The simple, ultimate way to cook Swordfish

Just like everything in cooking (and in life), you need to do simple, right.

Don’t be fooled, there is no trickery here. This is a simple recipe for cooking Swordfish, perfectly.

Prep work

These are Swordfish steaks (untrimmed). Swordfish is generally available year round but many people have trouble cooking it correctly, so it’s not always carried by grocery store fishmongers.  We were able purchase these from Whole Foods.

The butchery did leave much to be desired.  Swordfish skin is not really edible, and it is typically removed from the whole loin before the steaks are cut.  I’m taking off the skin and trimming out the blood line (basically anywhere there is red on the fillet).  This is something that should really be done before portioned pieces of fish are placed in a display case.

A fillet, boning or paring knife is the perfect tool for this type of semi-intricate trimming where you’ll want to remove blood line and exterior skin. Swordfish skin is a lot like shark skin; it’s malleable and it doesn’t have fins or tiny scales.

These next few pictures illustrate the cuts after the skin and blood line are removed.

There are many types of fish that are forgiving if over cooked — cod, halibut, Chilean sea bass, and snapper come to mind. Swordfish, however, is not. When you overlook it it is dry and not pleasant to eat — borderline unpalatable.  But unlike tuna, which is accurately described with that same assessment, you aren’t meant to just sear swordfish on both sides, and leave it raw in the middle.

Instead follow these instructions.


Season both sides with kosher salt & black pepper, first applying about half as much as I intend to.  The other half will be added after cooking, but we’ll get to that.

You want a hot pan for caramelization. Use clarified butter (it has the highest smoke point) in the pan, or canola oil.

Heat the pan until it begins to smoke and gently slide in your fish.  Cook until it’s golden brown in the pan, then, use a rubber spatula or rubber-tipped tongs to turn it (always turning away from you).

Feel free to add a small amount of whole butter at this point, and use a spoon to baste the tops of the fish (above).  With thinner steaks, I’d refrain from this.

Cooking fish properly depends on observing the color change that comes in fish flesh when it turns from raw to cooked.  Swordfish is no different, and the dull pink-ish color of the raw meat will turn towards paper-white when cooked.  As I’ve mentioned in a previous post about cooking fish, you’re trying to cook the fish fillet or steak so that a thin ring of the raw coloration still exists all around the piece of fish.


Now comes the part using the other half of salt and pepper: Once it’s out of the pan, place the steaks on a plate lined with a paper towel to absorb all the extra butter/oil.  Then, *brush with good olive oil* and finishing salt (sea salt), and I’ve used a little togarashi shichimi pepper.

*Note: it’s worth noting that to maximize the seasoning effect, brush the hottest side of the steak with olive oil and then apply salt. This allows the residual heat from the fish to heat the oil to a more liquid form, so it can be more easily absorbed by the meat.  Adding the finishing salt to the hot side allows it to be carried deeper into the swordfish steak, thereby seasoning it more thoroughly.

Finish with minced shallots, chopped parsley and lemon juice.

Plate that gorgeous sucker!

Ideas for side dish pairings: cauliflower mashed potatoes

If you’re actually doing cauliflower mashed potatoes, know these two things:

1. Use the stem of the cauliflower (not the florets)

2. Mix in actual potatoes (2:1 ratio)

I clarify this because my fiancé thought cauliflower mashed potatoes were bits of mashed cauliflower in the form of mashed potatoes. I pointed out, this would just be mashed cauliflower. Now she’s excited and wants to make them more often.

Enjoy the swordfish! Leave me a comment below to let me know what you paired it with.

One thought on “The simple, ultimate way to cook Swordfish

  1. I’ve been following Holly’s journey for years and enjoy the richness you’ve added to her life. I am now essentially a vegan (for health reasons) but was raised on swordfish, once a week, because it was inexpensive and plentiful on the east coast and my mom’s fish of choice – plus no bones! Your directions are excellent. Trader Joe’s (in southern CA) carries swordfish year round in their frozen food section. I made it in a similar way about twice per month while I was still a fish eater. To defrost I would just put it in the microwave for about 5 minutes on regular, not defrost, setting. Then pop it into a pan with canola oil spray. Always good. Best of luck with your ‘cookbook’. You have a nice style.


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