How to Grill Swordfish
Swim on by for moist, juicy swordfish hot off the grill. And keep cool with quick tips, easy recipes, and the perfect doneness, courtesy of the Yummly Smart Thermometer.
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The first time I tried swordfish was years ago at a Mexican restaurant. I’m not sure why I chose it over my usual chimichanga or enchiladas, but whatever the reason, I’m so glad I did. That first bite of juicy, meaty, and buttery grilled swordfish steak grabbed me, and I’ve been hooked ever since.
If you haven’t tried grilling swordfish, you should. It’s always delicious and impressive, and takes only 10 minutes to cook — ideal for a weeknight dinner, as the centerpiece of a dinner party, or even for a summer party buffet.
Thankfully good-quality swordfish is readily available at most fish counters. All you need to get to the finish line are a few tips, a simple sauce or marinade like the zesty North African chermoula I’m going to share with you, and the latest version of the Yummly Smart Thermometer*. Through the Yummly app on your phone the thermometer tracks the temperature of the fish and tells you when to flip it and when to take it off so it’s done just the way you like.
*The swordfish setting is available exclusively on the latest version of the Yummly Smart Thermometer, model #YTE010W5MB.
But back to that chermoula. This North African marinade features olive oil, fresh lemon juice, garlic, and cilantro along with ground cumin, coriander, and tomato paste, and it’s magic with swordfish’s mild flavor and richness. You’re going to want this recipe in your repertoire, so grab your thermometer and let’s get started.
Jump ahead to:
Tips and tricks for the best grilled swordfish
Grilling swordfish like a pro is simple with these guidelines.
Why grill swordfish?
Much like tuna or halibut, swordfish is a firm-flesh fish, so it’s unlikely to fall apart on the grill. The mild flavor makes it ideal for any variety of marinades or sauces. Then there’s its buttery richness. The meaty texture, while still tender, makes if feel “steak-like.” All these reasons are what make swordfish my favorite fish to grill (sorry, tuna).
How to buy swordfish
Unlike most other fish, a whole swordfish is much too large to have on display, and that means you can’t look for clear eyes or red gills. You’ll find swordfish cut into loins or steaks. Look for a light pinkish to slightly ivory hue, which indicates freshness. And ask your fishmonger to let you take a sniff. Swordfish should have a fresh, clean, mild scent of the sea. A strong fishy smell is a good indicator that you’re not getting the freshest fish.
For grilling, size matters. Buy swordfish steaks that are at least 1 inch thick. Thinner steaks can dry out or stick to the grill.
How to keep swordfish from sticking to the grill
No-stick cooking comes down to a few important points:
• Buy swordfish steaks that are at least 1 inch thick. Thinner steaks cook too quickly, making them susceptible to sticking and falling apart when you go to flip them because the flesh won’t be ready to release from the grill grates.
• Use a hot grill. Preheat your grill to 450° to 550°F. Hot grates mean that as soon you set your fish on them, the moisture on the flesh evaporates and starts to brown into beautiful grill marks. Once those grill marks start to form, the flesh of the fish has started to release!
• Get your grill grates very clean. Nothing makes fish stick faster than leftover food on the grates. After you’ve preheated the grill for 10-15 minutes, give the grates a swab with a grill brush.
• Oil the fish. Brush or rub the swordfish generously and evenly with vegetable oil. (My recipe with chermoula includes oil, so we don’t need any extra.)
• Be patient. Cooking is all about doing, but wait until the swordfish is good and brown on the underside (or the Yummly Smart Thermometer alerts you) before you flip those steaks.
How to flip swordfish on the grill so it won’t fall apart
Instead of using tongs, which could pull at the fish, slide a wide spatula under the swordfish to help release it. If you feel a lot of resistance, cook it for another minute or so to give the fish more time to release, then try again.
What temperature to grill swordfish
Swordfish grills best over high heat (450° to 550°F), with the heat source right beneath the fish (direct heat). High heat creates good grill marks and browning, which help the fish release from the grill grates so it doesn’t stick. High heat also cooks the swordfish quickly and that helps keep it moist.
The trick with high heat is to keep a watchful eye and use a meat thermometer to prevent overcooking.
How long to grill swordfish steaks
If you have the latest version of the Yummly Smart Thermometer, just select the swordfish setting and the doneness you want, and the Yummly app will tell you when the fish is done. Otherwise, here are grilled swordfish internal temperatures to follow. Note that swordfish has the best texture served fully cooked (medium), but you want to be careful not to dry it out by overcooking.
These guidelines to cook swordfish go for both charcoal grills and gas grills. We’re assuming high heat (450° to 550°F).
Important: Swordfish rises in temperature about 10°F once it comes off the grill. You’re aiming for the final temperatures below, so pull the fish from the heat when the internal temperature is about 10 degrees below your target doneness. (If you have the latest version of the Yummly thermometer with the swordfish setting, it will alert you when to stop cooking. If you have the original version of the thermometer, use it in Manual mode.)
For 1-inch thick swordfish steaks:
Medium-rare (125°F) 6 to 8 minutes, turning once
Medium (130°F) 8 to 10 minutes, turning once
Medium-well (135°F) 10 to 12 minutes, turning once
Well-done (140°F) 12 to 14 minutes, turning once
For 1 1/4-inch thick swordfish steaks:
Medium-rare (125°F) 8 to 10 minutes, turning once
Medium (130°F) 10 to 12 minutes, turning once
Medium-well (135°F) 12 to 14 minutes, turning once
Well-done (140°F) 14 to 16 minutes turning once
How to grill swordfish using the Yummly Smart Thermometer
Follow along to learn how easy it is to make my recipe for Grilled Swordfish with Chermoula. You can apply these same steps for grilling other swordfish recipes with the Yummly Smart Thermometer, too.
