grilled swordfish on a plate with a fork

Credit: Photo: Joe Lingeman; Food Styling: Anna Stockwell

Grilling fish can be a tricky endeavor. Many types are too delicate for the grill, making them prone to falling apart or sticking to the grates. But there’s one meaty, almost steak-like fish that’s perfect for grilling: swordfish.

I like to serve my grilled swordfish with a punchy lemon and herb sauce to perk up the fish’s mild flavor. This recipe is easy enough for a weeknight dinner and special enough for a summer party. Here’s how to make it.

Credit: Photo: Joe Lingeman; Food Styling: Anna Stockwell

How to Buy Swordfish

Swordfish are large fish named for their long, pointed, sword-like bills that live in warm waters. According to Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Seafood Watch, they are an environmentally sustainable option, making them an ocean-friendly seafood choice. (Note that due to high mercury levels, the FDA recommends that pregnant or nursing women and young children do not eat swordfish.) Most fish counters carry swordfish, and you’ll most often see it sold as boneless steaks, sometimes with a little bit of skin on the side.

To make sure the fish can stand up to the heat of the grill, buy steaks that are about one-inch thick. Plan for six to eight ounces per person, and remember that you can cut large swordfish steaks in half to create individual portions.

Credit: Photo: Joe Lingeman; Food Styling: Anna Stockwell

Why Swordfish Needs Sauce

The mild flavor of swordfish makes it great for those who don’t like fishy fish, but that also means it needs marinades and sauces to punch up the flavor. For a zesty, easy, no-cook sauce, I like to combine lemon zest, lemon juice, fresh mint and parsley, garlic, some red pepper flakes for a little heat, and olive oil. Brush some of this sauce onto the swordfish before salting and grilling, then serve the remainder at the table, where I recommend you drag every bite of fish through it.

Credit: Photo: Joe Lingeman; Food Styling: Anna Stockwell

How Do You Know When Swordfish Is Done?

The firm, very lean texture of swordfish means that it can get dry and a bit mealy if it’s overcooked, so the key is to cook it just until the flesh is firm and opaque. You’ll want to grill it covered over fairly high heat, where it cooks quickly in less than 10 minutes.

Let the first side sit on the grill grates longer to get those pretty and flavorful grill marks, then flip the steaks and grill just a few minutes more so they finish cooking through. Swordfish is so dense that it’s easy to flip with tongs, but if the fish seems to be sticking, give it another minute before trying again so that the steaks stay intact. The best way to ensure that the fish is done? Break out the thermometer. When it hits 140ºF in the center, it’s time to take it off the grill.

Serving Grilled Swordfish

Grilled swordfish pairs well with a simple green salad and some crusty bread, or with rice pilaf and grilled summer squash. Or you could go with my favorite way to eat swordfish in the summer: with this Mediterranean orzo salad and a glass of chilled rosé.

How to Grill Swordfish

YieldServes 4

Prep time 15 minutes

Cook time 7 minutes to 10 minutes

Ingredients

  • 1

    medium lemon

  • 1 clove

    garlic

  • 2 tablespoons

    finely chopped fresh mint leaves

  • 2 tablespoons

    finely chopped fresh parsley leaves

  • 1/3 cup

    olive oil, plus more for the grill grates

  • 1 1/4 teaspoons

    kosher salt, divided

  • 1/4 teaspoon

    red pepper flakes (optional)

  • 4

    (about 1-inch thick) swordfish steaks (6 to 8 ounces each)

Equipment

Instructions

  1. Heat the grill. Heat an outdoor grill for direct, medium-high heat, about 400ºF. Meanwhile, prepare the sauce and season the swordfish.

  2. Prepare the sauce. Prepare the following, adding them all to a small bowl: Finely grate the zest of 1 medium lemon, then grate 1 garlic clove. Juice the lemon until you have 2 tablespoons juice. Finely chop until you have 2 tablespoons fresh mint leaves and 2 tablespoons fresh parsley leaves. Add 1/3 cup olive oil, 1/2 teaspoon of the kosher salt, and 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes if desired, and whisk to combine.

  3. Season the swordfish. Pat 4 swordfish steaks dry with paper towels, then place on a large plate. Transfer 2 tablespoons of the sauce into a small bowl and brush the swordfish steaks on both sides with the sauce. Reserve the remaining sauce for serving. Season the swordfish all over with the remaining 3/4 teaspoon kosher salt.

  4. Grill the swordfish. Scrape the grill grates clean if needed. Oil the grill grates with a paper towel dipped in olive oil. Place the swordfish on the grill, cover, and cook until grill marks appear on the bottom and the fish releases easily from the grill, about 5 minutes. If it sticks, cook a minute or two longer and try again.

  5. Flip the swordfish. Flip the fish, cover, and continue grilling until desired doneness, 2 to 4 minutes more. The internal temperature of the swordfish should be 130°F for medium, 135°F for medium-well, or 140ºF for well-done.

  6. Rest and serve the swordfish. Transfer the swordfish to a clean plate and let rest for 2 to 3 minutes. Serve with the remaining sauce spooned on top.

Recipe Notes

Make ahead: The sauce can be made up to 1 day ahead and refrigerated in an airtight container. Let come to room temperature and stir before using.

Storage: Leftovers can be refrigerated in an airtight container up to 2 days.

 

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