Learn how to make smoked swordfish on ANY grill or smoker!
Swordfish is a deliciously meaty fish that tastes GREAT when smoked.
It's also incredibly easy to prepare and to smoke, whether you are using a pellet grill like a Traeger, Camp chef, or Pit Boss, a propane or electric smoker like a Masterbuilt, or just a conventional kettle grill like a Weber.
Swordfish is considered by many to be the steak of the sea.
In fact, we are going to prepare it much like say a smoked ribeye steak, by first smoking it and then reverse searing it to get a nice chargrilled texture on the outside.
But it IS seafood after all, so we need to take some other steps with our smoked swordfish first we wouldn't necessarily with a steak, like brining it first and then marinating it for maximum flavor before throwing it on the smoker.
Let's get started!
- Seasoning Swordfish Steaks
- Brining the Swordfish Steaks
- Marinating the Swordfish Steaks
- Best Wood for Smoked Swordfish
- Smoking Temperature
- Target Internal Temperature
- Cooking Time
- Cedar Planks, Grill Baskets, or Grill Mats
- Monitor your Grill Temperature
- Reverse Searing the Smoked Swordfish
- Serving Suggestions
- 📖 Recipe
Seasoning Swordfish Steaks
Below you will see that we are going to brine and marinate our swordfish before smoking.
This is for maximum flavor and juiciness but is by no means 100% necessary, especially if you want to make your smoked swordfish tonight and not tomorrow.
You can go gentle and delicate with a simple blend of salt and pepper on smoked swordfish if that's your thing. You can also add in some smoked paprika for more color and depth of flavor.
Alternatively, if you want strong Cajun blackening flavors, you can use a spicier like our current favorite blackened rub Traeger Blackened Saskatchewan Dry Rub. It holds up very well on smoked swordfish without overpowering it.
Just sprinkle some on the swordfish steak after brushing both sides with some olive oil.
Brining the Swordfish Steaks
For our recipe below though, we are going to brine the swordfish for 2-4 hours before smoking it.
This is incredibly easy to do.
Simply mix together:
- 4-6 cups cold water (enough to cover the swordfish steaks in whatever container you use).
- ½ Cup Kosher Salt
- ½ Cup Brown Sugar
- 2 tablespoon Coarse Ground Black Pepper
You may need to double this if you are making more than 4 smoked swordfish steaks.
Place the swordfish steaks in a sealable plastic or glass container with a lid and make sure they are submerged in the well mixed brine solution.
Place in the refrigerator for 2-4 hours.
Afterwards, take the swordfish steaks out of the brine and rinse them well under cold running water and then pat dry.
Don't worry, plenty of seasoning is still inside the swordfish. If you don't rinse them, they may be overly salty.
Marinating the Swordfish Steaks
The brining will make the smoked swordfish juicy and somewhat seasoned, but to add maximum flavor, we need to marinate these swordfish steaks before smoking them as well.
For our smoked swordfish marinade we are going to use:
- 2 tablespoon Olive Oil
- 2 tablespoon Fresh Minced Garlic
- 1 tablespoon Kosher Salt or your favorite Seafood Rub
- 1 tablespoon Coarse Black Pepper
- Juice of ½ a Lemon
Again, you may need to double this if you are smoking a lot of swordfish steaks.
You can place the ingredients with swordfish steaks in a resealable gallon sized bag and let them marinate for an hour or two in the refrigerator while you get your smoker set up.
Best Wood for Smoked Swordfish
Because we are only smoking the swordfish steaks for such a short period of time, you can really get away with any kind of smoking wood of your choosing.
If you want to keep it simple and straightforward, choose a lighter smoking wood like alder, oak, apple, or peach.
Want more smoky wood flavor? We also really like hickory, and especially cherry, for smoking swordfish.
Make sure to use wood pellets in a pellet grill or pellet tube, wood chips in an electric smoker, and wood chunks in a charcoal grill or firebox.
We are going to set up the smoker or grill for indirect cooking at 225°F.
