Swordfish can be a tricky protein to prepare because of its thick cut and variable color. Here’s how to get it right.
Fully cooked swordfish can be pink in the middle as long as its internal temperature has reached 145°F (63°C). The color of the swordfish should not be used as a reliable indicator of doneness.
In this article, you will learn how to measure the temperature of swordfish to understand if it is safe to eat, how long to let swordfish rest after cooking, and how to prepare swordfish for a delicious, healthy meal.
Is Pink Swordfish Undercooked?
Pink swordfish is not necessarily undercooked. However, to know for sure, you need to measure the internal temperature to make sure it has reached at least 145°F (63°C), the safe internal temperature for fish according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
The best season to buy fresh swordfish is summer and fall. During this time, the color of fresh swordfish will range from white to light pink, uncooked. If your cooked swordfish still appears pink inside, it’s better to measure its temperature than to continue cooking it.
Overcooked swordfish becomes chewy and rubbery. For the same reasons, even when served on a table with a hungry bunch, it’s left uneaten and leftover!
Related: The Minimum Internal Temperature for Every Kind of Meat
How to Measure the Internal Temperature of Swordfish
To measure swordfish’s internal temperature, use a digital instant-read thermometer or a dial thermometer with a sharp tip that can easily be inserted into the center of the steak.
Use a meat thermometer and don’t try to do this with a mercury-in-glass thermometer; these can easily break and contaminate the swordfish with mercury or, worse, broken glass.
Insert the sharp tip of the thermometer into the center of the swordfish steak, where the flesh is thickest.
For a digital thermometer, you’ll be shown the internal temperature on the display screen after 1-2 seconds. For a dial thermometer, wait until the dial has stopped climbing to get an accurate read out.
The fish should measure no lower than 145°F (63°C). At this temperature, it is considered fully cooked and safe to eat.
Related: The Guide to Cooking Meat to Safety and Tenderness
Should You Rest Swordfish Before Serving?
It is not required to let swordfish rest before serving it to eat. However, resting the fish nevertheless does improve it.
Swordfish, as with almost any protein, will continue cooking when you pull it out of the oven, off the grill, or jumped from the pan.
Since swordfish is so easy to overcook, experts recommend letting it cook to exactly 145°F (63°C) and then removing it from heat immediately, so it doesn’t overcook.
If you choose to let it rest, you’ll get a juicier, flakier fish as an end result.
Letting swordfish rest allows the fat and juices to settle into the meat of the fish steak, preserving them for each bite as opposed to letting them run out on the plate when you cut into the fish.
Is Undercooked Swordfish Safe to Eat?
No, undercooked swordfish is not safe to eat.
Raw fish can contain harmful bacteria and parasites that can give you food-borne illness. Those bacteria and parasites are killed by heat, and can continue living in undercooked fish, making you and the rest of the family members on the table sick.
In addition, undercooked swordfish is unpleasant. If not fully cooked—meaning it’s opaque and flaky—it will be rubbery and difficult to eat.
Our Tips for Preparing Swordfish
Swordfish has a different texture than other popular fish species like salmon, tilapia, or cod. It is much more steak-like, meaty, and juicy than a traditional flaky fish.
For that reason, it should be cooked differently for best results.
Due to the meatiness of swordfish and its mild flavor, it can withstand several cooking techniques, including outdoor grilling, pan searing, and broiling.
When shopping for swordfish, look for steaks that are at least an inch thick, have a white to pink flesh tone (avoid brown or gray), and smell fresh.
To grill swordfish, lightly brush with oil or marinate in an oil-based marinade recipe for at least 15 minutes. Sprinkle with salt and pepper.
Over medium-high heat on a preheated grill, cook your swordfish for 5-7 minutes per side.
Measure the doneness of the fish first by pressing firmly on it. If it feels firm to the touch, insert your thermometer and make sure the internal temperature measures 145°F (63°C) before removing the fish from the grill.
Let the swordfish steaks rest for a few minutes before serving to preserve the juices.
To pan sear swordfish, first marinate the swordfish steaks in an oil-based marinade or brush the steaks with olive oil. Season lightly with salt and pepper on both sides of the fish.
Bring your pan up to medium-high heat and drizzle with another dash of olive oil to prevent the fish from sticking.
Once the pan is up to temperature, cook the swordfish steaks for 5-7 minutes on each side.
Check the internal temperature of the swordfish before removing it from the pan. Allow it to rest for several minutes before serving.
Broiling swordfish is an easy, hands-off approach to cooking this steak-like protein.
Prepare your oven broiler by allowing it to pre-heat for approximately 10 minutes. This will help the steaks cook more evenly.
Oil a broiler pan and place it approximately two rungs down inside your oven so the fish is not too close to the heat source.
Oil your fish, and season with salt and pepper on both sides.
Place the swordfish in the oven and allow it to cook on each side for approximately 5 to 7 minutes.
Remove the steaks from the oven and allow them to rest before serving your swordfish.
The internal or external color of swordfish is not indicative of how well the fish is cooked, since it can vary based on the fish.
Always use a meat thermometer to measure the temperature of your swordfish and ensure it has reached at least 145°F (63°C) before serving it. Remember, undercooked swordfish can make you sick—and it isn’t pleasant to eat.