Swordfish can be wonderful. Most restaurants and individuals at home have no idea how to cook swordfish … or for that matter how to prepare it prior to cooking. Most of the time it is too dry and tough, and worse, it might be served with the skin on and the dark flesh included. Yuck! Expensive, smelly, fishy tasting fish! How stupid!
I created my recipe based on how much I despised swordfish as served in typical restaurants. My results were/are perfect and I’ve received many rave reviews. Below is the simple and best way to prepare and cook grilled swordfish, but the directions must be followed precisely.
First, buy the steaks with a thickness of 1¼" … not thinner and not thicker. A quality seafood market will receive swordfish in large uncut sections at least once a week so by calling ahead you can schedule pickup of your order on the day the fish arrives, and your custom thickness requirements will be easy for them to prepare. Check what they have done re. thickness before completing your purchase. Also, make certain that any swordfish that you buy is fresh and not previously frozen. The cost will be around $12.99 per pound. One pound will serve two adults, but if you are buying one piece for only two adults and it is large in area you may have to buy more than one pound. Or, if it is the right thickness you can have the fish monger/butcher cut a one pound piece for you from a whole large steak.
An alternative is for you to buy the weight you want in one piece, particularly if you are preparing a meal for four or more people, and then cut it to proper sized pieces at home. This is actually the best way to be sure you get what you want.
Rinse the fish and remove excess moisture with paper towels. Cut the skin from the fish by slipping a sharp knife under the skin and gradually pulling the edge of the skin as you continue cutting it off. After the initial cut I hold the skin edge and lift the fish into the air and then use the knife along the opening between the flesh and the skin for easy skin removal.
Cut the steak in half exposing the dark red flesh from the center on each piece. Cut it out and discard it. All of it. When you are done you will have only the light colored flesh, yielding a 100% edible piece of swordfish. Upon cooking it will not have any oily fishy taste that would have been present if cooked with the skin. Moreover, the strong tasting red flesh will not spoil the experience of eating the delicious and mild lighter flesh.
For one pound of swordfish prepare the following coating:
½ stick butter, melted
1/3 cup Texas Pete’s® hot sauce – room temperature.
½ tsp. White pepper
Mix the ingredients and coat both sides of the chilled raw fish on a plate, pouring any excess coating over the fish. As the fish will be cold the buttery hot sauce coating will gradually thicken and set on the surface, even at room temperature.
Note: Before grilling the fish make certain all other food items for the meal are ready to eat, as you want to serve and eat the fish while it is hot from the grill. You will want to serve the fish on a pre-warmed platter for maximum enjoyment.
Prepare and light a charcoal grill. Use a charcoal grill and not a gas grill and not a broiler and not a skillet. Place ample briquettes in the grill two deep tightly packed and make sure the grilling rack is exactly four inches above the top of the briquettes. Do not start grilling the fish until the briquettes are all glowing/ uniformly gray in color. You want the grill to be quite hot with even heat.
Place each piece of coated swordfish on the grill assuring even coating on the side facing the heat first. Grill for exactly nine minutes or less per side depending on the thickness of the swordfish and the intensity of the heat from your charcoal grill. Do not worry about any temporary flaming from the buttery coating hitting the hot briquettes. Put excess coating from the plate onto the top side of the swordfish immediately before turning the pieces over to grill the second side. Then carefully use a good spatula to get under the cooked side completely, and flip the pieces over. Again grill for nine minutes … or less. Note: It is smart to lift a piece of fish partially with a spatula after the first six minutes of grilling to check the degree of doneness of the grilled surface. Respond accordingly.
Do not overcook. If necessary, cut into one of the pieces after cooking on the first side and flipping to make sure the cooking time isn’t excessive (the center should still be pretty much raw). You can also test for doneness while grilling the second side after only five minutes. The fish should not be raw in the center when it is finished cooking but anything other than raw is fine, except for dry flesh anywhere except the crisp surface. A dry interior is a disaster. With practice, using your equipment, you will learn the perfect combination of heat and time, so that testing for doneness won’t be necessary.
Remove the swordfish pieces and serve immediately. Any excess coating from the plate used initially to coat the swordfish can be placed on the cooked swordfish to enhance the already great flavor.
The swordfish will be crispy on the outside and exceptionally moist and tender on the inside. If it isn’t perfectly moist and tender it has been overcooked. That will definitely happen if the steaks are too thin or if they are grilled too close to the hot briquettes. If they are cooked too far away from the briquettes or with too little heat from not using enough briquettes they will not be crisp on the outside and the fish, by the time it is cooked, will be too dry due to evaporation. Fast hot grilling without burning the surface is the key to success.
The taste is fabulous, and not hot or over seasoned. Note that the butter and hot sauce mixture is used to lightly season the fish and mostly to lubricate it so it doesn’t stick to the grill. Thus, there is only a small effect from using the hot sauce in the coating … just the right effect for people who don’t in general like highly seasoned food. Heat aficionados can add more coating or hot sauce to the grilled fish if they prefer, but everyone I know who has tried it does not add any other seasoning, including salt.