This will allow the swordfish to absorb plenty of smokey flavor for about an hour before we crank the heat and reverse sear our smoked swordfish steaks to a perfect finish.
Target Internal Temperature
You HAVE to use a good instant read meat thermometer to know where the internal temperature is of your smoked swordfish steaks, especially because they will cook relatively FAST!
We are particular fans of this one from ThermoPro because of its durability and affordable price.
While we have used and recommended ThermoPro for years, lately we have also become big fans of the MEATER leave in thermometer.
It is extremely accurate and has an incredible 165 foot Bluetooth range and works right with your smartphone so you don't need to carry a separate controller around with you like many other remote thermometers require.
It's got a great free app that is constantly being updated and even has an algorithm to predict how much longer your type of meat will take to cook based on cooking temperature, target temperature, current internal temperature.
It's like a GPS for your meat!
We are targeting a final internal temperature of 145°F on the smoked swordfish to know that it is finished cooking.
At 225°F, the typical swordfish steak will take about 90 minutes to cook and come up to 145°F internally, if you don't reverse sear it, depending on its thickness of course.
However, we are going to pull our smoked swordfish steaks off the grill or smoker when they reach 120°F, which should only take about 1 HOUR.
We will then reverse sear the smoked swordfish over high heat, either in a hot cast iron pan, on a Grill Grate if using a pellet grill, or over the hot side of a gas or charcoal grill, resulting in a good Maillard reaction and giving us the best texture and flavor!
Cedar Planks, Grill Baskets, or Grill Mats
Option 1: Cedar Planks
You can also experiment with smoking your swordfish steaks on cedar planks for some added woods flavor.
Make sure to soak the cedar planks in water for at least an hour before putting them on your grill or smoker so that they don't char and burn.
This also helps release steam and flavor the mahi mahi while they are smoking.
Option 2: Use a Grill Basket or Grill Mat
While swordfish is a heartier and meatier piece of fish, it is still seafood, and may need to be handled a little more delicately than say a big New York strip or ribeye.
You may be more successful if you place the smoked swordfish steaks in a grill basket rather than directly on the grill grates.
We are particular fans of the ORDORA Portable Grill Basket because it comes with its own handle, making it much easier to manage and move lots of delicate food around with one quick motion.
Our personal favorite is the Grillaholics Mesh Grill Mat.
Just throw it down on your grill to keep your fish (or any other food) from falling through. It keeps your grates really clean, and when you are done, you just throw it right in the dishwasher!
Monitor your Grill Temperature
Almost every grill and smoker will have some sort of temperature gauge on them.
This is what makes them so convenient!
If, however, you are using a charcoal or propane grill/smoker, you can't rely on the cheap lid mounted temperature gauge that come installed on them.
We have found these can sometimes be up to 30°F off from what the true actual temperature at the grill grate level.
This is unacceptable.
This is why you will always see competition cooks, and backyard chefs who know their stuff, using wireless digital probe thermometers to keep track of both their meat AND their cooking chamber.
And even if you have a fancy pellet grill like a Traeger or even an electric smoker, it can't hurt to double check how accurate your temperature settings are to the true temperatures you are getting.
We are big fans of the ThermoPro Wireless Digital Meat Thermometer series.
Reverse Searing the Smoked Swordfish
"Reverse Searing" is just a fancy term for searing your food at the very end, once it is pretty much all the way cooked through, in order to get a nice crispy exterior crust that you just can't get from low and slow smoking alone.
This also works great for thick cuts of meat like London broil that need time to slow cook and absorb smokey flavor but then benefit from a nice outside sear.
Technically you can reverse sear in a hot pan with butter, a flat top grill with oil, or over a hot propane burner or searing hot batch of charcoal on any grill.
If you are using a pellet grill and finding it hard to get that high direct heat for searing, try laying a couple of Grill Grates over a section of the grill.
These work great for creating a hot searing stations on a pellet grill using the ambient heat the pellet grill is already creating. You can see with this infrared thermometer just how hot the grates can get!