Make the grilled swordfish marinade
Photo by Brittany Conerly
The awesome flavor of chermoula is bright and fresh, yet it only takes 5 minutes to throw together. Combine the cilantro, garlic, lemon zest, lemon juice, oil, tomato paste, coriander in a small bowl to make a paste. Rub the mixture over the swordfish steaks to coat, cover with plastic wrap, and refrigerate 1 to 4 hours.
Photo by Brittany Conerly
Set up your grill
Preheat the grill for direct high heat grilling, 450° to 550°F. Give the grill grates a swipe with a wire brush to make sure they’re clean.
Season the fish
Remove the swordfish from the refrigerator and let it stand at room temp for about 15 minutes while your grill preheats. This will help your fish cook more evenly. Season with salt and black pepper.
Insert the Yummly Smart Thermometer
Photo by Brittany Conerly
Following the prompts on the Yummly App on your phone, if you have the latest version of the Yummly Smart Thermometer, select Fish and then the Swordfish setting. If you have the original thermometer, choose Manual mode and then the temperature doneness you prefer. Select “Tell me when to flip the food.”
Insert the thermometer into the thickest part of one of the swordfish steaks all the way to the black ceramic cap. Ensure that no metal is exposed.
If you don’t have a Yummly thermometer, you can also check the temperature of the fish with an instant-read thermometer.
Photo by Brittany Conerly
Set your swordfish steaks on the grill and cook with the lid closed until the Yummly app on your phone dings and tells you to flip the swordfish (use a spatula). Then cook the swordfish until the thermometer hits your desired doneness. Transfer to serving plates, and enjoy.
Get the recipe: Grilled Swordfish with Chermoula
Bright and delicious North African chermoula takes grilled swordfish to the next level. Love chermoula? Feel free to double that part of the recipe and save half to spoon over rice or sop up with bread. Total time here is 1 1/2 hours, including time to marinate the fish. Once you fire up the grill, your fish will be ready in about 10 minutes cook time.
10 more favorite grilled swordfish recipes
To help build your repertoire, here are additional easy grilled swordfish recipes to try. These swordfish dishes are short on prep time and long on flavor.
This dish takes weeknight dining to new heights with the addition of the Latino herb sauce called chimichurri. Simply grilled swordfish is topped with the bright, lively flavors of parsley, cilantro, red pepper flakes, and lime from the tasty topping.
Perfect for summer when peaches are in season and tomatoes are at their peak, this quick salsa also has avocado, basil, mint, honey, and lime, which makes it a refreshing topping for succulent grilled swordfish steaks. It’s a wonderful warm weather recipe to add to your repertoire.
Who doesn’t love a good taco, let alone a taco made with swordfish! This meaty fish is marinated with lemon juice, olive oil, smoked paprika, and jalapeño, then it’s grilled and cut into slices. It gets topped with an avocado-sour cream-lime sauce punctuated by cilantro. Crunchy shredded cabbage and crumbled queso fresco take it over the top. This recipe will be a regular in your rotation for sure.
Fast, easy, and flavorful — what’s not to love? Simply grilled swordfish steaks are served with a fresh and flavorful topping made with tomatoes, green Castelvetrano olives, capers, plenty of garlic, basil, white wine, and olive oil.
Five ingredients, 20 minutes, dinner. Sold! Swordfish steaks marinate briefly (5 minutes) in a combo of balsamic vinegar, garlic, brown mustard, and olive oil and are then grilled to juicy, tasty deliciousness. This is the definition of simplicity.
Rosemary is one of my favorite fresh herbs. It was in my boutonniere as well as my wife’s bouquet when we got married. It’s a strong herb that imparts a lot of flavor and is wonderful when used with swordfish. This recipe combines rosemary with lemon, butter, garlic, and olive oil. Simple, easy, fast.
Salmoriglio is a very flavorful southern Italian herb marinade and sauce that has been around for hundreds of years. It’s made from extra-virgin olive oil, garlic cloves, lemon, fresh parsley, and fresh oregano. While somewhat intense, it’s perfectly balanced and compliments grilled swordfish and meats beautifully. In this recipe the salmoriglio is used as a sauce and the results are mouthwatering.
Big points for simplicity here. This recipe features swordfish steaks that are marinated with some spicy wasabi mayonnaise, lemon-infused olive oil, and lemon juice. Then the steaks are grilled over high heat until moist and delicious. Just garnish with minced fresh scallions — amazing.
Jerk seasoning goes well on meats, poultry, and fish. It’s known for being very aromatic because it contains allspice and often fresh or dried thyme. It also has a good kick of heat, so if you like spicy, this is for you. This recipe calls for bottled jerk marinade which helps streamline the process. A soothing side of pineapple rice balances out the jerk spices.
Simply grilled swordfish is wonderful on its own, but add a dollop of rich herb butter (aka compound butter) to melt over the fish and blend with the smoky flavor, and you’ve got an incredible dinner. In this recipe you’ll make twice as much herb butter as you need so you can freeze the extra for the next time you grill swordfish (or try it over a nice juicy ribeye steak). Yum!
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Be a better griller
With the right tools and a little confidence, you’ll be on your way to grilling fish and other proteins like a champ. Learn more in these next articles.