The Best Methods For Cooking Swordfish Steaks

Swordfish is a meaty yet mild tasting white fish that cooks quickly and pairs well with many different sauces and sides. It's the perfect starter fish for the seafood skeptic as it doesn't have a fishy taste or smell. The firm and dense flesh of a swordfish steak is very lean with a hint of sweetness. The beauty of cooking swordfish steaks is that there is no degree of doneness that requires a special skill or a keen eye to look out for, meaning the fish is best cooked all the way through, unlike a tuna steak which benefits from a rare center.

Because swordfish is not as high in fat as other fish, it can dry out easily if not cooked properly. There are four best methods for cooking a swordfish steak and they all have one thing in common — they're quick. Brief exposure to the heat helps maintain the moisture in the flesh and prevents it from overcooking and drying out. Other than that, swordfish is not a finicky fish at all. Whether you want to use a burner, your oven, the grill, or your broiler, a delicious dinner is guaranteed within minutes.

Pan searing offers a nicely browned exterior

A tried and true method for cooking a swordfish steak is to sear it on the stovetop in a heavy-bottomed pan. Heat a neutral flavored oil in the pan over medium-high heat until very hot. Gently lay the steak in the pan placing it down away from you to avoid a dangerous hot oil backsplash. Depending on the thickness of the steak, it should take between 3 to 8 minutes per side to get it evenly browned. You'll want a steak at least 1-inch thick, otherwise it may fall apart easily when you flip it over with a spatula.

Keep an eye on the opacity of the flesh on the side of the steak. When it reaches about halfway, give the steak a flip and let it cook until the whole side is opaque. Give it a poke for firmness to ensure it's cooked through all the way. The outside should be nicely browned and the steak should flake easily with a fork. You can also use a thermometer to guarantee the meat reaches 145 degrees Fahrenheit, according to USDA safety guidelines.

Searing on the stovetop and then roasting in the oven is less hands-on

A more hands-off approach that requires less technique but still gets a nicely browned exterior is to sear one side of the steak in neutral oil in a cast iron skillet or other heat-safe pan (i.e. no plastic handles) on the stovetop over medium-high heat just as instructed above. Once a brown color is achieved after a few minutes, transfer the entire pan into the oven to finish cooking the meat all the way through at 450 degrees Fahrenheit.

Depending on thickness, it should take between 7 to 9 minutes to cook through to firmness and opacity. The beauty of this approach is that you can take care of side dishes at the same time. Whether roasting sweet potato wedges, Brussels sprouts, or asparagus to accompany your swordfish steaks, you can get them going ahead of time in the oven and then finish them off at the same time as the fish.

Swordfish steaks are made for grilling

Cross-hatched charred grill marks and a juicy swordfish steak go hand-in-hand. The firm, lean, and meaty texture of a swordfish steak is a lot more forgiving than other, more delicate fish that easily fall apart. As such, the thick steaks can handle the rougher nature of grilling. If you're down to fire up the grill, it's one of the tastiest methods to prepare the fish.

Lightly oil the grates of your charcoal or gas grill with a neutral tasting oil. A quick marinade of about 10 to 15 minutes before hitting the grill will impart added flavor and moisture to the steaks. Try using soy sauce, red wine vinegar, rosemary, and thyme. Once sufficiently marinated, grill the steaks for about 3 to 8 minutes per side. The outsides will be nicely browned by the grates and the insides should still be a little pink. By the time you get the steaks to the table, carryover cooking will finish the job and cook each steak all the way through without overcooking and toughening up the meat.

Broiling achieves browning and adds flavor with less fuss

If you're not in the mood to fire up the grill or the weather just isn't cooperating, your oven's broiler is another solid choice for preparing swordfish steaks. It's the next best thing to those tasty char marks. After all, a broiler is essentially just an upside down grill. Just like with grilling, sturdy swordfish steaks can hold their own under the direct heat of the broiler without falling apart.

Lightly coat a broiling pan with neutral tasting oil and heat it under the broiler flame or electric coil. While the pan is getting hot, season the swordfish steaks with salt and pepper before placing them about 2 to 3 inches underneath the heat source. Broil for 4 minutes, flip the steaks, and broil for another 4 minutes. The skins will be lightly browned and the steaks will be firm to the touch. For an added boost of flavor and caramelization, you can coat the steaks with melted butter before broiling.