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May 22, 2010 11:25 AM

Pan Fried Swordfish (Filet) ????? (Or, how should I cook my fish tonight..???)

I was all set to try this recipe (see link below), which calls for broiling swordfish on a pre-heated cast-iron pan. I've had good results but unfortunately, cannot remember the cooking times or any details..

When I mentioned this method to my fishmonger, he advised me NOT to broil swordfish because the timing is difficult to regulate and overcooking might be a result. I am a little squamish about using the broiler for this reason.

His advice was to cook on top of the stove, for about 3 minutes per side (the pieces--from the belly, I think) are about an inch thick. He is Italian, but I do not see references to cooking the fish this way in the Italian cookbooks I checked.

I looked online and found very few mentions of pan-fried swordfish or any type of cooking this fish on top of the stove. Then I began to wonder--why is this? Why do the (few) recipes I did find call for a quick sear followed by baking in the oven?

Please help me create an easy swordfish dinner tonight! Many thanks!

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  1. You can control the cooking of it best by poaching it with a little butter or oil, lime juice, and white wine, enough that the liquid doesn't all cook off. Add a little dill if you like, maybe a few capers, cracked pepper. Swordfish is a delicate flavor. Turn it once, watch it carefully as it cooks quickly. The belly has more fat and a softer texture than the "steak" filets and grills well on an outdoor grill, but requires careful attention.

    1 Reply
    1. re: Veggo

      Sounds great! By poaching do you mean cooking in good amount of oil and continually spooning the fat over the fish? Should I add wine/citrus as soon as I put the fish in the pan?

    2. Assuming that grilling is not an option, I recommend that you start it on the stovetop and finish it in a preheated oven at about 375 degrees (bake setting, not broil!).

      Specifically, get an oven-safe skillet (cast iron is fine if well seasoned and you're not using a very acidic marinade), get the pan good and hot on the stovetop with a sheen of oil (make sure the pan is hot by taking a fish scrap or something to check for good sizzle). Then sear the swordfish for about three minutes (do not move it during this time), flip the swordfish, sear one minute more on that side, and then stick the whole shebang in the oven for another 4 minutes, at which point you should check for doneness.

      Take the fish out of the oven when it's still just a bit spongy to the touch, wrap it all in foil, and let it sit for 3-4 minutes at least.

      Good luck, whatever you end up doing!

      2 Replies
      1. re: Bada Bing

        I did this with halibut steak recently and it was perfect. I think I got the tip from jfood who uses the same technique for beef steak. Now I do too.

        1. re: c oliver

          Yes, it's an awesome technique for beef steaks. I also find that by adjusting the oven temperature you can fine tune the cooking for different ends. For example, with a 2" thick sirloin, I can back down to 325-350 so that the outside isn't overdone by the time the center gets where I like it (medium rare). The same would apply for a very thick fish filet (like some cod).

      2. Grill, Grill, Grill. Do not marinate!!... Unless you don't like the taste/flavor of Swordfish!
        Don't be tempted by exotic sauces...S&P.. maybe a little butter, and lemon is all that's needed...


        7 Replies
        1. re: Uncle Bob

          However you decide to cook your fish, I just want to add that less done swordfish is much preferable to overcooked.

          (My preference is to season well first, grill in a smokin' hot cast iron grill pan on the stove top, about 3 minutes per side.)

          1. re: bushwickgirl

            Just to clarify--grilling is not an option, as I am in an apartment. But I do have a cast iron pan (not a grill pan, though). 3 minutes per side is exactly what the fish guy told me!

            I just want to make sure not to overcook!

            This is why I love CH--many thanks to all for your advice! I must say that my fish-cooking skills have improved a great deal in recent years, thanks largely to assiduous reading of CH, but I am not there yet!!

            1. re: erica

              Cast iron pan is exactly what I would use.


              1. re: bushwickgirl

                Success! I cooked in cast iron pan on high heat on top of the stove--3 minutes on each side, in olive oil, with butter added after the flip. I lowered the heat to medium after the flip--was afraid of too much smoke.

                I got a decent crust and the fish was impeccably cooked. Thanks so much for the help.

                Next time I will try to keep the heat high throughout, but how do you keep butter from burning if you do this?

                1. re: erica

                  Use clarified butter; that is, butter that's been melted and the whey removed. When heated, the whey separates from the butterfat; the whey is the milk solids contained in the butter, which sinks to the bottom when the butter is heated, and is what burns. Skim off the butterfat. The smoke point of clarified butter is about 375° to much higher, depending on how pure the clarified butter is. Ghee is a form of clarified butter and is very pure, due to it's specific clarification process, with a smoke point of up to 475°. I let my butter gently simmer for an half hour or so when I clarify, and store the remainder in the frig, tightly covered. Ghee, because of it's pure nature, does not need to be refrigerated.

                  I'm glad your swordfish worked out so well.

                  1. re: bushwickgirl

                    Thank you, once again! I've never used ghee/clarified butter. This will be my next kitchen project.

                    1. re: erica

                      Great swordfish topping: 1/4cup olive oil, 2 cloves of minced garlic, teaspoon of dry thyme, 1/2 teaspoon sea salt, black pepper to taste, teaspoon of grated lemon zest. Mix up in a bowl and let sit for about 30 minutes for the flavors to come together. Give both sides of the fish a brush of this stuff, reserving a few tablespoons. Grill fish to preferred doneness. Take a few tablespoons of butter and melt it in the reserved marinade and spoon a bit on top of each portion and serve. EXCELLENT.