon or tuna. So be cautious and avoid overcooking and ending up with dried-out fish. Swordfish is perfect for hot and fast cooking like a steak, and it’s recommended to cook it to an internal temperature of 140° F.
How Long to Grill Swordfish
Swordfish steaks will take approximately 3 to 8 minutes per side over direct heat for 1″ to 1 1/2″ thick steaks; depending on how hot the grill is, the temperature the fish started at, and if you cook with the lid opened or closed.