How to Sous Vide the Best Swordfish Ever
Three times this summer I grilled fresh swordfish and only once was I really happy with the outcome. The other two times I was quite disappointed with the results. Was it luck the one time? Could it be the fish itself? Or perhaps my cooking technique?
I purchase my fish from one of two reputable fish markets where I know the fishmongers and trust they only sell me quality fish. I know this because there have been times I tried to buy a particular fish and they “gently” steered me away from purchasing it. I suppose I could be naive but I’m a good customer so I’m thinking they are treating me fairly.
My cooking technique is typically the same. I most often grill swordfish on a clean, hot, oiled gas grill set on medium-high for 3 to 6 minutes per side depending on the thickness of the steaks.
I use my finger to press down on the swordfish steak to test for "doneness" and yes, I know this is not the most scientific way to determine when fish is perfectly cooked.
It would be much better to use an instant thermometer to make sure the fish reaches an internal temperature of at least 130°F. The USDA recommends cooking all Fish & Shellfish to reach an internal temperature of 145°F to kill any harmful bacteria but I think that temperature will give you over- cooked, chewy swordfish.
Another way would be to stick a fork in the thickest part of the steak at a 45-degree angles, give a slight twist and pull out some of the meat. You want the meat to be easy to flake and no longer translucent.
So What’s The Problem?
I am very careful when grilling swordfish and use the techniques above but only 1 out of the 3 attempts this summer turned out OK. It wasn’t like the fish was inedible, my wife and daughters thought it was good but to me it was not great.
It wasn’t dried out from overcooking, nor was it undercooked which to me is worse than overcooking. The texture was just a little “mushy”, not firm as I expect swordfish to be. The flavor was good but when the texture of fish isn’t perfect, it ruins the experience in my opinion.
Sous Vide To The Rescue
I decided I would try cooking some pieces of swordfish sous vide and finish on the grill to see if my results were any different. And they were. The sous vide swordfish steaks were the best of the summer with perfect texture and no worries about being over- cooked or under-cooked. They were just right.
I used some fresh basil and oregano from our garden to season the steaks during their bath, but fresh mint or rosemary leaves would be great too. Next time I’ll add a little minced garlic and some fresh lemon zest and see how it turns out.
Let me know your favorite herb and spice combinations in the Comments section below.
My Best Sous Vide Swordfish
- 2 swordfish steaks
- olive oil
- 4 leaves fresh basil
- twig fresh oregano
- salt & pepper to taste
- Set up your sous vide equipment to get the water to the desired temperature.
- For sous vide swordfish, I’ve seen temperature recommendations ranging from 120°F to 145°F. I went with 130°F knowing I was going to follow up with a couple of minutes on a hot grill.
- Season your swordfish with salt and pepper and place into a vacuum seal bag if you have a vacuum sealer or large zip lock bag if you don’t. We have a vacuum sealer and have lots of uses for it in our kitchen but zip lock bags work well too.
- Drizzle in some olive oil into the bag and then drop in the twigs of fresh oregano and basil
Vacuum and Seal the Bag
- If you have a vacuum sealer, use it to remove the air and seal the bag. If you don’t have a vacuum sealer and are using zip lock bags, use your mouth or water bath method to remove the air. (See video below)
- I don’t have a post on how to get the air out of the zip lock bag but it’s easy. Just seal the zip lock leaving an inch at the end and suck the air out of the bag and quickly seal it with your fingers.
- When the water comes to temperature, place the bag(s) into the water and clip it to the side of the container to keep it from moving around. I use photographer clips I picked up on amazon.
- Set your timer for 30 minutes and finish preparing any side dishes you are serving with the fish.
- About 10 minutes before the swordfish is done with its bath, heat up your grill to medium-high heat. Be sure your grill is clean and oiled before adding the swordfish to it.
- When the 30 minutes are up, remove the bags from the sous vide water, cut open and remove the swordfish. Toss the bag along with the basil and oregano.
- The swordfish should be coated with oil from the bag but I still like to add a very thin layer of oil to the grill to keep the fish from sticking. Grill the swordfish on one side for about 1 to 2 minutes to get those nice grill marks.You really only need to grill one side for presentation since the fish is already perfectly cooked.
- Plate the swordfish along with any sides and garnish with cilantro, parsley, pickled shallots or whatever else you have on hand.
Some More of My Favorite Seafood Recipes
- Roasted Cod with Potatoes and Fennel Recipe
- Classic Tuna Casserole with Dill Recipe
- How to Purchase and Perfectly Pan Fry Branzino
- Grilled or Roasted Fish Tacos Recipe
- How to Make Roasted Pistachio Crusted Trout in 25 Minutes
- Seafood Sauce for Salmon Recipe
- Fish Stock Recipe
- How to Sous Vide Tilapia in Spicy Seafood Broth
I haven't done swordfish in years, due to the exploded price and mercury concerns, but when I did it on the grill, it had an anchovy filet on each piece. Great combination, and I'm sure the filet would work well in the sous vide bag or at the end on the grill. Naturally salt would be unnecessary, and there would be some olive oil from the filet, so less of that added, as well.
I will likely try sous vide swordfish one day soon, with anchovy.
Followed recipe, 130 degrees, 30 minutes. Fish was a bit mushy do I decrease temperature or decrease time? Also seared for 1 minute on each side. Suggestions would really be appreciated.
G. Stephen Jones
Hi Charlotte, sorry to hear your swordfish was a little mushy. There can be many factors such as the quality of the fish, the thickness but I would try cutting down the time by 5 or 10 minutes and see if that makes a difference. If you think it is a little under cooked, you can make up for it when you do your sear.
I know your comment is over a year old but I'm leaving this here in case it helps others.
Swordfish is a finicky bird... er... fish. It contains enzymes that start "decomposing" the proteins in its flesh from the minute the fish is caught. That's why the swordfish you find, even at the market, has been frozen right after being fished then thawed to sell and should be eaten as soon as possible after.
These annoying enzymes are particularly active around 130°F so if the fish was not caught properly, frozen in time or if it was thawed more than a day before you ate it, cooking it at this temperature sous vide will make it very mushy.
The solution? Buy it frozen so you know you can sous-vide it from frozen. Add 50% to your usual cooking time. If the fish has been frozen early and caught properly, you'll get better results.
G. Stephen Jones
Thanks Fluff for your suggestions. Much appreciated.
Definitely good to read about this. I'm sitting at this point now. Knowing this particular swordfish in front of me, isn't as great (from a friends experience as purchased for themselves and me). Going to sous vie it.. its frozen in its vacuum sealed bag. I'll have to cut open the bag, season it then keep it in the freezer until ready to cook. Lets see how this goes