For our purposes today, we are just going to reverse sear our smoked swordfish steaks for about 2-3 minutes per side after they reach 120°F internally to finish bringing them up to 145°F.
Make sure to watch your internal temperature closely using a good thermometer.
Once they hit 120°F either move them over to the hot side of a gas or charcoal grill or place them on the Grill Grates or into the hot cast iron pan.
Let them sear for about 2 minutes per side and continue to watch the internal temperature using an instant read thermometer.
Continue searing 1 minute in each side until they reach 145°F internally, then remove them from the heat and put on a plate.
There is no need to rest your smoked swordfish steaks, so make sure everyone is ready to eat!
Your smoked swordfish steaks should be served immediately after removing them from the smoker.
You can brush at the end with a BBQ or mustard glaze or just have them simply seasoned right off the grill!
No need to rest or wait to eat!
Smoked Swordfish with Lemon and Garlic
- Large Baking Dish with Lid
- Mixing Bowl and whisk
- Grill, Pellet Grill, or Smoker
- Wood chunks or a pellet tube smoker with pellets or a smoker box with wood chips
- Grill Tongs or Spatula
- Instant Read Thermometer and/or Leave in Temperature Probe
- Ziploc Bag
- Filet Knife
- Cutting Board
- 2 lbs Swordfish Steaks cut into (4) ½ lb portions
Smoked Swordfish Brine
- 4 cups Cold Water
- ½ cup Kosher Salt
- ½ cup Brown Sugar
- 2 tablespoon Coarse Black Pepper
Lemon Garlic Marinade
- 6 tablespoon Olive Oil enough to coat all the swordfish steaks
- 4 tablespoon Minced and crushed fresh garlic
- 1 tablespoon Kosher Salt
- 1 tablespoon Coarse Black Pepper
- ½ Juice of a Lemon save the other half to squeeze on fresh at the end.
Brine the Swordfish
- Mix together the brine ingredients thoroughly in a mixing bowl
- Place the swordfish steaks in a sealable plastic or glass container or baking dish with a lid and make sure they are submerged in the brine solution.
- Place in the refrigerator for about 2-4 hours.
- Afterwards, take the swordfish steaks out of the brine and rinse them well under cold running water and then pat dry.
Prepare and Marinate the Swordfish
- Mix the marinade ingredients with the swordfish steaks in a ziploc bag.
- Let them marinate for an hour or two in the refrigerator while you get your smoker set up.
Prepare the Grill or Smoker
- Light or turn on your smoker or pellet grill and set up the temperature to 225°F. If using a grill, set up the burners or charcoal on only one side for indirect cooking.
- Brush the grill grates with oil to keep the smoked swordfish steaks from sticking or use cedar planks that have soaked in water for at least 1 hour to hold the steaks.
- Add your wood chunk(s) directly to the firebox or on top of the charcoal of a smoker, or use chips in a smoker box, or pellets in a tube smoker on a gas grill.
Smoking the Swordfish Steaks
- Once smoke is being produced, put your swordfish steaks in the smoker, or on the grill AWAY from the direct heat, even if using cedar planks.
- While the swordfish is smoking for about the next hour, plan how you will reverse sear them to finish. You can move them to the hot side of a grill or use a hot pan with oil, or place them under a preheated broiler on a foil lined pan.
Reverse Searing the Smoked Swordfish Steaks
- Smoke the swordfish steaks continuously at 225°F, without flipping, until they reach an internal temperature of 120°F. This should take about 45-60 minutes.
- Once the smoked swordfish steaks reach 120°F internally, either move them over to the HIGH direct heat side of the grill, a hot pan on the stove with oil or, place them on a foil lined baking sheet and position it under the preheated broiler.
- Once the internal temperature of the swordfish steaks reaches 145°F, remove them from the heat and place on a platter optionally squeeze some additional fresh lemon juice over the swordfish, and serve immediately while hot.